Friday May 29, 2020
For the road ahead

Update: Truckstops should be classed as 'work canteens'


Further to the URTU News report on 01 April ( our Union has been in further correspondence with Graham Yardley from The ‘fechan Truckstop.

Graham is trying to highlight the lack of suitable facilities for HGV drivers to eat and rest away from their cabs.pdate during the COVI-19 pandemic. Graham has written to authorities stating:

You will hopefully all be aware of the issues facing our HGV drivers during this crisis.  I would however like to remind you of some of these issues in the hope that you and your colleagues can find and agree a solution.

The main problem:  Lack of suitable facilities for HGV drivers to eat and rest away from their cabs.

The main risks: Drivers travelling from different parts of the country may pose a perceived heightened risk of transmission.

The solution: Provide a very high standard of sanitisation and adopt social distancing strategies.

I would imagine that everyone reading this email will have had their meals today at sat at a table, and most will be going home tonight to have a meal at a table, away from your workspace.  I ask you to imagine not going home all week and eating all your meals in your car from a takeaway container. This is what you are asking truck drivers to do. Many of them are away from home all week and because of the lack of facilities open to them on the road network they are struggling to get a hot meal, never mind somewhere to eat it.

We are primarily a Truckstop, catering for professional drivers. After the Government's announcement for social spaces e.g. cafes and restaurants to close, many motorway services closed their doors. There was however no specific mention of truckstops in the legislation. These are not ‘social spaces' per se, but are respite areas. Our customers are truck drivers. Many of them will have spent 10-15 hours in their cab working in very difficult conditions. Most of their (drivers) collection and delivery points have placed restrictions on what drivers can access. This includes no access to canteens, food, vending machines and, in some circumstances, no access to toilets, showers and welfare facilities.  It is therefore more important than ever that we remain open to help these drivers. After being isolated in their cabs for extended periods of time, they need a cooked meal and the opportunity to eat that meal, at a table, away of their cabs.

We would argue that our site is not a social space but, in this emergency, is acting as a works canteen for these drivers. Drivers should not be expected to work, sleep AND eat in the same confined space. With this in mind, I refer you to SSI 2020 No. 103 Schedule 1 Part 1 Paragraph 2 which states that a works canteen can remain open as long as distance of two metres can be maintained between users. ( That drivers are coming from different parts of the country should have no bearing on this issue, if social distancing and hygiene protocols are being maintained. This is not an airborne virus. It is transmitted via droplets, therefore there is no difference between people standing two metres apart waiting for a takeaway and people sitting two metres apart having a meal.  

With support from our local MP, MSP and Council officials, our local Trading Standards department re-designated us a works canteen so that we could offer a  place for drivers to sit and eat. The caveat was that we could only serve professional drivers (no public access); a restriction we were happy to enforce. This was, in everyone's view a practical and reasonable solution to the problem. However, we have now been told that this local decision is under review by the Scottish Government. Our chairs have gone again, much to the dismay of drivers coming in for their breakfasts this morning.  

These drivers are extremely important if we want to keep the supply chain moving. As you will be aware they have been designated as key workers and as such deserve our support. They deliver the food, fuel and medical supplies upon which we are all reliant. We have received hundreds of comments from drivers complaining about the lack of facilities available to them and thanking us for the efforts that we are making on their behalf. It has been reported to us that French lorry drivers, who are facing similar difficulties, are talking about national strike action. Whilst this action is unlikely in Britain, it does demonstrate the seriousness of the issue.  

We take the threat of Coronavirus transmission very seriously. We do not want to put our staff or customers at risk. We are doing this to support the HGV drivers. Many drivers do not have the choice to go home therefore we should be looking after their mental and physical well-being whilst they are on the road.

I think it is also worth mentioning, for the avoidance of doubt, that we are not doing this for the sake of profit. Indeed putting in place enhanced hygiene measures is costing us money. It would be simpler and more cost effective to close the doors, put our staff on furlough and have the Government foot the bill. We feel very strongly that just as our customers have supported us over the years, it is now time for us to support them at a time when they need us the most.

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