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Drivers’ hours relaxation – perfect sense during Operation Stack

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said that the announcement by the Department for Transport (DfT) to introduce a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours makes “perfect sense” to help those caught up in Operation Stack in Kent, and help clear out of Kent trucks which have already made the crossing.

FTA described the move as a “pragmatic approach to one part of a difficult situation,” and added that “it will hopefully allow freight operators to keep businesses supplied and the wheels of the economy turning.”

The temporary relaxation which had been called for by the FTA, applies only to drivers who journeys are delayed due to the disruption in Calais and who:

Have used a cross channel ferry or Eurotunnel to reach or leave Kent; or
Are waiting within Kent for departure to mainland Europe; or
Are driving a commercial vehicle operated from an operating centre in Kent and whose journey has been disrupted

James Firth – FTA Head of Road Freight and Enforcement Policy said:
“FTA is pleased that the DfT has recognised that Operation Stack is affecting domestic businesses in Kent as well as those on international journeys. The temporary relaxation of their driving hours will give those drivers delayed because of the situation in Calais extra time to complete jobs and get vehicles back to base, or on to a safe resting point on their journey.”

The DfT has stated that EU drivers’ hours will be temporarily relaxed as follows:
Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours
Reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hoursThe requirement to take a 45 minute break after 4½ hours driving remains and will continue to be rigorously enforced.

Mr Firth added:
“This is a proportionate response by the Government to just one aspect amongst many which have arisen as a result of the problems in Calais. Critically this relaxation means that drivers who have spent many hours queuing on one side of the Channel are not forced to immediately find somewhere safe and secure to park as soon as they have crossed. Kent and the areas around Calais are busy enough with vehicles waiting to make the crossing, there is no point adding to that pressure with vehicles that are already across also looking for somewhere to park.”

Irrespective of this relaxation, there is always a duty for professional vocational drivers to avoid driving whilst tired – this relaxation is not a permit to be unsafe. The notice emphasises that “employers remain responsible for the safety of their employees and other road users.”

Operation Stack is used to park HGVs on the M20 and can affect 35 miles of the motorway. The system is normally used during cross-Channel disruption, and has been implemented on 25 occasions in the past six weeks causing subsequent chaos in Kent not only for freight operators, but also for residents, tourist traffic and local businesses.

Firth concluded:
“Ideally we need a long term answer to Operation Stack, this is the busiest time of the year for tourist and freight traffic heading through the county of Kent, and we have to find some way of resolving this reoccurring problem.”

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