HGV driver GettyImages-1224810327

The supply chain crisis highlighted the need to improve HGV drivers conditions

Truck drivers are still facing “deplorable and unlawful” roadside conditions such as being denied toilet access during their rest breaks, a union has warned.

Despite a dramatic rise in wages across the logistics sector after the supply chain crisis highlighted the need to improve work conditions for drivers, they were still faced with poor conditions at roadside facilities, according to labour union Unite.

Drivers have reported run-down facilities, being refused the use of roadside toilets or canteens, and having to use makeshift parking places, Unite added.

“We’ve had some extreme cases where drivers are just refused access to toilets and end up having to relieve themselves and then get banned from the site,” said Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones.

Drivers had also been told they couldn’t use facilities at warehouses because of tight schedules, Jones said. “We have women drivers who obviously have different personal challenges when they’ve been on their periods being refused access to toilets and being told, ‘no, you’re late, you need to be on your way’.

“It’s just disgraceful behaviour.”

Last week, roads minister Richard Holden met with transport and logistics industry leaders in Cannock to hear of the issues HGV drivers currently face.

Several logistics operators said that shortages of parking places meant many drivers couldn’t even park at and access some roadside facilities.

An October government report warned shortage of spaces for lorry parking was at nearly at critical level, forcing truckers to move quickly or use makeshift spaces.

“If you ask a driver what they want, it’s a long list. If you ask them what they need, it’s a very short list,” Jones said.

“Clean facilities, somewhere where you can perhaps get some food and drink, a shower that’s kept clean, and somewhere decent to park that doesn’t mean you’re stuck in a layby.”

Retailer distribution centres too were at fault when it came to conditions for drivers that weren’t directly employed by the supermarkets, Unite said, who were “often forgotten about”.

Jones recalled a recent visit to a retail DC in Daventry where contracted drivers bringing goods into the warehouse had to use “pretty poor” separate facilities.

“The grocer’s drivers’ room was nice but non-employed drivers had to use the other side of the depot, and it was just some hard plastic chairs and a couple of vending machines right next to the toilet.”

He said the situation was worse for female drivers, who had to be “escorted up the stairs” to use the toilet.

“Within the road haulage industry, there are some employers that are investing in their own facilities and making sure that they are providing good, clean, well-maintained facilities for their own drivers and others.

“But there’s still a lot to do. There is just a lack of thought that goes into how we should be treating professional drivers.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is also currently running a Facilities Campaign to secure more lorry and coach parking, and improve the standard of facilities.

It has called on the government to increase funding for facilities and encourage local authorities to cooperate with companies operating or building new distribution centres to make sure their current sites and future planning applications include suitable driver facilities.

”We need to see the quantity improved because there isn’t enough availability of these facilities,” said RHA’S policy lead Tom Cornwell.

”We have seen improvements in some roadside facilities but we want to see more of it across the entire country.

“That means clean showers, clean toilets, availability of food, but also improved security for drivers and cargo.”

The government launched a £100m match funding scheme last November to encourage truck stop and road service operators to invest in improved and safer rest areas and roadside facilities for lorry drivers.

Logistics UK CEO David Wells has also urged the government to “deliver” on its promise” to invest in the sector last week.

“HGV drivers are crucial for keeping the country moving and ensuring our supply chains remain protected, yet they face a significant lack of hygiene and rest facilities compared with other industries.

”Government has long been promising solutions and now is the time to deliver.”