HGV drivers working longer hours under new COVID-19 rules should be supplied with government-subsidised fatigue monitors to avert a rise in road accidents.

The warning comes from road safety firm SmartWitness in the wake of the government’s emergency order which has eased drivers’ hours rules to allow round-the-clock deliveries of food and medical goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rules increase the weekly maximum daily driving time of nine hours to 11 hours, and raise the weekly limit from 56 hours to 60 hours and the fortnightly limit of 90 hours to 96 hours.

SmartWitness MD Paul Singh said: “Clearly in this time of grave emergency for our country it’s important that essential supplies are getting where needed on time, but if we are going to push our truckers to the limit of their physical endurance then inevitably mistakes will be made and when these mistakes involve trucks then that will often cost lives on the road."

He added: “Government research has shown that the risks involved with allowing truckers to drive more than nine hours in a day significantly raises the possibility of serious accidents. Clearly some additional risks need to be taken at this time of national crisis but surely if there is equipment to mitigate these risks then it should be taken and government should look to subsidise truck firms that are ensuring our roads are safer in this way.”