Lorry drivers who are members of Unite have announced a protest at the Department for Transport at 2pm tomorrow (September 17) over growing fears that the government will weaken or suspend the rules governing lorry driving hours in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The existing driving regulations limit drivers to 56 hours of driving a week (including up to 10 hours a day). There are also strict rules on breaks and rest periods.

However, the government has not denied that it will suspend driving regulations under a no-deal Brexit to try to keep goods moving.

Unite believes that any relaxation would be profoundly dangerous for lorry drivers and all road users. A survey of Unite members employed as lorry drivers, released last month, found most were suffering from exhaustion due to long hours.

As part of the demonstration the Unite members will be joined by the Grim Reaper as lorry drivers believe that they will be on a ‘highway to hell’ if driving regulations are relaxed or suspended.

Despite the government apparently upping its no-deal planning, Unite still has not been contacted about how drivers will be supported during a no-deal Brexit, which it says will inevitably cause huge delays and disruption.

Last month Unite wrote to Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, about its concerns over the lack of consultation on no-deal Brexit planning and particularly the possibility of the suspension of driving regulations, but has not as yet received a response.

The demonstration coincides with the Road Haulage Association’s Love the Lorry Week (September 16-20). Unite believes the focus of the week should be on lorry drivers, as without them the industry would collapse.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Lorry drivers are becoming increasingly alarmed that a no-deal Brexit will result in driving regulations being suspended or weakened.

“If driving regulations are cut then drivers who are already exhausted will be placed on a highway to hell.

“Forcing drivers to drive for longer and cutting their rest periods is dangerous for the drivers themselves and for all road users.

“The government needs to both start engaging with Unite about its no-deal Brexit planning and also provide reassurance that driving regulations will not be weakened or suspended.”

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Meanwhile, the government has stated that a no-deal Brexit would not see the repeal of legislation requiring the UK to introduce clean air zones to bring urban air quality up to EU standards.

Local authorities have blamed central government for implementing EU directives for the clean air zones (CAZs) that could see Euro-5 and older trucks charged up to £100 a day to enter dozens of city centres. The UK government is being forced to implement CAZs due to legal action by Client Earth to enforce these EU directives.

But a Defra spokeswoman told MT: “The government is fully committed to tackling air pollution and that is independent of being a member of the EU. Under the Withdrawal Act, statutory instruments have been made which ensure continuity of air quality regulation, standards and transparency.

“The government has invested £3.5bn into air quality and cleaner transport to reduce levels of NO2. We are working closely with local authorities on the development of local air quality plans, including with those in Greater Manchester.

“We have provided £36 million to support Greater Manchester’s scheme and their new clean air zone. We have also made clear we will provide further funding for businesses and affected individuals, however until the authority comes forward with its final evidence-based plan, we cannot provide the individual funding they are asking for.”