Drivers have welcomed a UK government scheme offering humanitarian relief to hauliers stuck on congested roads to Dover.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has brought in war-zone relief organisation RE:ACT in a £200,000-a-year deal to supply food and water to truckers stuck in queues on approach roads to Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
The move follows rising concerns over driver welfare, and one haulier told The Loadstar: “At last, they have finally realised there needs to be a contingency.
“The manner it has taken is a bit rock-and-hard-place because it will undoubtedly face some criticism but equally had the government done nothing then its opponents would have torn into it for failing drivers,” said the haulier.
RE:ACT will intervene when unscheduled delays exceed 48 hours, the DfT claiming the service was required amid “regular disruption”.
Following major tailbacks last year, technical hitches over post-Brexit infrastructure have lingered, said one driver, with disruptions stemming from the failure to modernise transport infrastructure.
“These delays are horrendous, but they were horrendous long-before Brexit and the failure to provide adequate rest stops and facilities for drivers has nothing to do with the decision to leave the European Union,” the driver told The Loadstar.
“French farmers blockading ports, fire in the tunnel, bad weather, ferry workers on strike, power cuts, foot and mouth; where was our support then?”
Alongside welcoming the new scheme, the haulier criticised the failure to address the “real issue” – a lack of toilet and washing facilities for drivers caught in congestion and typically equipped with just a couple of days’ worth of food and water.
“I was refused access to showers and toilets at service stations during the 2020 lockdown; there were about 20 drivers all waiting for the loo,” the haulier said. “In the end, I called the police and the services manager relented.
“But it is this that really gets to drivers when they are caught up in congestion. It’s incredibly difficult not being able to find a toilet or a place to wash.”
Last year, the EC Mobility Package set minimum legal levels of service for safe and secure parking areas for professional drivers. These include internet and phone connection, emergency contact points and procedures, food and beverage provision, gender-friendly facilities and power supply.
One driver told The Loadstar this was “all well and good”, but it failed to address the more pressing issue that “there simply aren’t sufficient numbers of rest stops in Europe”.
And in the UK, that issue is even more concerning, with The Loadstar having heard from drivers of repeated incidents in which they were refused access to toilets and Kent County Council having to provide temporary portable toilets along the M20.
By Alex Whiteman