With the country having ground to a halt (again) last week because of the severe weather conditions, I was interested to read that regulations regarding the number of hours lorry drivers can spend behind the wheel are being relaxed in order to get vital supplies moving across the country.
Many parts of the UK are suffering shortages because deliveries have been unable to get through due to the snow and ice. Garages are running out of fuel, shops are low on food stocks and cash machines void of money because they havent been replenished.
In response to this, the government has introduced measures to increase the maximum number of hours a day that HGV drivers are allowed to work under European regulations from nine to ten.
Now Im not quite sure how to react to this. On the face of it, it seems as if there has been a sudden outbreak of common sense in order to tackle a unique set of events - we need to get supplies moved across the country and so allow drivers to work extra hours in order to achieve this.
On the other hand, I cant help but think to myself that if this rule was brought in for safety reasons, why is it alright to ignore it now and not the rest of the time? Its either safe to drive ten hours a day instead of nine or its not. Are we putting lives at risk by having tired drivers working extra hours a day in difficult conditions?
Admittedly the relaxation of the rules is only a temporary one lasting four days, although the option is there to extend it if necessary. The rules regarding the number of hours a driver works per week and the rest requirement of 45 hours a week have also been lifted. The requirement to take a 45 minute break after four and a half hours of driving remains in place though.
But to return to my original point, if it is okay to relax these rules in an emergency, does it mean that they are a little too restrictive in the first place and maybe there should be more room for manoeuvre generally.
Is it a case of common sense prevailing, or is it senseless?