Road Haulage Association

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Too wrapped up in red tape?

I met Transport Minister Mike Penning recently and discussed a wide range of issues that affect our members and an email update was sent out after the meeting. One way or another the issues all boiled down to legislation, so it was encouraging to hear that he is keen to get rid of bureaucracy by removing as much of the red tape that surrounds us as possible.

We have had similar initiatives before and it can be difficult to identify areas where life could be simplified without jeopardising the purpose of the legislation. This might be health and safety, employees’ rights, the environment or fair competition – the four main objectives of much of the legislation which applies to RHA members. So where can we see opportunities for simplification?

One obvious issue is the overlap between the Working Time Regulations and the Drivers’ Hours Regulations, which can appear to conflict with each other at best, and contradict each other at worst. But, sadly, the potential to tackle this nonsense is limited because the government is not in full control here. These are pieces of European legislation, so Westminster’s options are limited. Indeed, it may fall to the RHA, through its network of fellow associations across Europe, to get the process going and we know how long that can take.

We will be pursuing this and updating members if and when any progress is made. On the purely domestic front there are quite a few pieces of legislation we believe could be removed altogether or simplified to the benefit of RHA members. Take employment law for example. This is a field well known for its complexity, with many employers falling into legal ‘traps’ because they fail to follow complicated and – with justice in mind – unnecessary procedures that are well intentioned but contribute nothing to the fairness of the process overall. Why can’t we make dismissing someone guilty of gross misconduct much simpler? We have seen cases lost against people who have assaulted colleagues or clients because of procedural failures.

That cannot be right and the employer must have some protection in law just as much as the employee. The other area of law which is particularly – many would say ridiculously – complex is health and safety (H&S). However, I must qualify this by saying that much of the needless difficulty could well be caused by external H&S consultants or in-house managers who have become so risk-averse that they impose totally unreasonable demands on the poor visiting haulier. How many members carry a full wardrobe of PPE kit because the demands of consignors and consignees are different? The Health and Safety Executive is often unfairly blamed for the more ridiculous examples – the so-called ban on ladders being one example – but it can help by giving guidance along the lines of “please do not use H&S as a smokescreen for your own stupidity” as well as by simplifying the regulations themselves.