Christopher Johns, 37, of Burwash, Sussex, has been a truck driver for over ten years, driving long distances in the UK and continental Europe. Here he talks about what working conditions are like for truckers in the UK and why he feels there may not be a quick fix to the current truck driver crisis. This is his text according to Jedidajah Otte’s transcription.
It always amazes me how they underestimate UK truck drivers. We work very hard for very little money. Our salaries need to improve for a long time. A friend’s starting salary at Lidl is the same as many of my truck friends. I could earn more if I did temporary jobs, as many others do, but I have a wife and three children and I need job security. I only earn enough now that I do a lot of jobs outside the UK where the expense allowance is higher.
The difference between how truck drivers are treated in the UK and in the rest of Europe is huge. In the UK they don’t take care of us. Across the country, particularly in the south, facilities to meet the needs of drivers are inadequate or non-existent.
We can spend one, two, or more weeks away from home. This means that we are forced to sleep in tiny rest areas or on the roads of industrial estates, without access to basic amenities. The haulier rest areas on the main highways are still not equipped with sufficient parking for large vehicles and trucks are charged around 30 euros per night for this privilege. In the rest of Europe parking is not charged. In France, for example, the restaurant and bar chain Les Routiers supports truckers by providing free showers and parking. Every time we enter Europe, it is a relief.
Hard for families
My family has suffered a lot. I would say this is true for many in the industry. My wife has been incredibly understanding about my time away from home, which is on average 20 days a month. I have missed so much of my children’s growth. I really regret that.
The British Government should consider showing greater appreciation for those who keep driving rather than trying to find thousands of new truckers. Extending working hours for truckers would be insane – there would be horrible accidents. I also believe that the number of EU truckers willing to return will be less than some predict. Greater emphasis should be placed on this job as a skilled trade and not as mere driver’s license verification.
The salary structure should be reviewed. But, first of all, conditions in the UK must improve. There is no easy answer to this lack. The situation we are in now was so obvious and predictable. Infrastructure in the UK is a long way from where it needs to be. I don’t think things will get better overnight.
Translation by Julián Cnochaert.