HGV drivers are playing an essential role during this difficult time in keeping the supply chains open and functioning across a range of sectors, including the provision of medical supplies to hospitals. This role is not without significant risk to the health of drivers, according to the IRHA. Also advice on how business can be protected from Cyber Crime is offered.
Recently elected President of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), Eugene Drennan, has written to Dr. Tony Holohan, Chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) for COVID-19 raising concerns on the safety of drivers in circumstances where they need to be outside their truck cabs, for example on Ferries and Regional Distribution Centres (RTC) and relying on others to put in place a safe system.
Eugene Drennan said: ”Drivers and their employers are doing everything they can to apply all appropriate health measures, but there are two areas in particular where there is real concern where strong guidance is needed from NPHET and the Irish Government to enable drivers to continue to play their essential role.”
On drivers accommodation on board Ferries, Eugene added: “Following our representations to the Ferry companies and the Government and the reduction in non-commercial passengers, drivers have been given single cabins and in the most part while on board ferries, has been a safe environment. However, we are deeply concerned at the very temporary nature of this phase and are concerned that a return to the old ways is imminent.”
“Social distancing in common areas on deck, in corridors and restaurants, and this must also be closely monitored. Assurances must be forthcoming from the Ferry operators in this regard. We believe that the State could play a significant role in monitoring the activities of Ferries as the risk is not just to the driver, but to the driver’s family and community.”
In this regard, Eugene acknowledges that drivers do have a role to play in ensuring social distancing: “There needs to be buy-in from all passengers on board, to ensure that a safe system works effectively and I would ask all our members to remind their staff to be vigilant at all times and do their best to maintain social distancing and follow guidance on this while on board.”
On the issues at certain Regional Distribution Centres, Eugene Drennan said: “As we all know, the practice of drivers unloading their own trucks and waiting for inordinately long periods for clearance is not new in certain RDCs. However, in light of the pandemic, we believe that these practices are inherently unsafe for drivers and indeed for the retailer’s operatives. We believe that drivers should be allowed to get in and out efficiently, as is the case elsewhere, where the wait times are not as great.”
“We are very concerned that these unsafe practices have the potential for another ‘meat plant’ type hotspot, the consequences of which would result in large numbers of drivers (key workers) in a vital industry needing to be quarantined. Our industry as a whole has made exceptional efforts to ensure the safety of its drivers which has guaranteed supply lines have been kept open during the worst of the pandemic, but the unsafe practices in RDCs are beyond our control,” he concluded.
Information on the dangers of cyber attacks
“With business online activity increasing, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Cyber Attacks, Hacking and Fraud have all accelerated at the same pace, meaning that businesses are more exposed online now than ever,” warns Eugene.
“We have had several clients that have become victim of Cyber Crime in the past few months and there have been many more high profile attacks featured in the media, none more high profile than the German Government’s payment of €15m to purchase non-existent PPE at the start of the current pandemic. This emphasises the fact that ‘No Business is Safe Online!’ Cyber Crime can occur at any time, in many forms and can become extremely costly to business, both financially and to the company’s reputation. In addition, where there is a reportable Data Breach following a Cyber-attack, fines under EU General Data Protection Regulation can be up to 4% of a company’s turnover. Protecting the business against such attacks is now highly advisable, Insurance premiums are relatively inexpensive and can generally be purchased with minimal information provided,” he advised.