Madrid bends driving-hours limit but it's not enough to get Spanish lorry drivers in UK back for Christmas

Lorries on the roads in Kent on Wednesday.
Lorries on the roads in Kent on Wednesday. / EFE
  • "We’ve never in our history lived through anything like this," said Andalusian hauliers association president

The Spanish government announced on Wednesday that it was temporarily relaxing the restrictions on the number of hours lorry drivers can be behind the wheel to a maximum of 96 hours in a fortnight on the tachograph.

The UK is an important importer of Spanish fresh produce, especially before Christmas, and Madrid hoped the measure would get more local drivers trapped there by French cross-Channel restrictions back in time for the Holidays. The relaxation will last until 13 January.

In addition, it has eased up rules on how often and where drivers can stop. Providing the cab is properly fitted out, drivers will also be able to take their statutory rest inside it, on the way back.

Andalusian drivers

The Andalusian hauliers’ association, CETM, said on Wednesday as trucks started to move again from Dover, that drivers had not had any support from the Spanish government while the border was closed and had felt trapped, adding that it was, “another misfortune in a year in which they have been coping with the pandemic”.

“We’ve never in our history lived through anything like this,” CETM head Antonio Amarillo told Canal Sur radio.

He added that it was going to be impossible for the drivers to get home to the south of Spain for Christmas Eve as the journey from England is “two and a half to three days”, explaining that the drivers were now resigned to spending some of Christmas away from family on motorways and temporary lorry parks in the Kent area.

Amarillo said that drivers who were already on the road should have been allowed to cross into France from the beginning and Covid-19 tests carried out when they got to their designation.

The hauliers’ leader also explained that the economic impact is huge as many of the drivers had stops in France to collect other merchandise. “Nothing can be done. We’ll have to claim compensation from France,” he said.

“It’s an absurd situation,” Amarillo added, commenting on how drivers have been living by the side of motorways in Kent. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and drivers have been helping each other as much as they can.”