Drivers’ hours – staying legal

DF12 TZU 01 MANDrivers’ hours – staying legal

As a haulage operator with a successful business to run, of course you are looking to stay legal in all that you do. Neither in this country nor in Europe do the respective lawmakers seem to make it all that easy to do so.

A case in point is the proliferation of rules and regulations about drivers’ hours and the very complicated picture that emerges as a result. Although staying within these very complicated rules on drivers’ hours is not only a matter of law but also one of maintaining the validity of your lorry haulage insurance, it might be useful to review what the rules say:

  • probably the very first problem – despite the efforts of the official government website to set them out – is that the rules differ depending on whether your HGV is being driven only within the UK, within the European Union or in certain other parts of Europe;

Domestic rules in the UK

  • even here there is a further complication in that different rules apply in Northern Ireland;
  • in the rest of the UK, one of the key definitions is working time behind the wheel which is termed duty time;
  • no more than 10 hours of driving on public roads is allowed or off-road driving if it is not during duty time;
  • there is a limit of 11 hours duty time in any one day;
  • interestingly, the UK rules are silent on the need for rest breaks during duty time;
  • the actual hours worked need to be recorded either as a written note or on a tachograph;

EU rules

  • when driving anywhere in the European Union the rules are different;
  • the maximum number of hours you may drive each day is limited to 9 hours – but this limit may be increased to 10 hours for two days in any one week;
  • driving hours are further limited to a maximum of 56 hours a week;
  • driving hours are also limited to a total of 90 hours in any two consecutive weeks;
  • a written record of driving hours is not acceptable under EU rules – it must be by way of a tachograph;
  • the EU rules include fairly complicated requirements with respect to rest breaks;
  • you need to take 11 hours of rest each day, except that you can reduce this to just 9 hours for no more than 3 days during any period of two weeks;
  • you need to have 45 hours as an unbroken break each week – with the exception that this can be reduced to 24 hours every two weeks; and
  • once you have been driving for a maximum of four and a half hours, you must take a break of at least 45 minutes;

AETR rules

  • mercifully, the separate rules that used to apply under the European Agreement Concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport (AETR) – relating to large parts of greater Europe beyond the EU – have now been brought into line with EU rules on drivers’ hours.

It might appear no easy matter complying with the various rules on drivers’ hours, therefore, but it is nevertheless critical to your staying legal.