Drivers’ hours rules

Who’s affected?

Drivers’ hours rules must be broken into three parts: the Working Time Directive (WTD), implemented in the UK as the Road Transport Directive;  the EC Drivers’ Hours and Tachograph Rules for Goods Vehicles (Regulation 561/2006); and UK domestic drivers’ hours rules as laid down in the Road Transport Act.

All business drivers are covered by some form of regulation. Those driving vehicles over 3.5 tonnes must comply with 561/2006 and the RTD. There are some exemptions to 561/2006 and these exempt drivers are then covered by the domestic hours’ rules, along with those driving vehicles below 3.5 tonnes.

Some of the exemptions to EU 561/2006 mean that certain workers can pass back and forth during a single day  between domestic and EU rules depending upon their immediate task.

The WTD came in three phases: the 1998 main directive, the 2003 horizontal amending directive which applies to mobile workers not covered by EU drivers’ hours; and the 2005 amendment, which covered those within scope of EU drivers’ hours rules.

What do the regulations say?

This is a complex area; further information can be found in the FTA’s Yearbook.

Domestic drivers’ hours rules state that no driver should drive for more than 10 hours or undertake 11 hours’ duty  in any 24-hour period. The law states that drivers should have “sufficient and adequate rest”, which can be open to interpretation.

The EU Drivers’ Hours Rules (561/2006) state that a driver should not work more than nine hours in one shift as standard; and that every 4.5 hours is followed by or includes a break of 45 minutes, which can be split into two parts, the first of 15 minutes and the second of 30 minutes. Twice a week drivers can extend their driving to 10 hours, but a second 45-minute rest should be completed before the 10th hour is worked.

Every six days they must take a complete rest. The standard recommended time is 45 hours; however, the week two rest can be a minimum of 24 hours provided the time is made up in week three.

EU Drivers’ Hours Rules compliance must be captured and proven by tachograph. Tacho data must be captured and not amended by the driver; and properly monitored by the operator. Digital tacho data must be downloaded from the driver’s card every 28 days and the vehicle unit every 56 days.

The Working Time Directive (Road Transport Directive) states that workers must average no more than 48 hours a week over an average of 26 weeks. There is no opt-out to the WTD for mobile workers.

Who enforces them?

Domestic drivers’ hours rules tend to be enforced reactively – i.e. following a safety-related incident, the police or HSE may investigate the drivers’ recent activity. Fleet operators are supposed to manage compliance but there is no legal requirement for a log book or specific record keeping.

EU Drivers’ Hours Rules: the police, the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency check tachograph compliance.

Drivers can commonly receive graduated fixed penalties, but can face magistrates or drivers’ hearings at a public inquiry.

Operators whose drivers are found to be non-compliant will face a Public Inquiry to consider revocation or revision of their Operator’s Licence; and, if any casualties/fatalities have been caused through the non-compliance, they can face negligence or corporate manslaughter charges.

Working Time Directive

The Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency enforces the Working Time Directive. Offences tend to be met first with notices to improve; but fines and imprisonment are both possible.

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