The Department for Transport (DfT) has relaxed drivers’ hours regulations, acknowledging the vital contribution that the commercial fleet industry is playing in keeping the economy moving during the coronavirus pandemic.
DfT says it has agreed to a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking the following journeys:
1) Distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centre)
2) From manufacturer or supplier to distribution centre (including backhaul collections)
3) From manufacturer or supplier to store (or fulfilment centre)
4) Between distribution centres and transport hub trunking
5) Transport hub deliveries to stores
This exemption does not apply to drivers undertaking deliveries directly to consumers.
The temporary relaxation started from from 12.01am on Wednesday (March 18) and will run until 11.59pm on Thursday April 16 and will apply only to the drivers specified in this notice. The DfT said it reserves the right to withdraw the relaxation earlier or extend the relaxation if circumstances change.
It also made clear that driver safety must not be compromised.
Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired - employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.
For the drivers and work in question, the EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:
a) Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours;
b) Reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours;
c) Lifting the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) to 60 and 96 hours respectively;
d) Postponement of the requirement to start a weekly rest period after six-24 hours periods, for after seven 24 hours period; although two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight;
e) The requirements for daily breaks of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours driving replaced with replaced with a break of 45 minutes after 5.5 hours of driving.
Drivers’ must not use relaxation ‘a’ and ‘d’ at the same time. This is to ensure drivers are able to get adequate rest.
The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and/or driver representatives.
The drivers in question must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.
The DfT emphasised that, as a general rule, we expect business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said: “As far as the logistics industry is concerned, we are working as efficiently and as quickly as the current situation allows.
“Despite the public perception, shortages are not the problem – the problem lies with supplying the current unprecedented demand for goods. As a result, the usual efficient and cost-effective delivery schedules have gone out of the window.
“The relaxation in drivers’ hours regulations currently applies to those responsible for the movement of essential items including- food, non-food, personal care and household paper and cleaning products and over the counter medicines.
“We need a relaxation on a wider basis to cover all parts of the supply chain. But there needs to be guidance as to when and how this will be applied.
“We are living and working in very uncertain times, but the nation will always need to be fed. We represent the operators of commercial vehicles who in turn, are responsible for moving the entire UK economy.
“We will keep working closely with the relevant government departments to ensure that continues to be the case.”