Drivers’ Hours Guidelines – A Summary of Rules for Commercial Drivers

The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) enforce the rules that govern the number of hours drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) can spend on the road. In order to decide which rule applies to a specific driver, one must look at the location, weight and the nature of the driving.

Most commercial drivers in the UK will be governed by one of three main sets of drivers’ hours rules: the European Union (EU) rules, the Great Britain (GB) domestic rules or the European Agreement concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles engaged in International Road Transport (AETR) rules. Within Great Britain, either the EU rules or domestic GB rules may apply. For international journeys, the EU rules or AETR rules may apply. Keep in mind that Northern Ireland operates its own set of drivers’ hours rules.

Some drivers will be subject to multiple rules during a given day or a week depending on what countries they are driving through. These drivers must comply with all relevant requirements for rest periods and breaks.

  • Driving Limits
    • Drivers may drive no more than 9 hours a day. This limit may be extended to 10 hours twice per week.
    • Drivers may drive no more than 56 hours in a single week. This applies to a fixed week, which starts at 00.00 on Monday and ends at 24.00 on the following Sunday. Employees may not exceed 90 hours of driving time in any two-week period.
  • Break Periods
    • A break is any period during which a driver does not drive or perform any other work and which is used exclusively for recuperation. A break may be taken in a moving vehicle, provided no other work is undertaken.
    • Drivers must take a break of at least 45 minutes for every 4.5 hours driven. The break can be split into two periods, one of at least 15 minutes followed by one of at least 30 minutes. Drivers cannot split breaks into three periods of 15 minutes.
  • Rest Periods
    • Rest refers to an uninterrupted period away from work duties. Time spent working in other employment or under obligation or instruction, regardless of the occupation type, cannot be counted as rest.
    • Daily Rest
      • Drivers must take a daily rest period. The regular daily rest period is 11 consecutive hours (or more) of rest, but daily rest can be reduced to 9 hours up to three times between any two weekly rest periods.
      • The daily rest can be broken up into two periods totalling 12 hours; the first must be at least 3 hours, the second must be at least 9 hours.
    • Weekly Rest
      • Drivers must start their weekly rest period no later than at the end of six consecutive 24-hour periods since their last weekly rest.
      • A regular weekly rest period is 45 hours. However, a driver may take a reduced weekly rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours. In any two consecutive weeks, the employee must have at least two weekly rests—one being at least 45 hours long.
      • If a driver takes a reduced weekly rest, he or she must compensate for the reduced hours in an equivalent period of rest, in one block, before the end of the third week following the reduced weekly rest. The compensated rest period must be attached to another period of rest of at least 9 hours.
    • Recordkeeping Requirements
      • All vehicles must have an approved tachograph to record drivers’ hours. If a digital tachograph is installed, drivers must use a personalised driver card. The driver must produce tachograph records upon request for the current day and the previous 28 calendar days in which he has driven under EU/AETR rules.
    • Drivers normally subject to the EU rules also have to comply with the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations.

UK Domestic Regulations (The Transport Act 1968)

  • Goods Vehicle GB Rules
    • Drivers may drive no more than 10 hours a day.
    • The maximum duty permitted in one day is 11 hours. Drivers are exempt from the maximum duty allotment on a working day they do not drive. Drivers are also exempt if they do not drive more than 4 hours on each day of the week.
    • Recordkeeping Requirements
      • Employees must keep written records of their hours on a weekly record sheet or use an approved and sealed tachograph. Drivers are required to check and sign each weekly record sheet.
    • Passenger Vehicle GB Rules
      • Drivers may drive no more than 10 hours a day.
      • When driving for 5.5 hours, a driver must take at least a 30-minute break. Alternatively, within a period of 8.5 hours, a driver must take breaks that add up to at least 45 minutes.
      • Drivers must take a continuous rest of 10 hours between consecutive working days. This can be reduced to 8.5 hours up to three times a week.
      • Recordkeeping Requirements
        • Drivers of passenger carrying vehicles do not have to keep records of working hours.
      • Drivers governed by the GB rules will also have to follow the Working Time Regulations 1998, which sets a maximum 48-hour working week, 4.8 weeks of annual leave, and a right to health checks and adequate rest.

Overview

The AETR rules apply to persons driving in a select group of countries outside of the EU, and are now aligned with the EU rules (maximum driving times, limits, breaks and rest times are all similar). For journeys through countries governed by the AETR Agreement, the AETR rules will apply to the entire journey, including any EU countries passed through.

Multiple

If a driver spends part of the time working under EU/AETR rules and part of the time working under GB domestic rules:

  • The time spent driving under EU/AETR rules does not count as a break or rest under GB rules
  • Driving and other duties under the EU/AETR rules count towards the driving and duty limits under the GB rules
  • When driving under each set of rules, drivers must comply with the requirements of the rules being driven under, eg rest and recording provisions.
  • If the driver works under GB rules one week, and the next under EU/AETR rules, the mandatory weekly rest in the second week must start no later than 144 hours after the start of duty on or after midnight on Monday.

For more detailed information on drivers’ hours, please see this link to the transport section on GOV.UK.

Contains public sector information published by GOV.UK and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

This guide is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. It is provided for general informational purposes only. It broadly summarises acts and regulations applicable to employers. Readers should seek competent legal advice or opinion to address possible compliance requirements.

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