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Compliance advice summary: drivers' hours

Tom Griffith, Senior Transport Advisor, Member Advice Centre

The EU drivers’ hours rules (Regulation (EC) 561/2006) apply to drivers of most vehicles used for the carriage of goods where the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle, including any trailer or semi-trailer, exceeds 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW) and where the vehicle is used within the UK or between the UK and EU and EEA countries and Switzerland; unless covered by a specific EU-wide exemption or a national derogation.


‘Carriage by road’ means any journey made entirely or in part on roads open to the public by a vehicle, whether laden or not, used to carry goods or passengers. Journeys that take place entirely off-road are excluded from the rules.

The term ‘goods’ includes goods or burden of any description. It doesn’t include parts of a vehicle or trailer’s fixed equipment manufactured as part of the vehicle or trailer, and which enables the extension of fixed equipment.


The Department for Transport holds the view that drivers who are employed to drive vehicles which would normally be in scope of EU/AETR rules but who never carry goods or passengers in the course of that employment (for agency drivers this means each individual placement) are not considered to be within scope of the regulations.


There are a number of specific exemptions and national derogations from the EU rules. Exemptions apply regardless of where the vehicle is driven within the EU; whilst national derogations only apply on journeys wholly within the UK. Most goods vehicles which are exempt from EU drivers’ hours rules will then fall in scope of GB domestic rules (separate rules apply to Northern Ireland operators). For further details on the exemptions and derogations, and whether they apply to your operation, contact our Member Advice Centre.


The EU drivers’ hours rules govern what a driver can do, by placing limits on daily, weekly and fortnightly driving time, duty time, breaks from driving, as well as daily and weekly rest periods, whereas the GB domestic rules are much less regulated in the sense that they only place limits specifically on duty and driving time.


Goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW and large passenger vehicles used under the EU drivers’ hours rules must be fitted with an EU type-approved tachograph, which the drivers must use to record their EU/AETR activities. Tachographs are not required in vehicles below 3.5 tonnes GVW (although if towing a trailer that takes the combination over the 3.5 tonne threshold, they may fall in scope of EU rules), or those otherwise exempt from EU drivers’ hours. However, written records may be necessary. In addition, vehicles never used on the public road, or vehicles never used for carrying passengers or goods, do not fall into scope.


Drivers must use the recording equipment from the moment they take over the vehicle, and make a record of the whole of their daily working period – including any duty time that may have taken place before they had access to the vehicle and recording equipment together with any other periods of shift taken away from the vehicle. The rules state that they must not withdraw their record from the equipment until the end of the daily working period unless otherwise authorised, for example, when changing vehicles mid-shift, or the vehicle is required by another driver.


In August 2020, Regulation (EU) 2020/1054 made amendments to Regulation 561/2006, by changing previous requirements from the European Commission regarding recording other work. Drivers are now obliged to produce and present a full set of tachograph records for the current day and the previous 28 days at the roadside. These records should cover all periods of activity (driving, availability, out of scope driving, other work, etc) and inactivity (breaks, rest periods, annual leave, sick leave, etc) for each and every day.

When, as a result of being away from the vehicle, it is not possible to use the tachograph on each and every day to record driver’s activities and inactivity periods, these should be recorded retroactively by using the manual input facility of a digital or smart tachograph on the day when a driver activates the tachograph following the period of being away from the vehicle, or written manually on an analogue chart or printout.


Operators must ensure that drivers are using their driver card correctly, downloading data every 28 days, whilst ensuring the drivers possess full and complete records for the current day and previous 28 days.


For drivers and operators under GB domestic rules, some operations are not legally required to keep written records on certain days. When a record is legally required, the record is normally in the form of a weekly record book, although a tachograph may be used as an alternative method of record keeping for drivers working under GB domestic rules. Those drivers who use a tachograph as a method of record keeping should set their tachograph to ‘Out of Scope’ mode to ensure they do not come under the EU regulations.


At the time of writing there has been a temporary relaxation to the EU drivers’ hours rules, by extensions to some of the daily driving time or weekly rest requirements. Since the pandemic began in 2020 there have been several temporary relaxations introduced to try to help with the transport of goods, although this temporary relaxation has been reinstated due to the apparent HGV driver shortage. Operators should speak to the Member Advice Centre for further advice on the legal use of this, as there are some requirements to comply with if an operator deems it necessary to draw upon the relaxation. 


Published On: 15/07/2021 16:00:06


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