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EU Drivers’ Hours Explained


EU Drivers’ Hours legislation applies to drivers of all vehicles over 7.5 tonnes and those between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes where use is classed as commercial. See the Who needs a Tachograph page for confirmation of which rules apply to you.

Drivers are subject to daily and weekly driving hours and rest periods as explained below.


Daily Driving Hours


A driver can drive for 9 hours per day, but they can drive for 10 hours per day twice in any given week.

Weekly Driving Hours


A driver can drive a maximum of 56 hours per week. A driving week will be considered as 6 days because a weekly rest must occur after 6 daily driving periods or 6 days.

Accumulated Driving Hours


In addition to the weekly driving hours limit of 56 hours, drivers must also follow the Accumulated Driving Hours rule where they must not exceed 90 hours driving time in any two consecutive weeks. This rule therefore prevents the maximum hours being worked each week in the interests of road safety.

Accumulated Hours Examples
 

Last Week

This Week

Next Week

Legal?

40

50

40

56

34

56

50

40

56

X


In the third example above, while the accumulated hours from last week and this week equal 90 hours, the hours worked next week take the accumulated total for two weeks to 96 hours (40 + 56) and is therefore not legal. The maximum fine for Drivers’ Hours offences is £2,500 and so this rule should not be ignored.

It is the Drivers’ Hours rules that have provoked so much recent debate amongst commercial equestrian enterprise and industry spokesmen – and for obvious reasons. The driving hours alone appear workable, but when combined with the required breaks and daily and weekly rest periods, it makes the issue much more incompatible with many current equestrian operations.

Drivers’ Breaks and Rest Periods


Driver Breaks


Drivers can only drive for a maximum of 4½ hours without taking a break. After driving for a continuous period of 4½ hours a driver must take an uninterrupted break of at least 45 minutes. No other work must be performed during a break period.

One 45 minute break can be replaced by two shorter breaks during a 4½ hour driving period, but must comply with the 45 minute to 4½ hours ruling. A 15 minute break may be taken at a convenient point during the 4½ hours, followed by a 30 minute break at the end of the 4½ total driving hours.

Driving for 4 hours and 31 minutes is an offence.
Taking only a 44 minute break is an offence.
Where breaks are split in a 4½ hour driving period, taking a second break of less than 30 minutes is an offence.

Driver Break Examples


Example 1:

4½ hours drive

45 minute break

4½ hours drive

Daily Rest

Driver drove a total of 9 hours, with a 45 minute break between the two allowed blocks of 4½ hours driving, followed by the required daily rest.

Example 2:

3 hours drive

15 minute break

1½ hours drive

30 minute break

4½ hours drive

45 minute break

1 hour drive

Daily Rest

Driver drove the first 4½ hours driving in two stints, still with the required 45 minute break and with the second break of a 30 minutes duration. He then drove a further 4½ hours, followed by a 45 minute break and a further 1 hour drive, totaling 10 hours driving – which is allowed twice a week.

Example 3:

3 hours drive

30 minute break

1½ hours drive

15 minute break

4½ hours drive

Daily Rest

X

Much like example 2, the driver drove the first 4½ hours driving in two stints, but had only a 15 minute break at the end of the 4½ hours. This break must be 30 minutes long, even if the first break was 30 mins. Therefore the driver was driving illegally for the remainder of his/her work that day.

Drivers Daily Rest


A driver is required to have 11 hours rest in 24 hours – although this can be reduced to 9 hours three times between two weekly rest periods. So in our example of a 6 day driving week, a driver can have three days with 11 hours rest and 3 days with 9 hours uninterrupted rest.

 

Uninterrupted rest means that the driver must not do any work for any employer during this time. Rest is determined as time that the driver may freely dispose of his/her time. This includes rest for the self-employed person.

 

Every day you drive your horsebox you need a daily rest period of 9 or 11 hours – this includes rest from your other duties, such as mucking out, riding, loading the lorry and so on.

 

24 hours

Driving + other work + breaks = 13 hours

Daily Rest = 11 hours

 

24 hours

Driving + other work + breaks = 15 hours

Reduced Daily Rest = 9 hours*

 

* Daily rest can be reduced to 9 hours no more than three times between two weekly rest periods.

 

Split Daily Rest


A driver is allowed to split his/her daily rest into two periods. The first period of daily rest must be no less than 3 hours long. The second daily rest period must be no less than 9 hours long, totaling a daily rest period of 12 hours where rest is split. The total driving hours must still be within the legal entitlement of 9 or 10 hours.

 

24 hours

Driving + other work + breaks = 8 hours

Daily Rest = 3 hours

Driving + other work + breaks = 4 hours

Daily Rest = 9 hours

 

Daily Rest periods may be taken in the vehicle – but only where:

  • The vehicle is fitted with a sleeping bunk
  • The vehicle is stationary – rest will not be counted where the vehicle is moving

There is nothing in the guidance to say how long you can work in a day (other than observing the Working hours Directive!) but you must observe the driving breaks and daily rest periods.


Weekly Rest Periods

 

A driver must start a weekly rest period after no more than 6 consecutive 24-hour periods from the end of the last weekly rest period taken.

 

A weekly rest period is a rest of at least 45 hours. Once again the definition of rest is: a period of rest where the driver is freely able to dispose of his/her time. They must not undertake work for any employer during this time, including themselves.

 

A working week starts at the end of a weekly rest period and ends where the next weekly rest period begins (no later than 6 consecutive 24 hour periods). This does not have to be Monday – Sunday; weekly rest can be taken in the middle of a Monday – Sunday week.

 

A driver is allowed to take a reduced rest of no less than 24 consecutive hours, but the reduction in rest must be ‘made up’ or ‘compensated for’ by the end of the third week following the reduced rest period. The compensated rest must be taken in one block and be attached to a period of rest of a minimum of 9 hours, i.e. a daily or weekly rest.

 

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Weekly Rest

25 hours

45 hours

45 hours

45 hours + 20 hours compensation

 

Special Cases/Unforeseen events

 

It is permissible, as long as road safety is not compromised, for a driver to depart from EU driving rules to reach a suitable stopping place in the event of unforeseen circumstances. These circumstances must be such that a compliance with the rules would put the vehicle, its passengers and/or its load at risk. Examples might include:

  • Transporting an injured animal to a veterinary surgeon
  • A road traffic accident
  • Severe weather
  • Delayed ferry crossing

This concession allows for drivers to reach a suitable stopping place – and not necessarily to complete their planned journey.

 

All details of the reasons for the departure from EU rules must be recorded on the reverse of the tachograph record or print roll at the first available opportunity.

Last updated: 29/06/2010
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