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Driving Hours, Working Time Directive and Staying Legal

By Elite Employment Group
March 30, 2021

If you drive a lorry, van, bus or a coach in the UK, you’ll be subject to rules on the number of hours you can drive in a day, week or other period.

Adhering to strict driver hours is one of the most fundamental ways that drivers and fleet managers are able to keep HGVs safe. An overworked or overtired driver is more likely to let their concentration lapse, we all know that it only takes a second for a potential incident to occur. 

At Elite Employment, our expert team have answered some essential question when it comes to Driving Hours, Working Time Directive and Staying Legal.


What are the Driving Hours for HGV?

If you drive a goods vehicle or a passenger-carrying vehicle you must follow the rules on how many hours you can drive and the breaks that you need to take.

There are 3 sets of rules that could apply to your journey:

  • EU rules
  • AETR rules
  • GB domestic rules

The rules that apply depend on:

  • the type of vehicle you are driving.
  • which country you are driving in

If you drive under the EU or GB domestic drivers’ hours rules, you also need to follow the working time rules.

The rules that apply to Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) depend on the weight of your vehicle, the country you are driving in and what you’re using the vehicle for.

EU rules

EU rules apply if the maximum permissible weight of your vehicle or vehicle combination is more than 3.5 tonnes (HGV) and you’re driving in any of the following:

  • the EU (including the UK)
  • an European Economic Area (EEA) country

GB domestic rules

GB domestic rules apply if both the following are true:

  • the maximum permissible weight of your vehicle or vehicle combination is under 3.5 tonnes. (Normally Van’s or smaller vehicles) 
  • your vehicle is exempt from EU rules when driven in the UK.

Driving hours

The main EU rules on driving hours are that you must not drive more than:

  • 9 hours in a day – this can be extended to 10 hours twice a week.
  • 56 hours in a week
  • 90 hours in any 2 consecutive weeks

All driving you do under EU rules must be recorded on a tachograph.

Breaks and rest.

The main points of EU rules on breaks and rest are that you must take:

  • at least 11 hours rest every day – you can reduce this to 9 hours rest 3 times between any 2 weekly rest periods.
  • an unbroken rest period of 45 hours every week – you can reduce this to 24 hours every other week.
  • a break or breaks totalling at least 45 minutes after no more than 4 hours 30 minutes driving.
  • your weekly rest after 6 consecutive 24-hour periods of working, starting from the end of the last weekly rest period taken.


What is classed as working time as a HGV driver?

In general terms any time spent carrying out activities in connection with the transport operation is classed as working time, this would include:

  • Driving
  • Loading and unloading
  • Driver training or other industry or job specific training
  • Cleaning and maintenance of vehicle
  • Monitoring of loading and unloading (to ensure goods are safely loaded and unloaded)
  • Daily vehicle defect check and report
  • Time during which the HGV driver cannot freely dispose of their time and is required to be in the vehicle ready to take up normal work.
  • Administrative work linked to legal or regulatory obligations directly linked to the transport operations which are under way.
  • Waiting periods where the foreseeable duration is not known in advance by the HGV driver, either before departure or just before the start of the period in ques

What is not included in working time?

Travelling between home and their normal place of work is not counted as working time, nor are rest periods or breaks.

HGV Working Time Directive Rules

If a driver is doing other work, according to the working time directive, they would be required to take a break or breaks totalling 30 minutes if the work they are carrying out is between 6 hours and 9 hours. 

For any work that goes over 9 hours a total break of 45 minutes will be required.


How to know when a break is required when driving and doing other work

A HGV driver needs to understand that when they are driving they need to follow EU driving hours rules and must have a 45 minute break after they have driven for 4.5 hours.

It can get confusing when a driver is doing a mixture of Driving and Other work, for example, if a driver does other work before driving this needs to be taking into account towards their working time. They must not exceed more than 6 hours working time without the required break.

You need to take a break after you have driven for 4.5 hours or worked for 6 hours (including driving) whichever comes first.

Drivers’ hours cannot be taken lightly, and infringements can be heavily penalised. Drivers also need to be aware of why there are restrictions on the hours they can spend both behind the wheel and at work; it’s about making roads safer.

If you would like more information from our team, you can contact Elite Employment via email at widnes@elite-employ.com or call our friendly recruitment team on 0151 420 1219.