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Driver Hours – What You Need to Know

van driver using tablet

In the past, van drivers had no limit on the number of hours they could drive in a day. This led to driver exhaustion, which in turn led to errors and accidents. To combat this, the EU established legislation limiting the time a driver could be behind the wheel.

Although the rules have been in place since 2007, many drivers may not know the specifics of the legislation and there are different rules for different van and truck categories.

The rules we are covering in this article apply to van and light commercial vehicle drivers, but you can find the full legislation on the UK Gov website, here (https://www.gov.uk/drivers-hours/eu-rules).

Daily Driving Hours

The Government legislation states that drivers are limited to driving for 9 hours a day. Twice a week, this can be extended to 10 hours a day.

Drivers must take a break after 4 hours 30 minutes of driving time, and the break must be 45 mins long. This can be split into periods of no less than 15 minutes spread out over the 4 hours 30 minutes.

What this means is you need to stop regularly, and keep a record of each stop. Van drivers are legally entitled to these breaks, so make sure you take them. The breaks are there to keep you alert and reduce stress levels.

In practical terms, this means you need to take 45 minutes break by the time you’ve been driving for 4 ½ hours. You can divide this up however you choose, as long as each break is a minimum of 15 minutes.

  • One 45 minute break after 4 ½ hours, followed by another 4 ½ hours driving.
  • One 15 minute break after, for example, 2 hours driving, and then one 30 minute break after 4 ½ hours.

As long as it doesn’t break the rules, the exact choice of rest stops is usually up to the driver. If you work for a company with their own rules for driving hours, you should check that these do not conflict with the EU legislation.

Drivers can be sat in their vehicles while taking breaks, as long as they are not working.

Daily Rest Period

Drivers are required to take 11 hours of rest every 24 hours. During this period, your van must be stationary and parked in a safe, legal area. You can remain in your vehicle only if the van is safe and suitable to do so. With the majority of light commercial vehicles and 3.5 ton vans, this will not be the case. Instead, you will have to leave your van to rest.

Weekly Driving Hours

There are weekly limits on van driver hours just as there are daily limits. Drivers cannot drive more than 56 hours in a week, and they cannot exceed 90 hours driving in any 2 consecutive weeks. This means if they reach their maximum 56 hours in the first week, they can only drive for 34 hours in the second week.

These hours can be split up as the driver chooses, though the daily driving rules also need to be followed.

Weekly Rest Period

The weekly rest period must be taken after 6 consecutive 24-hour period of working. This must be an unbroken rest period of 45 hours every week, though it can be reduced to 24 hours in alternate weeks. This means if you’ve only had one period of 24 hours away from your job in the past week, then your next weekly rest must last for 35 hours.

Working Hours

Working hours include all the time a van driver is at work, which is not necessarily just driving. Paperwork, route-planning, loading or unloading, are all examples of tasks that a van driver might have to do. All these jobs count towards working hours, which have different rules to driving hours.

Working hours must not exceed 48 hours per week when averaged over a 17-week period. It is permitted to work up to 60 hours in a single week, but the 48-hour average must be stuck to. A workforce agreement can amend these limits, so check with your employer (if you aren’t self-employed) to make sure you have the correct numbers.

Whether driving or not, a van driver cannot work more than 6 hours without taking at least a 15-minute break. Working up to 9 hours means the minimum break is 30 minutes.

If you’re driving for all 9 hours of your working day, then the van driver hours rules will cover your allowed breaks and rest periods. Driver hours are more strict than working hours as driving all day is understood to be more stressful and tiring than a lot of other work. It also requires high levels of concentration at all times, and it is dangerous to drive while fatigued.

Why are these rules important?

Van driver working and rest hours are legal requirements, and come with large fines if they are not adhered to.

If you are caught breaking the rules, your previous driving history will also be examined. Any other working hours limits that have been broken will increase the fine, which could be as high as £1,500 in total. There is also a risk of having your vehicle immobilised and a potential court visit if you have repeatedly broken the rules.

Who is responsible for keeping to the rules?

It is your own responsibility while you are out on the road to stick to the driver rules. You need to make sure you are getting enough breaks and taking enough rest stops if you are driving your van all day.

However, it is also your company’s responsibility to ensure the working environment for their staff is such that the rules can comfortably be met. The rules apply whether you own or lease your van, or whether you are driving a van on behalf of your employer. Employers should always encourage their staff to follow the working hours rules and not put their drivers in a situation where they feel they need to break the rules to complete their work.

Will the rules change in the future?

The driver’s hours rules are dictated by the EU, and so after Brexit there is the opportunity for the rules to change. We don’t expect any changes in the near future, as the current rules are generally regarded as fair. In a lot of ways, the UK’s workplace laws exceed the EU standards, so it’s unlikely any changes will occur.