Drivers’ hours rules relaxed amid COVID-19 outbreak


24 March 2020

In these unprecedented times, the Department of Transport have announced and agreed to a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales. It has also introduced a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of GB drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales.

This means that lorry drivers transporting essential goods to supermarkets can stay on the road longer without a break to help the response to COVID-19. The drivers' hours rules have been relaxed as retailers struggle to keep shelves filled due to stockpiling caused by coronavirus fears.

Who can use the relaxation?

Anyone driving under the EU drivers' hours rules or the GB drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use the relevant relaxation where necessary. The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys. 

There are however, different rules and relaxations concerning drivers who deliver liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). These drivers must not use the general relaxation mentioned above and should use the one applicable to the delivery of LPG instead.

Timing of the relaxations

This temporary relaxation applies from Monday 23 March 2020 and will run until Tuesday 21 April 2020. However, it should be noted that the Department reserves the right to withdraw the relaxation earlier or extend the relaxation if circumstances change. 

Relaxation of EU drivers’ hours rules

  1. Replacement of EU daily driving limit of 9 hours to 11 hours
  2. Reduction of the daily rest requirement from 11 hours to 9 hours
  3. Lifting the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) to 60 and 96 hours
  4. Postponement of the requirement to start a weekly rest period after six-24 hours period, for after seven-24 hours period; although two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly period will still be required within a fortnight
  5. The requirements for daily breaks of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours driving replaced with a break of 45 minutes after 5.5 hours driving. 

Drivers must not use the relaxations at bullets points 1 and 4 at the same time, to ensure drivers are able to get an adequate rest.

Relaxation of GB drivers’ hours rule

  1. Replacement of the GB duty time limit of 11 hours with 12 hours
  2. Replacement of the GB daily driving time limit of 10 hours with 11 hours

Drivers can only take advantage of this temporary relaxation 5 days in any 7 day period, and must take a rest period of 24 hours within the same 7 day period when taking advantage of this relaxation. 

Using the relaxation

The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through the agreement between employers and employees and/or drivers representatives. 

When driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules, drivers must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is essential for enforcement purposes. 

When driving under GB drivers’ hours rules, drivers must note on their record sheet the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This again, is usual practice in emergencies, and is essential for enforcement purposes.

This is not however, a request for drivers to push themselves too far, the department wishes to make clear that driver safety must not be compromised. They are not expected to drive when they are tired and should pull over when necessary. The department wishes to emphasise that, as a general rule, they expect business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains at this exceptional time. 

If you require advice and/or representation in relation to any transport matter, our Regulatory and Corporate Defence team at Birketts are here to assist. 

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.