If you’re a van or truck driver then you probably know that there are specific driving hours rules to adhere to. Van and truck drivers help all over the country by transporting goods and materials, but it’s important to stay healthy and reduce the risk of an accident when driving such long hours.

Many drivers are unaware of the proper driving rules and are unsure of how long their breaks should be and when they should take them. There are so many different rules for van and truck drivers that it can easily get confusing! Below we’ll outline the proper EU rules for driving.

Daily driving rules

As stated here, the EU rules for driving are that drivers must not drive more than 9 hours a day, which can be extended to 10 hours twice a week. Drivers cannot exceed 4 hours and 30 minutes of driving time without taking a break.

The rules on rest are as follows: drivers must take at least 11 hours of rest every day, though this can be reduced to 9 hours 3 times between 2 weekly rest periods.

As mentioned, drivers are required to take breaks totalling 45 minutes at least after no more than 4 hours and a half of driving. The driving can be shorter periods, totalling up to 4 hours and 30 minutes, or the full length of time - either way, you must immediately take a break. Breaks must be at least 15 minutes long to qualify as breaks, and if you are taking one 15 minute break then you must take another 30 minute break to reach the allocated 45 minutes.

For an HGV driver, a typical day lasts 9 hours. The day can be split in different ways; one example of this is driving for 4 hours and 30 minutes, taking a 45 minute break and then driving the remaining 4 hours and 30 minutes. Another option would be to split the breaks up, driving for 2 hours instead and taking a 15 minute break, continuing for another 2 and a half hours before taking a 30 minute break and then driving the final 4 and a half hours. This all depends on the driver’s personal preference, and split breaks are allowed as long as they are in line with the driving rules.

The regular daily rest period

The required 11 hours of rest every 24 hours is known as the ‘regular daily rest period’. For HGV drivers, the required rest can be taken in their vehicle if it is suitable for sleeping in. The vehicle must be stationary in a lawful and safe area when the rest period is taken. However, the driver is not permitted to take their regular weekly rest period in the vehicle as it is not safe or healthy to do so.

The regular daily rest period can be split into two if needed, but this will increase the total hours of rest required. For example, the first period of rest will become a minimum of 3 hours, and the second period must be a minimum of 9 hours rest - both interrupted. This brings the total up to 12 hours. There is no limit to the amount of split rests that can be taken, and this is all down to the driver’s personal preference on resting.

Weekly driving rules

Just as there are rules and limitations for daily driving, there are also rules for weekly driving. Drivers are not permitted to drive for more than 56 hours in any given week under the driving rules. There is also a restriction on driving for more than 90 hours in 2 weeks, meaning that if a driver already reaches the maximum 56 hours in week one, then they are not allowed to drive more than 34 hours in week two.

How these hours are split up is once again down to the driver as long as the rules are followed. A driver could work 9 hours four days in the first week and then 10 hours on two days. The following week they may then only work 5 days, driving 7 hours on four of the days and 6 hours on the remaining day.

For resting and breaks, drivers are required to take a weekly rest after 6 consecutive 24 hour periods of driving, starting from the end of the last weekly rest period. Drivers must not have an unbroken rest period of 45 hours every week (this can be reduced to 24 hours every other week).

As mentioned, a rest of 11 hours uninterrupted is permitted per every 24 hour period, though this time can be reduced to 9 hours - however, the change to 9 hours of daily rest is only permitted 3 times in a week and no more.

Drivers weekly working hours

Van and truck drivers not only drive, but they also have other jobs to do too - whether this be loading and unloading items, doing paperwork or even sitting in traffic. This all counts towards their working hours and needs to be taken into account when looking at the drivers rules.

The rules state that a driver’s working time must not exceed an average of 48 hours - this includes driving! There is an allowance of 60 working hours in a single week maximum, as long as the 48 hour average rule is kept to over a 17 week time frame. If the driver is doing night work, then there is a maximum limit of 10 working hours allowed - however, this can be extended with a collective or workforce agreement.

Weekly working time break rules

Drivers need to ensure they are taking the correct breaks in line with the EU regulations - these will always take priority.

Drivers may not work for more than 6 hours without a break and a break cannot last less than 15 minutes. If working between 6 and 9 hours in total then the break is required to be a minimum of 30 minutes long - this can be split up into two 15 minute breaks. If the driver is working more than 9 hours in total then a minimum 45 minute break is required.

All drivers are required to record this information on a tachograph. They must include the time frames in which they are driving, taking breaks and are doing other work, as well as the speeds and distances they are travelling.

Driving breaks and working time breaks are different from each other because driving a heavy goods vehicle takes a lot more effort and is often much more difficult. More accidents are likely to happen on the road as a result of tiredness and lack of concentration, which is why the EU rules are stricter on breaks during driving time.

Any breaks taken by drivers must be periods of rest with absolutely no work involved. A break can include eating lunch, reading a book, playing a game on a mobile phone, taking a nap or anything else that will help the driver to recuperate. There are no rules against drivers being sat in their vehicles whilst taking a break, as long as they are relaxing and aren’t working.

Why should you keep to the rules?

If you’re not following the rules and are driving too long without sufficient breaks, then you are breaking the law! If you’re found to be driving outside the required hours then you will be given a hefty fine.

The authorities will look at not only your driving hours from the day you were caught but from a whole 28 days worth of driving - they can do this by taking a look at the tachograph information. This could earn you a £1,500 fine depending on the rules broken.

Not only that but if you’re found to have broken more than 5 of the driving rules within the 28 days then you can be taken to court and risk having your vehicle immobilised.

While it is your own responsibility to ensure you’re getting enough rest and breaks in between long hours of driving, it is also up to the employers to manage their employees in this regard. Employers should show acknowledgement of the rules and encourage their staff to adhere to them - they should produce a comfortable environment which isn’t time pressured so employees don’t feel the need to break the driving rules.

Companies should also check that the drivers they are hiring aren’t already beaching the drivers’ rules, and should keep tabs on their current employees to ensure they are taking breaks where needed.

Will Brexit affect the driving rules?

The HGV driving rules are provided by the EU, which has left many people wondering how Brexit will be affecting truck drivers in the UK. It is still unclear if there will be a change in rules now that the UK has left the EU.

It is speculated that the EU rules of driving will remain the same as they are seen to be very effective and fair. Many believe that the rules are essential in ensuring that there are fewer accidents on the road from tiredness, and it would seem like an unreasonable idea to change them. Time will tell, but it is likely that the rules will remain unchanged.