EU drivers’ hours and the working time rules can be complex and how they work together has been a topic of extensive discussion within the industry. Even the gov.uk site admits the rules are complicated, yet it is crucial that those in the driving industry understand them fully and adhere to them.

With this in mind, we wanted to take a look at the rules and the key points regarding the number of hours that can be spent driving, the breaks drivers must take to comply with the rules and the limits on hours which can be spent working when not actually driving.

It is also worth noting that anyone driving under EU rules must record all their driving time on a tachograph.

EU Driver's Hours

Who do the rules apply to?

 The following rules apply to drivers of:

  • Goods vehicles or combinations of vehicle and trailer of more than 3.5 tonnes
  • Passenger vehicles with more than 9 seats (including the driver’s)

Here is a quick and simplified overview of EU drivers’ hours

  • 9 hours daily driving limit (can be increased to 10 hours, but only twice a week)
  • Maximum 56 hours weekly driving limit
  • Maximum 90 hours fortnightly driving limit

 Breaks should be taken as follows

  • 45 minutes break after 4.5 hours driving
  • A break can be split into two periods, the first being at least 15 minutes and the second at least 30 minutes (which must be completed after 4.5 hours driving)

 Rest time should be taken at the following intervals

  • 11 hours regular daily rest; which can be reduced to 9 hours no more than three times a week
  • 45 hours weekly rest, which can be reduced to 24 hours, provided at least one full rest is taken in any fortnight
  • There should be no more than six consecutive 24 hour periods between weekly rests

The EU working time directive

Some drivers have additional work and tasks which they will carry out in addition to any driving they do.  Drivers who are also expected to work carrying out non-driving duties (outside of their driving hours) will also be governed by the EU working time directive.

This is where confusion often arises. Under drivers’ hours, more frequent breaks are required because of the nature of driving and the risks associated with driving for long periods or when tired. It is obviously important that drivers are well rested and they should never be placed in a position where they are driving for longer periods than the rules allow for.

The Department for Transport has produced a guide which is useful for drivers and employers. In addition to providing a simplified explanation of the rules it also offers a range of examples of working and driving patterns. This can be viewed here.

For drivers of smaller vehicles or vehicles which are exempt from EU rules, when driven in the UK there is more information on GB domestic rules here.