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The EU Drivers’ Hours Rules explained

New Drivers’ Hours Rules (Regulation (EC) No 561/2006) came into force on 11 April 2007. The objective was to bring the practices of EU member states closer together and thereby contribute to better road safety for all. The information set out below will tell you exactly what you need to know:-

What you need to know. The particular rules which apply to drivers’ hours depend upon the type of driving undertaken, the type of vehicle being used, and the countries visited.

Who do the rules apply to? If a vehicles with a maximum permissible mass (MPM) over 3.5 tonnes is driven then unless the operation falls within one of the exemptions, the EU drivers’ hours rules will apply.

The MPM means the maximum legal weight of the vehicle including a trailer or semi-trailer when fully laden. The Drivers’ Hours Rules apply to vehicles used for the carriage of goods by road. This means any journey entirely or in part made on roads open to the public. Journeys which are entirely off-road are out of the scope of EU rules.

Countries outside the EU will have their own regulations and, if travelling outside the EU, it is always advisable to check the laws in that country.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

The word “driver” is classed as anyone who is driving a vehicle or anyone being carried in a vehicle with a view to being available for driving. Therefore, if a vehicle is “double manned”, both drivers need comply with the rules. Drivers who never carry goods or passengers do not fall within the scope of the EU rules.

Exemptions amd derogations from the EU rules:

Vehicles which cannot exceed 40km/h

Vehicles owned or hired without a driver by the armed forces, civil defence services, fire services and forces responsible for maintaining public order

Agricultural or horticultural vehicles used or hired without a driver by agricultural, horticultural, forestry, farming or fishery undertakings for carrying goods as part of their own business activity. The work must be carried out within a radius of 100km from the base of the undertaking in the UK

Vehicles used to carry live animals between a farm and a market, or from a market to a slaughterhouse where the distance between the farm and the market, or between the market and the slaughterhouse does not exceed 50km

Vehicles used to carry animal waste or carcasses that are not intended for human consumption

Vehicles used for non-commercial transport of humanitarian aid, in emergencies or rescue operations

Vehicles used for medical purposes

Specialised breakdown vehicles operating within 100 km radius of their base

Vehicles which have not yet been put into service, or which are undergoing road tests

Vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes which are used for the non-commercial carriage of goods

Historic status vehicles used for non-commercial carriage of goods (in the UK, this means if it was manufactured 25 years before the occasions on which it is being driven);

Any vehicle being used by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Vehicles specially adapted as mobile project vehicles, the primary purpose of which is as an educational facility

Vehicles used for instruction and examination in the UK with a view to obtaining a driving licence, provided that they are not being used for the commercial carriage of goods or passengers. This should also include training in relation to the Driver CPC

Any vehicle which was manufactured before 1 January 1947; and

Any vehicle which is propelled by steam

(This list is not exhaustive – for the full list see the VOSA Guide)

What is driving time?

Driving time is the duration of the driving activity recorded by the tachograph, or manually if the tachograph is broken. If even a short period of driving is undertaken during the day, this will bring the driver in scope for the EU rules for the whole of that day. Accordingly, he/she will have to comply with the rules listed below.

What is a break?

A break is taken by a driver during his shift for recuperation. It should not be interrupted. However, it may be taken in a moving vehicle provided no other work is undertaken.

What is a rest?

A rest is taken at the end of a shift where the driver may freely dispose of his time. Therefore, if the driver is engaged in other employment or is under some obligation or instruction it cannot be counted as a rest. A rest should be uninterrupted.

The new EC regulation brought in some changes and the basic Drivers’ Hours Rules are now as follows:

A break/breaks totalling 45 minutes must be taken after a maximum 4˝ hours' driving. Before 11 April 2007, it was acceptable to take breaks in three periods of 15 minutes before accumulating 4˝ hours' driving time. A 15-minute break must now be taken followed by a break of at least 30 minutes before 4˝ hours' driving time has been completed. In practice a driver should take a 15-minute break during the 4˝ hours' driving and a second break of 30 minutes at the end. The alternative is to take a full 45 minutes at the end. A driver ‘wipes the slate clean’ if he/she takes a 45-minute (or 15- and 30-minute) break before or at the end of a 4˝-hour driving period. The next driving he/she does, will start a new 4˝-hour period

Daily driving must not exceed nine hours but can be extended to 10 hours twice in a week. Daily driving time is the total accumulated driving time between the end of one daily rest period and the beginning of the following daily rest period, or, the total accumulated driving time between a daily rest period and a weekly rest period. Journeys undertaken entirely off road do not count towards driving time. This will be classed as ‘other work’. However, if the driving is undertaken only in part off road, then all of the driving (even the parts which are off road) will be classed as driving time.

Weekly driving must be limited to a maximum of 56 hours. This applies to each week beginning at 00:00 on Monday and ending one week later.

The accumulated driving time during any two consecutive weeks is not to exceed 90 hours. The fortnight is any rolling two-week period commencing at midnight on Sunday and ending one week later.

A driver must take 11 hours' daily rest in 24 hours which can be reduced to nine hours three times a week. Again the week commences at 00:00 Monday.

Split daily rest can now only be split into two instead of three. The first rest must be three hours and the second at least nine hours.

The option to reduce weekly rests of 36 hours was removed in 2007. In any two consecutive weeks a driver will be able to take either two (regular) rest breaks of 45 hoursor one regular rest and one reduced rest of no less than 24 hours, irrespective of location. Compensation is still required, as prior to 11 April 2007.

Multi manning - from 11 April 2007 the new regulation permitted the vehicle to be driven for the first hour without any additional driver present. This allows the first driver time to collect the second. It also increased the minimum daily rest requirement from eight to nine hours. See below for more information.

Ferry crossings - under the new regulations a daily rest period of at least 11 hours can be interrupted, not more than twice, and for not more than one hour in total, with no requirement to take additional in compensation for interruptions. Therefore it is the total accumulated rest period that is important.

If a suitable 'stopping place' needs to be found then so long as it does not jeopardise road safety then a driver is able to extend his driving hours. A note of these reasons must be made on the back of the record sheet. Do not make this a regular occurrence as enforcement officers will monitor this.

What is multi-manning?

Multi-manning is where two drivers are in the vehicle to share the driving. There must be two drivers in the vehicle except for in the first hour. Both drivers are governed by the same rules as is the vehicle was single-manned. The only exception is daily rest requirements where each driver must have a daily rest period of at least nine consecutive hours within the 30-hour period that starts at the end of the last daily or weekly rest period.

The maximum the two drivers may driver for to allow them to take advantage of the daily rest concession before they have to take their rest is 20 hours (only if both drivers are entitled to drive 10 hours each that day).

Periods of availability (PoA)

This is waiting time which is known about in advance. For example if on a ferry or waiting while other workers unload the vehicle.

Other work.

This covers all work other than driving in scope of the EU/AETR rules.

What other drivers’ hours rules do you need to be aware of?

Journeys which include travel through countries which are signatories to theEuropean Agreement Concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport (AETR) Agreement are subject to AETR rules.

The following countries are AETR Countries:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. The rules are similar, though generally not as stringent as the EU rules. If you require more information, please see the VOSA Guide.

GB Domestic Drivers' Hours Rules

The Transport Act 1968 governs the GB domestic rules which apply to most goods vehicles not covered by the EU rules. Separate rules apply to Northern Ireland. 10 hours is the maximum daily driving time, on and off public roads. The rule applies from 24 hours from the time the driving began. If a driver does not drive more than 4 hours per day each day of the week, he/she is exempt from the daily limit.

A driver must not be on duty for more that 11 hours on any working day. A driver is exempt from the daily duty limit on any working day when they do not drive.

Exemptions from the domestic rules

Vehicles not exceeding the permitted gross weight of 3.5 tonnes being driven:-

By doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives or vets

For any service inspection, cleaning, maintenance, repair, installation or fitting

By commercial travellers

By the RAC, AA or RSAC

For cinematography or radio and television broadcasting

For private driving – ie not in connection with a job

By drivers who always drive off the public road system

By drivers of vehicles used by the armed forces, the police and fire brigade.

In addition, a driver who drives for fewer than four hours in any day in any fixed week does not have to meet the drivers' hours requirements during that week. A fixed week begins at 00:00 on Monday.

All records of working hours should be kept on a weekly record sheet. Operators should check and sign their driver’s weekly time sheet. If a tachograph is fitted to your vehicle then this can be used to record your working time. The tachograph must be properly calibrated and sealed.


A tachograph is a device that combines the functions of a clock and a speedometer. Fitted to a motor vehicle, a tachograph records the vehicle's speed and what general activity the driver is involved in.

There are two main types of tachograph – analogue and digital.

Breach of the Drivers’ Hours Rules and tachograph record offences are the most common LGV crimes in England and Wales. EU Regulation EC 2135/98, introducing the new digital tachograph and amending the tachograph regulation EC 3821/85, came into effect from 1 May 2006 for all vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes GVW, unless otherwise exempted.

The analogue tachograph records three separate recordings by a stylus cutting traces into a wax-coated chart. The three recordings are:


Distance travelled

The driver’s activity (known as ‘the mode’

Digital tachographs store data of the driver and vehicle in their own memory and separately on a driver’s smart card.

Drivers are responsible for their own records and for correctly operating the instruments


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