Driver shortage: further extension of drivers’ hours relaxation to October

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Profound problems arising from the driver shortage continue and it is unclear how long this may continue, given the long-term and structural issues causing this. In this context, the Department for Transport has announced an extension of the drivers’ hours rules relaxations set out in our July post reflecting what HM Government says are ‘the exceptional circumstances stemming from a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers causing acute supply chain pressures.’

The new relaxation will start on 9 August and run until the end of 3 October 2021.

Drivers’ Hours Relaxations

The Government position is that: “Driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired – employees remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users”.

So, employers are allowed to apply the relaxations – but only if this is safe – despite the standard Drivers’ Hours Rules supposedly being regarded as being the safe maximum driving and minimum rest periods.

In essence, the daily driving limit can increase from nine to 10 hours (and 11 hours once per week); as an alternative, weekly rest patterns can be amended.

It is intended to be applied “through agreement between employers and employees and driver representatives”. Drivers have to record why they are deviating from the normal limits.

Further, businesses have to notify the Department for Transport if they deploy the relaxations on a prescribed form, at the start and after the relaxation period.

There continue to be clear health and safety issues being flagged up about these drivers’ hours relaxations, where drivers may be facing even longer shifts, driving large goods vehicles that require the high skills and levels of concentration. Operators will need to think through whether increased hours sits comfortably with their overarching health and safety objectives and compliance. They will need to assess the risk.

The Department for Transport sets out its changes as follows:

Relaxation of EU drivers’ hours rules

The retained EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows.

The replacement of either:

  • the permitted increase to the daily driving limit from nine hours to 10 hours with one of 11 hours (allowed up to twice in one week)

OR

  • the requirement to take a regular weekly rest period of 45 hours in a two-week period with an alternative pattern of weekly rest periods as specified below, and an increase to the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 99 hours. This enables two consecutive reduced weekly rest periods to be taken

The alternative pattern of weekly rest periods for drivers using the relaxation related to weekly rest periods is as follows:

  • the regular weekly rest period in a two-week period can be replaced by two reduced weekly rest periods of at least 24 hours
  • following this, two regular weekly rest periods must be taken. However, any reduction in weekly rest shall be compensated for in the normal way by an equivalent period of rest taken before the end of the third week following the week in question
  • in addition, any rest taken as compensation for a reduced weekly rest period shall be attached to a regular weekly rest period of at least 45 hours (which can be split over two regular weekly rest periods).

This relaxation must not be used in combination with existing rules for international driving, which allow for two consecutive reduced weekly rest breaks in certain circumstances.

It is not recommended this relaxation be used for drivers engaged partly in international journeys.

Our Road Transport law team can help you

Ashtons Legal provides dedicated, niche advice in the area of road transport law, including operator licensing as well as representation in Court and at Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry hearings.

For more information about this or any other aspects of road transport law please get in touch with us through our online enquiry form or by calling 0330 404 0749. We would be delighted to help you and your business.


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