Hours and rest breaks for UK goods vehicle drivers - Part 2. Image of a goods vehicle on the road | Crunch

There are different rules for drivers depending on what they drive. All the rules here only apply to vehicles that are used for the ‘carriage of goods by road’. This is defined as any journey made entirely or in part on roads open to the public.

The EU Drivers Hours Rules apply to drivers of most large goods vehicles (LGVs) over 3.5 tonnes. Drivers of LGVs normally have a tachograph in their cab. The EU Drivers Hours Rules set limits for daily, weekly and fortnightly driving, and specify minimum break times for drivers during their working day, and daily and weekly rest periods. These drivers are also covered by the Working Time Regulations.

This guide doesn't cover journeys made outside of the UK or rules for passenger vehicles.

In Part 1 we looked at GB Domestic Rules (separate rules apply in Northern Ireland). In part two we're looking at EU Drivers Hours Rules for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

The EU rules are 2006 Regulations that define a driver as anyone who:

  • Drives a vehicle
  • Is carried on the vehicle in order to drive.

The Vehicle and Operations Services Agency (VOSA) in the Department for Transport have comprehensive guidance on the rules here and our Guide is reproduced from their rules.

There's a long list of vehicles that are exempt from the Regulations - see the Co-Liability section of this article.

Driving time

Any amount of driving during the day puts the driver in scope of EU rules for the whole of that day. So the driver must comply with the daily driving, break and rest requirements, and also weekly rest requirements and driving limits.

Daily breaks

After driving 4.5 hours a driver must take an uninterrupted break of 45 minutes, unless he or she takes a rest period (see below). During this break, they may not carry out any other driving work.

This excludes doing ‘other’ work rather than driving – so if a driver drives for 2.5 hours, does other work for one hour then drivers for a further 2.5 hours, then he must have a 45 minute break.

However, the 45 minute break can be replaced by one break of at least 15 minutes followed by a break of at least 30 minutes in a 4.5 hour period.

So, you can drive 2 hours, have a 15 minute break, drive a further 2.5 hours and have a 30 minute break. After this 45 minute break, the next 4.5 hour driving period begins (there are differences for professional drivers who are also members of the Territorial Army, which we haven't covered here).

Daily driving time

The maximum daily driving time is nine hours per day. So you can drive for 4.5 hours, have a 45 minute break then drive for 4.5 hours. This can be increased to 10 hours twice 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.

Weekly driving limit

The weekly driving limit is 56 hours in a ‘fixed’ week.  So, 4 x 9 hour days, plus 2 x 10 hour days for a total of 56 hours. The ‘fixed’ week starts at midnight on Monday and ends a week later.

Two-weekly driving limit

The maximum driving time over any two-weekly period is 90 hours.

Rest Periods

A driver must take a daily rest period within each period of 24 hours. The rest must be an uninterrupted period. Time spent working in other employment, including self-employed work, doesn't count as rest.

An 11 hour (minimum) daily rest period is called a ‘regular’ daily rest period.

A driver can split a ‘regular’ daily rest period into two periods. The first period must be at least three hours uninterrupted rest, and can be taken at any time during the day. The second period must be at least nine hours of uninterrupted rest, giving a total minimum of 12 hours. For example:

  • Driving/other work/breaks = eight hours
  • Rest = three hours
  • Driving/other work/breaks = four hours
  • Rest = nine hours

A driver can reduce his daily rest period to no less than nine continuous hours, but this can be done no more than three times between any two weekly rest periods. No compensation rest for this reduction needs to be given.

A daily rest period that is less than 11 hours, but at least nine hours long, is called a reduced daily rest period.A daily rest break may be taken in a vehicle if it has suitable sleeping facilities and is stationary.

There are slightly different rules for vehicles:

Weekly rest periods

A driver must start a weekly rest period no later than at the end of a 6 x 24 hour consecutive period. A ‘regular’ weekly rest period is a period of at least 45 consecutive hours.

An actual working week does not have to be aligned with the ‘fixed’ week defined above. A ‘reduced’ weekly rest period of a minimum of 24 consecutive hours can be taken. If a reduced period is taken, the rest not taken (from the 45 hours) must be taken before the end of the third week, and this compensating rest must be attached to a 9 hour rest period.

For example – if a driver has a weekly rest period of 33 hours and has 45 hours rest in week two and three, then in week four he must have a 45 hour rest period plus 12 hours ‘compensation’ (45-33 = 12).

In any two consecutive ‘fixed’ weeks a driver must take at least:

  • two regular weekly rests, or
  • one regular weekly rest and one reduced weekly rest.

Travelling time

If a vehicle is neither at the driver's home nor at the employer's operational centre where the driver is normally based, but at a separate location, time spent travelling to or from that location may not be counted as a rest or break (unless the driver is on a ferry or train and has access to a bunk or couchette).

Unforeseen events

To enable a driver to reach a suitable stopping place, and provided that road safety isn't jeopardised, a departure from the EU rules may be permitted but only where it unexpectedly becomes impossible to comply with the rules during the journey. Drivers must note the reasons for doing so.

Working Times Regulations

Drivers who are subject to EU Rules on drivers hours normally have also to comply with the rules on working time as laid out in the Road Transport Regulations 2005. This includes self-employed drivers, too.

The WTR rules are:

  • Weekly working time must not exceed 48 hours per week averaged over the reference period. There is no Opt Out. A maximum working time of 60 hours can be done in any single week providing the average of 48 hours is not exceeded over the reference period. Reference periods are usually 17 weeks, but can be extended to 26 weeks under a workforce or collective agreement.
  • Night Work – working time must not exceed 10 hours in any 24 hour period (the period between 00.00 and 04.00 for goods vehicles and 01.00 and 05.00 for passenger vehicles). The 10 hour limit can be exceeded if permitted under a collective or workforce agreement. Night Workers must have health checks.
  • Records of hours and rest breaks must be kept for two years
  • 5.6 weeks holiday entitlement
  • Rest Breaks – a driver must not work for more than six hours without a break. If a driver works six-to-nine hours, they need a break or breaks totalling at least 30 minutes. If a driver works more than nine hours, they must have a break or breaks totalling 45 minutes. Break duration should be of at least 15 minutes
  • Breaks or Periods of Availability (POA means waiting time while others load or unload your vehicle) do not count as periods of Working Time.

Mixed EU and GB Domestic Hours Driving

Many drivers spend some of their time driving under both EU and GB rules. EU rules usually take precedence over GB rules. Important points to note:

  • Time spent driving under EU rules cannot count as an off-duty period under GB rules
  • Driving and other duty under GB domestic rules count as attendance at work under EU rules (and can't be counted as a break or rest period)
  • Driving under EU rules count towards the driving and duty limits under GB domestic rules.

For rules on Tacographs and recording driving hours and rest, and the rules for Employers regarding Tacographs, see VOSA here.

Infringement of EU Drivers’ Hours Rules

A driver is protected from conviction in Court for infringing EU Hours Rules if he can prove that, because of unforeseen difficulties, they were unavoidably delayed in finishing a journey.

Employers (‘transport undertakings’) will be liable for any infringements committed by their drivers, unless they can show that at the time of the infringement:

  • The drivers work was being organised in full consideration of the rules and they'd taken all reasonable steps to avoid the contravention
  • The driver was involved in other driving jobs that the employer couldn't reasonably have known about.


The EU rules also make the following bodies responsible for ensuring that contractually agreed transport time schedules respect the rules on drivers hours:

  • Consignors
  • Freight Forwarders
  • Tour Operators
  • Contractors and Sub-Contractors and
  • Driver Employment Agencies.

The EU Rules on driving limits and duty limits are suspended where immediate action is needed to avoid:

  • Danger to life or health of people or animals
  • Serious damage to property
  • Serious interruption of essential public services (gas, water, electricity or drainage) or in telecommunications, or to postal services, or in the use of roads, railways, ports or airports.

The vehicles that are exempted from the EU Regulations are:

  • Vehicles incapable of exceeding 40km per hour
  • Armed Forces, Civil Defence Services, Fire Services
  • Vehicles transporting humanitarian aid or used in emergencies or rescue operations or specialist vehicles for medical services
  • Specialised breakdown vehicles operating within a 100km radius of their base
  • Vehicles with between 10-17 seats used exclusively for non-commercial carriage of passengers (e.g. voluntary or community minibuses)
  • Vehicles used by the NHS for ambulance services or for transport of blood, organs, equipment, medical supplies or personnel
  • Vehicles used by local authorities to provide services for elderly people, the mentally or physically handicapped
  • Vehicles used by the British Railways Board to maintain Railways, or the British Waterways Board to maintain waterways or by HM Coast Guard, a lighthouse authority and the RNLI
  • Vehicles including tractors used by agricultural, horticultural, forestry, farming or fishing undertakings that carry goods within a 100km radius from their base
  • Vehicles carrying live animals between a farm and a market, or from a market to slaughterhouse within a 50k distance
  • Vehicles used to carry animal waste or carcasses not intended for human consumption
  • Specially fitted mobile project vehicles with a primary education purposes (e.g. play buses, mobile libraries)
  • Royal Mail vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes used within a 50km radius of base, where driving does not constitute the drivers main activity
  • Vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes carrying materials, equipment or machinery for the drivers use in the course of his work (e.g. electricians or builders carrying tools or materials for their own use); where used within a 50km radius of base where the vehicle does not constitute the drivers main activity
  • Vehicles used for driving instruction or examination
  • Vehicles involved in the maintenance of a sewage, flood protection, water, gas and electricity, road maintenance and control, household refuse collection or disposal, telegraph or telephone services, radio or TV broadcasting or receiving services (this area is subject to significant case law).
  • Specialised vehicles transporting circus and funfair equipment
  • Vehicles used for milk collection from farms or return to farms of milk containers or milk products used for animal food.

Vehicles exempt from EU Rules will usually be in scope of the GB domestic rules (see part one).

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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Lesley Furber
HR Consultant
Updated on
February 20, 2020

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