HGV driving hours explained

What are the rules on HGV driving hours and what if you break them?

The transportation of goods up and down the country every day is what keeps the UK ticking.

A large portion of these goods ranging from food to furniture and everything in between travel round the country in HGVs (heavy goods vehicles).

Any vehicle that has a maximum permissible weight of more than 3.5 tonnes is considered a HGV by law, and drivers of these vehicles must adhere to stringent regulations as to how long they can be behind the wheel.

These regulations are governed by specific EU law and are calculated to combat tiredness and loss of concentration; which at the hands of a HGV can be deadly.

The rules cover driving hours, breaks and rest periods and we’ve outlined what you need to know, below.

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Daily hours

Drivers must not exceed 4.5 hours of driving without taking a 45-minute break and a standard day of driving for a HGV driver is considered to be 9 hours long.

So, a typical day for a HGV driver could look like this:

 

A driver is permitted to split their breaks in two as long as the first break is 15 minutes or more and the second break is 30 minutes or more – driving time in between these breaks still mustn’t exceed 4.5 hours at any one time.

A driver’s day using split breaks might look something like this:

 

Although 9 hours is the maximum driving hours permitted in one day for HGV drivers, twice a week a driver can drive for up to 10 hours (providing they still don’t exceed 4.5 hours driving at one time).

In this pattern a driver could drive for 4.5 hours, rest for 45 minutes, drive for another 4.5 hours and rest for another 45 minutes, then drive for a further hour before finishing.

Weekly hours

As well as rules to regulate how many hours a driver can do in one day, there are also rules about how many hours a driver can do in a week.  

In any given week a driver can drive for no more than 56 hours. However, drivers are not permitted to drive for more than 90 hours over the course of two weeks so if a driver reaches the 56-hour maximum in one week then the weeks preceding and proceeding that week must not exceed 34 driving hours.

A Two-week pattern of driving time might look like this for example:

 

All driving hours must, by law, be tracked and recorded in a tachograph – to calculate driving times, speeds and distances – and drivers should ensure they always carry with them a record of this information.

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Resting hours

In addition to the 45-minute break for every 4.5 hours of driving, there are also rules surrounding how many hours of rest a driver must take between driving.

An uninterrupted period of 11 hours rest is required per 24 hours. This means that no more than 13 hours after a shift has begun – no matter how many hours of breaktime there has been during the shift – the driver must have 11 hours of rest.

However, in the case a driver wants to split their resting hours, a break of no less than 3 hours and no less than 9 hours may be taken within one 24-hour period, totalling 12 hours rest.

No more than three times a week this rest can be reduced to 9 hours per day.

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What if you break the rules?

Prior to March 2018, the maximum on the spot fine for a HGV driver found to be in breach of driving hours regulations was £300.

However, if caught – the authorities now have the right to look at the past 28 days’ worth of tachograph information and can issue an accumulative fine of up to £1,500 for any breaches of the rules during that time.

If a driver is found to have more than five infringements of the rules within that 28-day period, they can be taken to court and even face having their vehicle immobilised.

Any driver who is caught breaking these driving hours regulations is ultimately responsible for the offence, however, there is also a responsibility of employers and companies to ensure the drivers they hire aren’t in breach of the rules.

Employer’s should be tracking their HGV drivers’ hours and behaviour in order to correctly look after the safety or their drivers and other road users.

If sufficient measures aren’t in place, a company can be handed an improvement notice by the DVSA (Driving and Vehicles Standards Agency) setting out changes to be made.

If improvements aren’t sufficient a prohibition notice can be awarded, requiring an employer to stop existing actions immediately in order to properly comply with regulations.

What about Brexit?

HGV driving regulations are currently governed by EU Law so what happens if the UK leaves the EU?

There is no official ruling on what will happen to HGV driving regulations in the UK if we are to exit Europe however, it is widely believed within the HGV world that the rules will remain in place.

Within the industry the existing regulations are well respected and thought to be fair and appropriate when it comes to preventing accidents born from tiredness and loss of concentration so the removal of these rules in the event of the UK leaving the EU seems unlikely.

 

All rules and regulations in this article are correct at time of writing (26/07/2019).