Drivers' hours relaxation: UK Government publishes details

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As we reported yesterday, the UK Government has announced that drivers' hours rules will be “temporarily” extended as of Monday July 12th. Details of the move, which has been made as a means of dealing with the current driver shortage, have now been officially published.

The key points from the government’s announcement are that the relaxation is planned to apply until the end of the 8th of August and that the rules allow for one hour of extra driving twice a week as well as shortened weekly rest periods.

Here are all the details drivers and hauliers need to know:

Where are the changes in force?

The rules apply in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland.

Who does the extension apply to?

As the UK Government website states, anyone driving in Great Britain under the retained EU drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use this relaxation where necessary. The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys.

It is permitted for a driver using this relaxation to drive outside Great Britain during the period of this relaxation. However, this relaxation only covers driving undertaken within Great Britain.

What are the changes?

The UK Government website says that the retained EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows.

The relaxation allows the replacement of either:

  • the permitted increase to the daily driving limit from 9 hours to 10 hours with one of 11 hours (allowed up to twice in 1 week)


  • the requirement to take a regular weekly rest period of 45 hours in a 2-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 2 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 2-week period can be replaced by 2 reduced weekly rest periods of at least 24 hours
  • following this, 2 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 2 regular weekly rest periods).

This relaxation must not be used in combination with existing rules for international driving, which allow for 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest breaks in certain circumstances.

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

How long will the relaxed drivers' hours rules apply?

This temporary relaxation will apply from 12:01am on 12 July 2021 and will run until 11:59pm on 8 August 2021.

Consecutive weekly rest periods taken before 12 July 2021 must be taken into account for this relaxation, and up to 3 consecutive rest periods may include 1 taken before 8 July 2021.

The 2 subsequent consecutive full regular rest periods, including compensatory rest, can be taken in whole or in part after the end of this relaxation.

DfT reserves the right to withdraw the relaxation earlier, or extend the relaxation, if circumstances change.

How should the relaxation be used?

The UK Government stresses that driver safety must not be compromised. It says that drivers should not be expected to drive while tired – employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.

The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and driver representatives.

In addition, the government statement adds that failure to comply with the requirement to notify the DfT would be an indication to enforcement authorities that the relaxation had been used inappropriately and a follow-up investigatory action may occur.

Moreover, when driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules, the government says drivers must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is essential for enforcement purposes.

The temporary relaxation of the rules reflects the exceptional circumstances stemming from a shortage of HGV drivers causing acute supply chain pressures.

It must be used only where necessary, otherwise, the normal drivers’ hours rules should be followed. The DfT encourages operators facing high work demands or work absences to take urgent measures to secure drivers who have limited or no current work.

As a general rule, the DfT says it expects businesses to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.

Photo © Copyright Alan Walker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.