The European Commission has recently clarified a number of issues regarding road transport rules, one of which regards the exceptional circumstances under which a lorry driver may exceed his or her daily or weekly driving time.
In its latest Q&A, the European Commission explained that the following circumstances permit drivers to continue their journey:
- to enable the vehicle to reach a suitable stopping place and to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of persons, of the vehicles or its load
- in exceptional circumstances in cases where a driver needs to reach his/her place of residence or the employer’s operational centre in order to take a weekly rest period , or a regular weekly rest period
The full explanation provided by the commission is as follows:
What are the exceptional circumstances when the driver may exceed the daily and weekly driving time? How to control such exceptional circumstances?
Exceeding the daily and/or weekly driving times is allowed exclusively to enable the vehicle to reach a suitable stopping place and to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of persons, of the vehicles or its load , or in exceptional circumstances in cases where a driver needs to reach his/her place of residence or the employer’s operational centre in order to take a weekly rest period , or a regular weekly rest period . These two new derogations may be used when, due to unforeseen circumstances independent from the driver’s or operator’s will (weather conditions, congestion, delays at loading/unloading points, etc.), a driver is not able to reach one of the places indicated above for a weekly rest without breaching rules on daily or weekly rests.
For instance, a driver from a peripheral country engaged in long international journey who, due to unforeseen circumstances which delayed the journey, is not able to reach his place of residence, would, relying on this provision, not need to spend 45 hours of a regular weekly rest in another place not far from his/her place of residence.
As indicated in the new paragraph 4 of Article 12 of the Regulation, the driver is required to indicate the reason for departure from the driving time limits manually on the printout or record sheet or duty rooster. This statement makes the driver accountable for the inserted information.
The extension of the driving times under the exceptional circumstances mentioned above must not result in shortening the rest period following this extension. As stated in the new paragraph 5 of Article 12 of the Regulation, any period of extension under this Article must be compensated by an equivalent period of rest taken en bloc with any rest period, by the end of the third week following the week during which the derogation has been applied.
The commission were also asked if a driver exceeding daily and weekly driving time because of exceptional circumstances can also exceed the maximum fortnightly driving time limit of 90 hours.
Their official answer is as follows:
The possibility for drivers to exceed daily and/or weekly driving times in exceptional circumstances to reach their place of residence or the employer’s operational centre in order to take a weekly rest or a regular weekly rest period does not allow drivers to derogate from the maximum fortnightly driving time limit of 90 hours set out in Article 6(3) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006.
The new paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Regulation enumerates clearly the provisions from which the driver may depart, which are Articles 6(1) and (2) on the maximum daily and weekly driving time limits and Article 8(2) on the obligation for the driver to have taken a new daily rest period within each period of 24 hours after the end of the previous daily or weekly rest period. The driver must in all cases comply with the maximum 90-hours driving limit over two weeks.
For instance, a driver who has driven 56 hours in a given week (week 1) may drive two additional hours after having taken a break of 30 minutes in order to reach his or her home to take a regular weekly rest. In the subsequent week (week 2), the driver will have to ensure that s/he does not drive more than 32 hours. This extension of two hours will have to be compensated by an equivalent period of rest taken en bloc before the end of the third week following week 1.
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