Drivers’ hours rules relaxed in Ireland
The Irish Road Haulage Association has given its backing to the Irish Government's decision to temporarily relax EU drivers' hours rules due to the Omicron coronavirus variant.
In a joint-statement, Ireland’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Department of Transport said the proposed derogation would apply to all operators and drivers subject to the EU driver’s hours and tachograph rules engaged in goods transport.
Commenting on the announcement, Minister of State for Transport, Hildegarde Naughton TD, said:
“We have granted a temporary relaxation of the EU driving time and resting time rules due to the impact the COVID-19 Omicron variant is having on HGV operations. Crucially, these relaxation measures maintain a balance between driver welfare, operator flexibility, road safety and minimising disruption to supply chains. These arrangements will be kept under continual review. These steps are being taken to ensure key supply chains for food and essential goods are kept open. I want to stress however, that driver safety and other road users’ safety must not be compromised at any stage. I want to thank all in our haulage and logistics sector for their continued hard work during this challenging period. Their resilience and commitment ensures that our shelves remain stocked and our chains of supply for food and essential goods keep moving.”
The authorities state that the derogation will apply retrospectively from 9th January 2022 up to 30th January 2022 and will be reviewed every weeks.
The measures being introduced are as follows:
- The driving time rules are being relaxed by lifting the fortnightly driving limit from ninety (90) hours to one hundred and twelve (112) hours. Because of this approach, drivers will be entitled to drive a maximum fifty-six (56) hours in each consecutive week until the derogation expires. There is no change to the rules relating to working time.
- The maximum of three (3) reduced daily rest periods between any two (2) weekly rest periods is also being increased from three (3) to five (5) to provide drivers with some extra flexibility should they encounter delays on their journeys. However, it is important to note that the applicable spread must continue to be complied with, on whatever day that a daily rest is extended to make a weekly rest. For example, if a driver avails of the maximum of five (5) reduced daily rest periods on the first five (5) days since the end of the previous weekly rest period and then continues to drive on the sixth (6th) consecutive day his/her daily spread shall not exceed thirteen (13) hours on day six (6).
- The rules relating to weekly rest are also being relaxed by allowing drivers to take a reduced weekly rest of at least twenty-four (24) hours in each consecutive week during the relaxation period. There will be no obligation on a driver to take at least one (1) regular weekly rest period in any two (2) consecutive weeks until the derogation expires. Furthermore, there shall not be any requirement for compensation where reduced weekly rest is being taken.
Similarly to its counterpart in the UK, the Ireland’s Department for Transport has said that drivers should not deviate from the rules if it jeopardises road safety. It stresses that drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired, and that employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.
Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), has said that around 4,000 of its members have had 10%-15% of their drivers unavailable as a result of Omicron. Drennan believes that the number of truckers having to isolate every day in Ireland is somewhere between 400-600.
“With Omicron, you get the call and suddenly you have no one available to do the work. You can’t get someone to replace them at the last minute so you’re left with no one,” Drennan told the Irish Independent.
The IHRA President also told the press that he welcomed that the change, and added that there was “no threat to safety”.