[updated: 21 March] UK government announces the most extensive relaxation of drivers’ hours rules yet
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21 March 2020
The UK government has announced a further temporary urgent relaxation of both EU and domestic drivers hours rules. The new relaxation is the most extensive yet, applying to all sectors of the transport industry. It takes effect from 00.01 this coming Monday the 23 March 2020. Anyone transporting goods under the EU or GB drivers’ hours rules can use the relaxation where necessary.
The new guidance does, however, contain a word of warning:
The department wishes to make clear that driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired – employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.”
London Road Charging Schemes to be suspended
It has also been reported that from Monday the 23 March all road user charging schemes in London will be temporarily suspended. This is to include:
- The London congestion charge
- The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)
National rail services are also due to be scaled back over the coming days and weeks.
Goods vehicle MOT tests suspended
The DVSA has suspended all Heavy Goods Vehicle and Public Service Vehicle MOT tests for up to three months. Certificates of exemption will be issued to those vehicles due to a test during this period.
Restrictions mount up but at what cost?
The new measures are all intended to relieve pressures on national supply chains caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It will inevitably mean, however, that in the coming days and weeks some drivers will be driving more tired and some vehicles may be less roadworthy. The extent of the regulatory rollback in the transport sector serves to indicate just how seriously the UK Government is taking the threat to the national supply chain.
20 March 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, the UK government continues to bring in additional measures to support the transport industry and to protect vital supply chains.
Further emergency relaxation of drivers’ hours’ rules
From the 19 March 2020 drivers’ hours’ rules have been temporarily relaxed for drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning), over the counter pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies when undertaking the following journeys:
- manufacturer to consumer’s home
- stores/distribution centre to consumer’s home
- supplier to consumer’s home
- fulfilment centre to consumer’s home
- retailer to consumer’s home
The aim is to address shortages caused by panic-buying at supermarkets and to make it easier for supermarkets to deliver food and essential supplies to members of the public in self-isolation.
The new rules apply to deliveries under the GB domestic rules and are as follows:
- Replacement of the GB duty time limit of 11 hours with 12 hours.
- Replacement of the GB daily driving time limit of 10 hours with 11 hours.
- Drivers can only take advantage of this temporary relaxation 5 days in any 7 day period, and must take a rest period of 24 hours within the same 7 day period when taking advantage of this relaxation.
Transport sector recognised as “critical industry”
As schools across the UK close, the government has made special provision for parents working in the transport sector. Workers in the following sectors are classed as workers critical to the Covid-19 response:
- Food and other necessary goods – This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
- Transport – This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Parents working in these sectors will be able to leave their children at school to be cared for during the working day so that vital supply chains are not interrupted.
HGV MOT tests suspended for 2 days
In an effort to reduce the spread of the covid-19 virus, goods vehicle MOT tests have been suspended for at least 2 days. Driving tests have also been cancelled.
Further advice from the Senior Traffic Commissioner
Today the Senior Traffic Commissioner published further advice for operators struggling with the coronavirus outbreak. The advice accompanies an already released statutory guidance note. The new advice follows a question and answer format, with questions including:
- Can I temporarily operate more vehicles than authorised to meet an urgent public demand?
- Due to challenging trading conditions, I can no longer meet the requirement to be of the appropriate financial standing?
- Due to restrictions on movement, I no longer have access to my operating centre. What steps do I need to take?
- I am a transport manager but am required to self-isolate or I am absent from work through ill health.
- I have been called to a Public Inquiry or a Driver Conduct hearing, will it go ahead during the coronavirus outbreak?
Operators are encouraged to seek advice if their businesses are struggling in the current crisis.
Further and more restrictive measures have been hinted at, however, and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the transport industry.