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The UK Government has announced that drivers’ hours rules will be relaxed for both domestic and international transport from tomorrow until the end of March.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says the relaxation „reflects the exceptional circumstances stemming from and envisaged in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including the new strain, and the end of the EU transition period.”

To be precise, the measures kick in at 12:01 on 22 January 2021 and are set to end at 23:59 on 31 March 2021.

The DfT says the relaxations must be used „only where necessary” so as to protect driver welfare.

Drivers’ hours rules – relaxations for transports within Great Britain

The official statement from the DfT states that EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

  • replacement of the requirement to take a full weekly rest period of 45 hours in a 2-week period, with an alternative pattern of weekly rest periods specified below – this enables 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest periods to be taken:
    • that in a 4-week period, a driver can take 2 consecutive reduced weekly-rest periods of at least 24 hours (allowing them to work 2 6-day weeks)
    • 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)
  • increasing the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 96 hours

The DfT adds that it is „not recommended” this relaxation be used for drivers engaged partly in international journeys. They also state that drivers should not be using more than one relaxation at the same time as another.

Drivers’ hours rules – relaxations for International transports and Great Britain – Northern Ireland transports

The official statement from the DfT says that EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

a) Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours.

b) Reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours, together with a relaxation on the use of the ferry/train derogation to allow its use when on a reduced daily rest of 9 hours (instead of when on a regular rest period of 11 hours):

  • in addition, for the ferry/train derogation, the maximum duration of the interruptions to a regular daily rest period, a reduced daily rest period, or a reduced weekly rest period is increased from 2 to 4
  • the total accumulated duration of the interruptions is increased from one hour to 3 hours

c) Lifting the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) to 60 and 96 hours respectively.

d) Postponement of the requirement to start a weekly rest period after 6 24-hour periods, for after 7 24-hour periods, although 2 regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight.

Drivers must not use relaxation ‘a’ and ‘d’ at the same time. This is to ensure drivers can get adequate rest.

e) In addition, drivers who are driving only in Kent on journeys out of the UK via the Channel Tunnel or Dover, are permitted to break 45-minute rest breaks into up to 3 blocks of 15 minutes each, which together are at least 45 minutes (within a 4.5 hours period). This is designed for use when drivers are stuck in the queuing system in Kent.

Again, the DfT states that no driver should be using more than one relaxation at the same time as another.

How can the relaxations be used?

The statement from the DfT makes it clear that driver safety should not be compromised; drivers should not be expected to drive while tired. The DfT states that „employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.”

Operators planning to use the relaxation must notify the DfT by completing an initial notification of relaxation form and emailing a copy to RSSSFOLRCOVID19@dft.gov.uk.

A completed follow-up notification of relaxation form must then be emailed to RSSSFOLRCOVID19@dft.gov.uk one week after the end of the period of relaxation.

The DfT also warns that failure to comply with the requirement give notification „would be an indication to enforcement authorities that the relaxation had been used inappropriately and follow-up investigatory action may occur.”

In addition, when driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules, drivers must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits.


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