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Coronavirus: driver rules relaxed to support just-in-time supply

Out-Law Analysis | 25 Mar 2020 | 4:19 pm | 6 min. read

The UK government has temporarily relaxed health and safety rules governing the time haulage and delivery drivers can stay behind the wheel in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The relaxation of the rules, announced by the Department for Transport (DfT), concerns drivers' hours and rest periods for those driving vehicles above 3.5 tonnes, i.e. haulage lorries, which are governed by EU rules; and vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, including for example shopping delivery drivers, which are governed by GB domestic rules.

The measures will facilitate the work of manufacturers, suppliers and retailers in light of increased demand for goods, potential labour shortages and the necessity driven by the coronavirus crisis.

Formal relaxation of EU rules

Given the exceptional circumstances stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak, the DfT has exercised powers open to it to temporarily relax EU drivers' hours rules as follows:

Issue

EU rule

Relaxed rule

EU daily limit (*)

9 hours

11 hours

Daily rest requirements

11 hours

9 hours

Weekly and fortnightly driving limits

56 and 90 hours

60 and 96 hours

Requirement for weekly rest period after number of 24 hour periods

6 x 24 hour periods before necessary rest break

7 x 24 hour periods - Although two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight

Daily breaks (*)

45 minutes after 4.5 hours driving

45 minutes after 5.5 hours of driving

 

Drivers are not permitted to exempt themselves from both the daily limits and weekly rest periods.

GB domestic rules

The DfT has also announced that the following relaxations will apply in respect of drivers and vehicles covered by the domestic regime:

 

GB drivers' hours

Normal limit

Relaxed limit

Duty time limit (all work activity by a driver)

11 hours per day

12 hours per day

Daily driving limit

10 hours per day

11 hours per day

Timescales

This temporary relaxation applies from Monday 23 March 2020 until 21 April 2020. However, the DfT reserves the right to withdraw the relaxation earlier or extend the relaxation if circumstances change.

Next steps

Vehicle operators should formalise the temporary relaxation on rules with their employees.

The DfT has reiterated that those seeking to take advantage of the relaxations must ensure that the safety of their drivers and the general public is not compromised and therefore operators must remain vigilant to drivers fatigue and capacity to take advantage of these relaxations. Risk assessment and management of the changes will be crucial to ensure that safety and welfare is not compromised in this challenging period.

Simon Tingle is an expert in health and safety law at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.