April 27, 2017

Van driving hours: the law

van driving

How much time do you spend driving your van? Did you know that there’s a limit to the amount of time you can spend behind the wheel of your van, governed by law?

You didn’t? Well, if you fall foul of these rules there are some pretty strict punishments – both of which you’ll want to avoid. These include a £300 fine, and/or a possible custodial sentence if you cause an accident when you’ve exceeded your legal driving time.

Now that we’ve got your attention, we should specify that there are two sets of rules that apply to van drivers in the UK. The first set, the ‘EU Rules’ cover most drivers of commercial vehicles over 3.5-tonnes. The others are the domestic rules, which apply to drivers of goods vehicles excluded from the EU Rules.

The domestic rules cover most van driving, although you should be aware which rules you’re following.

The Domestic Rules on van driving hours

These apply to commercial vehicles not exceeding 3.5-tonnes and there are just two main limits.

10 hours of daily driving

Applies from the moment you start driving. It includes time spent off-road and time behind the wheel with the engine running and controlling the vehicle. This could be when the vehicle is stationary or moving.

11 hours of daily duty

The period of 24 hours from the beginning of your shift. Drivers are excluded from the daily duty limit on any working day if they don’t drive.
In summary, the Domestic Rules mean that you can spend up to 11 hours a day working, but no more than 10 of those can be spent driving.

Exceptions

As with all rules, there are exceptions. If you drive a vehicle to which these rules apply, but spend a maximum of four hours a week behind the wheel, then you aren’t subject to the ‘daily duty’ limit on any day of the week. There is a confusing caveat here; if you exceed more than four hours in one day, the limit is applied to the whole week.

If you’re in any of the following professions, you only have to keep to the 10-hour daily driving rule:
Doctor, dentists, nurse, midwife, vet, inspection, maintenance, repair, installation, fitting, commercial travellers, cinema or radio broadcasting, if you work for the AA or RAC or if you have to drive off-road for agricultural, forestry, quarrying or civil engineering purposes.

The Domestic Rules do not apply to drivers in the armed forces, police and the fire brigade, drivers who stay off of public roads and any private driving that’s not for employment.
The limits can be exceeded when immediate action is need to deal with life or death emergencies, serious interruptions to public service such as water and gas, serious interruptions to the use of roads, railways, sea ports and for events that are likely to do serious damage to property.

EU Rules on van driving hours

These rules must be observed by drivers of vehicles and vehicle combinations that exceed 3.5-tonnes. This means that if you’re a van driver, these rules only apply if you’re towing a trailer.

9 hours of daily driving

The driving time between rest periods (of which there should be two), no more than nine hours. However, this can be extended to ten hours twice a week without having to compensate for the additional time.

56 hours maximum of weekly driving

The week runs from 00:00 Monday to 24:00 the following Sunday.

90 hours of fortnightly driving

This applies to any two-week rolling period, and starts at midnight.

A 45-minute break after every 4.5 hours of driving

A 45-minute break must be taken after continuous or accumulated driving, unless you start another daily or weekly rest. You can split this break into two, so long as the first is at least 15 minutes long.

11 hours minimum daily rest

This must be taken every 24 hours at the end of the previous daily or weekly rest period. You can reduce this rest to nine hours, but only three times between weekly rests.

45 hours minimum weekly rest

This must be taken before the end of six 24-hour period, which starts at the end of the last weekly rest. You must have at least two weekly rests that total at least 45 hours.

Exceptions

There are exceptions to the EU Rules, but none that apply to drivers who drive occasionally or for short periods. These regulations may be broken only to reach a suitable stopping place in an emergency.

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