Being on the road as a HGV driver is an incredibly rewarding experience. And one of the things our drivers love the most is their ability to work flexibly, fitting in their shifts around home life. But when it comes to taking breaks, there is a little less wiggle room. In order to make sure every HGV driver on the road is refreshed and driving their best, the EU (and the UK government) designed a series of laws around driving times, hours and breaks. This might sound restrictive, but actually it’s a good thing. Drivers don’t get overtired even on long journeys, and they don’t have to think about planning when their breaks will be – they just refer to the law and stop driving when they hit the limits. But what are the laws around HGV driving times anyway?
Unsurprisingly, you are only allowed to drive for a set number of hours before you’re required by law to take a break. This is because the EU recognised that driver fatigue was a very real danger for HGV drivers, and thorough testing they discovered the ideal drive vs break times to keep drivers awake and alert, while still allowing companies to make their delivery targets. These EU regulations have been enshrined into UK law as well – so Brexit has no impact on them. The key rules for HGV driver hours include:
These limits take into account things like shift patterns, which is why they roll over both a week and a fortnightly time period. As long as you aren’t exceeding any of these limits on drive time, you should be able to keep driver fatigue at bay.
Hand in hand with the hours you can drive, come the number of breaks you can take. Or more importantly, when you have to take them, and how long they need to be. The core rule is that after 4.5 hours of driving, you are legally required to take a 45 minute break. Now you can split both the break and the driving time how you want, but once your total driving time hits 4.5 hours, you have to take that 45 minutes break. The most common is to either take it in one chunk, or to split it into 15 minutes and 30 shortly after. We say 15 minutes because if your break is less than 15 minutes, it’s not legally considered a break. If you don’t take the 45 minutes, or the 15 and then 30-minute breaks, then you and your fleet manager could face criminal prosecution. And noone wants that!
When you’re a HGV driver you also need to know the difference between ‘breaks’ and ‘rest’. A break is the short periods that you stop between driving, and are similar to normal breaks you would take in an office job. Rest stops on the other hand are the longer periods between driving shifts. These are designed to give you a prolonged period of time to relax, recharge, and, well, rest! All drivers are required to take a daily rest period of 11 hours. This period can be taken all in one go (for example, overnight), or it can be split into two chunks. However if you do split it, the first period needs to be an uninterrupted 3 hours, and the second an uninterrupted 9 hours – which means you actually end up taking a minimum of 12 hours rest.
If you want, you can reduce this rest break to 9 hours, which is known as a reduced daily rest period, but you can only do this three times a week – the rest of the time you have to take the fill 11. If you take a rest period that’s over 9 hours but under 11, then it’s automatically classified as reduced daily rest, and you will need to factor that into your schedule.
On top of keeping track of your breaks and your rest periods, you will also need to keep a running total of the amount of rest taken every week. This is to ensure that no driver is being worked too hard, and everyone is getting the right amount of rest. Drivers have to take a total of 45 hours weekly rest periods. Like the other rules, this can be reduced to 24 hours if needed, providing that at least one full rest is taken in any fortnight, and that there are no more than 6 consecutive 24-hour periods between weekly rests. It seems complicated, but these rules are designed to keep drivers healthy, awake and safe.
At The LGV Training Centre, we understand there is a huge amount to learn during your training, and sometimes not a lot of time to learn it in. But when it comes to your legal obligations, we want to make sure you understand what’s expected of you as a driver, as well as what you’re entitled to from your employer. If you have any questions about break hours, or would like to know more about our training, just get in touch with our team today.