EU Driver Hours and the Working Time Directive

Almost a decade has passed since the introduction in 2011 of new Working Time Directive (WTD) legislation. Many drivers and their employers still struggle to understand the complex and confusing rules set by Government especially when combining it with EU drivers’ hours legislation.

the tachograph symbol for 'drive'And for those that thought they had just about mastered the ambiguous language and complicated working time and drivers’ hours calculations, Brexit will have implications for these regulations and now the global pandemic that is Covid-19 has brought about changes to those rules that could affect some drivers.

If you drive a goods vehicle in the UK or EU, there are complex rules that will apply to your journey concerning how many hours you drive and the number of rests you take. These rules therefore apply to all drivers in the waste management industry. But how should you record your hours spent driving and when do you need to take a rest break?

If the vehicle that you drive exceeds 3.5 tonnes and where the vehicle is used within the UK or between the UK and other EU countries, the EU Rules will apply to your HGV driver hours.

EU Driver Hours Rules

The EU Driver Hours Rules set out that a driver must record all hours on a tachograph and must not drive more than:

  • – 9 hours in a day (this can increase to 10 hours twice a week)
  • – 56 hours in a week
  • – 90 hours in a fortnight.

There are strict yet complicated regulations around how breaks are taken within EU driving hours and these state that a driver must take:

  • – a 45-minute break after 4.5 hours driving.
  • – immediately after 4.5 driving hours a driver must take a break unless they begin a rest period. The 4.5 driving hours can either be continuous or a total of shorter driving periods up to 4.5 hours.
  • – A break can be split in to two, the first must be 15 minutes and the second 30 minutes but both must be completed after 4.5 hours of driving.
  • – Breaks of less than 15 minutes will not qualify as breaks and neither can they count as driving time. The EU drivers’ hours regulations state that only split breaks that show the second break as lasting 30 minutes can be allowed.

In addition to 45-minute breaks every 4.5 hours of driving, drivers must also comply with the working time directive rules around rest periods. Specifically,

  • – a regular daily rest of 11 hours. This can be taken in two periods, the first must be a minimum of 3 hours uninterrupted and the second of a minimum of 9 hours (and so totalling a minimum of 12 hours if split).
  • – a HGV driver can opt to reduce their daily rest to 9 hours a day but no more than three times in a week. This rest must be uninterrupted. If a rest period is over 9 hours but less than 11 hours, it will count as a reduced daily rest period and therefore as one of three allowed in that week.
  • – a driver must take a weekly rest of 45 hours however this can be reduced to 24 hours if one full rest is taken in a fortnight. There should be no more than six consecutive 24-hour periods between weekly rests.

So, in summary, if they begin work at 8am on day one then by 8am on day two, a HGV driver’s hours must have completed either:

  • – 11 hours uninterrupted regular daily rest period
  • – 12 hours split daily rest period taken in two separate periods (min 3 hours and min 9 hours)


  • – A reduced daily rest period, only if entitled, of a minimum of 9 hours (but less than 11 hours) uninterrupted.

Of course, following Brexit there will be new driver hours rules to get to grips with. We will publish any amendments or new directives when they are announced.

Working Time Directive Rules

Where the EU Driver Hours rules do not apply to a goods vehicle, the GB driver Working Time Directive rules come in to force, however in a situation where both rules apply the EU driver hours requirements take precedence.

This is because driving an HGV carries more risks and is considered to be more difficult than many other types of work. As such, the break requirements in the EU Driver Hours rules are stricter than the working time directive rules.

Under the working time directive driver hours must not exceed 48 hours per week (average). This is usually calculated over a rolling 17-week period. No working week should exceed 60 hours and there is a maximum working time of 10 hours if night work is carried out. Under a collective or workforce agreement the 17-week rolling average may be extended to 26 weeks and the maximum hours of night work can also be extended.

Drivers following the working time directive must not work for more than 6 hours without a break, and that break should last at least 15 minutes. If working for a total of between 6 and 9 hours, you must take a 30-minute break.

This also applied to mobile workers. The 30 minutes of break time can be made up of two 15-minute breaks. If driver hours exceed 9 hours, then a break of 45 minutes must be taken. And beyond that, if a shift contains more than 9 hours of working time a break period totalling 45 minutes must take place.

Thankfully, under the working time directive, rest requirements are the same as the EU driver hours rest rules. In both cases, rest breaks can currently be taken inside their HGV as long as the time is not spent doing any other work and is used to rest and relax.

So, now that that is all clear (!) what does this mean for HGV drivers and specifically drivers of trucks supplied by MHF (UK) Ltd?

Working time or driver hours can be classed as the time spent carrying out duties that are linked to your transport operation, and there are many things that this would include, for example,

  • – Driving
  • – Loading and unloading
  • – Industry specific driver training
  • – Vehicle cleaning and maintenance
  • – Supervising the loading and unloading of goods relating to the vehicle
  • – Daily vehicle defect check and report
  • – Time spent waiting for duties to commence, when the driver is required to be with the vehicle

What is not included in working time for drivers is time spent travelling between home and the normal place of work. Similarly, rest breaks and rest periods are not classed as working illustration of symbols used on a smart tachograph

Exclusions that apply to the recording of hours under both the EU driver hours and working time directive are:

  • – Driving a hire vehicle for the purpose of delivery or collection
  • – Empty vehicles being driven to or from a place of repair of annual test
  • – Driving a vehicle for the purpose of moving it between depots
  • – Driving a new vehicle for the purpose of collection or delivery
  • – Vehicles driven to be scrapped

And what about Covid-19?

Guidance on the Gov.UK website has recently been updated to reflect the impact that Covid-19 may be having on drivers’ working hours. As a result, a number of temporary relaxations have been levied.

It must be stressed that in any situation, the health, safety and welfare of drivers should not be compromised at any time despite any temporary relaxations. The rules concerning EU driving hours and the working time directive exist to protect road safety and drivers’ working conditions. Any relaxations to the rules must be considered individually to ensure that there is a genuine need, and other supply chain interventions cannot be brought in to help.

Both EU and GB drivers’ hours rules automatically cease to apply in emergency situations where immediate preventative action is needed to avoid, amongst other things, danger to the life of people.

If your business is linked in any way to the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and you are concerned about whether your drivers’ working hours are affected, then please seek specific advice from the Gov.UK website.