HGV Driving Hours

HGV drivers’ hours: a simplified guide

The recording and monitoring of HGV drivers’ hours has been a feature of UK and EU law for many years. It remains a fundamental way for drivers and fleet managers to keep HGVs and the country’s roads safe.

After all, when you’re responsible for a heavy goods vehicle you do not want to be overtired, falling asleep at the wheel and at risk of causing a serious accident. Other errors that can occur whilst tired include forgetting to refuel, missing turnings, and making mistakes when loading and unloading.

It’s vital that anyone involved in HGV operations knows their basic responsibilities regarding drivers’ hours. Time spent behind the wheel should be the first consideration when routes are planned to ensure that drivers get the required rest breaks throughout their shifts.

Read on for our simple guide which includes some frequently asked questions.

Let’s start at the top…

What are HGV driver hours?

Driver hours are UK government rules controlling the length of time a driver can operate an HGV daily and over the course of a week and a fortnight, to try to curb rising rates of accidents caused by driver tiredness.

These rules also govern the number of breaks a driver must take.

If you drive a vehicle in GB that weighs over 3.5 tonnes or is exempt from EU rules when driven in the UK or is driven in connection to a UK trade or business HGV driver hours apply to you.

How long can lorry drivers work for?

Time spent driving is limited by how much can be done in a shift, week or fortnight. A shift normally includes a maximum of 9 hours driving in total. Driving time will form part of a longer shift, usually 11 hours. This is how long a driver can work for.

Within their driving time a driver must take a 45-minute break. A break from driving must be taken after 4.5 hours so the whole 45-minute break could be taken half way through a 9-hour driving shift.

What are the maximum driving hours for HGV drivers?

HGV drivers may drive up to 9 hours per day.

Twice a week this can be increased to 10 hours. This applies to drivers in England, Scotland and Wales. There are different rules in Northern Ireland.

Nightshift drivers can drive up to 10 hours per shift, although this can be increased as part of a workforce agreement.

How many hours can be driven in a fortnight?

A driver must not work for more than 90 hours within any two consecutive weeks.

A week is a fixed period starting at 00:00 on a Monday and running until 24:00 the following Sunday.

Assuming a driver spends 9 hours a day driving four days and drives for 10 hours twice a week they will accrue 56 hours driving time in one week. Therefore the following week must not exceed 34 hours driving time.

What is the maximum permitted average weekly working time hours?

Because an HGV driver can drive for a maximum of 56 hours, with a combination of (for instance) two 10-hour days and four 9-hour days.

It must be remembered that over a consecutive two-week period, a driver’s total driving hours must not exceed 90 hours.

This is illustrated over four consecutive weeks:

Driver hours and rest breaks

It is really important that drivers schedule rest breaks to make sure they are not overtired whilst driving.

The need to take a break will be triggered by either the amount of driving that has been done or the amount of work that has been undertaken, whichever comes first.

When does an HGV driver have to take a break?

HGV drivers are legally required to take a break after 4.5 hours of driving. This may be continuous driving or a combination of multiple shorter periods of driving combined.

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If a driver drives for 4.5 hours, they must take a break of at least 45 minutes. A break can be taken before 4.5 hours. For example, a driver drives for 3 hours and then takes a break of 45 minutes. Because the break is the full 45 minutes, the driver can then drive for a further 4.5 hours before needing to take another break.

Any breaks that are less than 15 minutes long won’t be classed as an official rest break but the time will not count as driving time either.

All breaks must interrupt working time – i.e. a driver mustn’t carry out other non-driving work during their breaks from driving.

Total break time affects the total number of hours worked. For example, if a driver works up to 6 hours, they will not need to take a break from work but may need to take a break from driving (if they have driven for up to 4.5 hours).

If a driver works for 6-9 hours in total a 30-minute break must be taken, but remember, if this time has been spent driving, the driver must have taken a 45-minute break after 4.5 hours driving time.

What is an HGV Split Break?

A 45-minute break can be split in to two parts as long as they’re both taken over the same driving period. This is known as a split break.

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HGV split breaks enable a driver to take their rest periods at convenient points in a journey.

The first break must be a minimum of 15 minutes and the second break must be a minimum of 30 minutes long to ensure that the driver is getting the full 45 minutes rest for every 4.5 hours of driving.

The first break period must be a minimum of 15 minutes and the second break must be no shorter than 30 minutes during one 4.5h driving period.

If split breaks don’t add up to 45 minutes a driver is committing a criminal offence, which could result in both the driver and operator being charged.

HGV driver hours – daily rest periods

The working time directive for HGV driver hours states that drivers should have a regular daily rest period of 11 hours. This can be broken down in to two periods: Period 1 – a minimum of three hours; and Period 2 – a minimum of nine hours, bringing the total to 12 hours rest.

Rest is classified as an uninterrupted period where you are able to freely dispose of your time.

Within 24 hours of starting a shift you must complete a daily rest period which, as stated above, is normally 11 hours long.

The 11-hour rest period can be reduced to 9 hours but only three times a week. This will be classed as a reduced daily rest period. But beware, any rest over 9 hours and under 11 hours will still be classed as a reduced daily rest period, even if you didn’t reduce it all the way to 9 hours.

Any shift that is longer than 13 hours will mean a driver needs to use a reduced daily rest period from their quota of three reduced daily rests per week. The maximum shift length that can be worked is 15 hours, leaving 9 hours for a reduced daily rest.

Over a week, drivers must have 45 hours rest. This can be reduced to 24 hours provided that the working fortnight also includes one full rest of 45 hours.

An example of rest breaks is set out below:

A driver begins work at 7:00am on day 1. By 7am on day 2 they must have completed one of the following:

· A regular daily rest period of 11 hours, uninterrupted

· A split regular daily rest period of 12 hours, taken in two separate periods, the first being a minimum of 3 hours, the second at least 9 hours

· A reduced daily rest period (if quota not already used) of a minimum of 9 hours uninterrupted (but not over 11 hours)

What is a split daily rest?

Periods of rest from HGV-related work are required by law. HGV drivers must have a minimum 11- hour daily rest, which can be reduced to 9 hours up to three times a week.

If the daily rest is 12 hours long, it can be split in to two periods, the first being a minimum of 3 hours long and the second being a minimum of 9 hours. This is known as a split daily rest and is illustrated below. A split daily rest must be completed within 24 hours of a shift being started.

What do I need to know about weekly rests?

Weekly rests must have no more than 6 days between them. A minimum of two weekly rests must be taken in any two consecutive weeks. One of those rests must be at least 45 hours long (e.g. one 45-hour rest every other week).

Some working patterns allow for two consecutive reduced weekly rests:

The two-week period that includes weeks 2 and 3 in the table above contains three weekly rests. The weekly rest that starts in one week and finishes in another can be counted in either week but not in both. If the 45-hour rest is counted in week 3 then the weekly rest rules are met.

Any reduction in rest must be compensated by an equal amount of rest being added in one block by the end of the third following week, as illustrated in the next table. The added rest must only be added to a rest that is already at least 9 hours long.

I drive with a colleague – how long can I work for?

If more than one driver is on board a vehicle for all driving periods there are special rules regarding daily rest. Essentially, a driver must take at least 9 hours daily rest within 30 hours of the start of a shift and a maximum shift is 21 hours.

You can start a joint driving period with just one driver for the first hour so that the second driver can be picked up en route.

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You may also interrupt your daily rest if you are accompanying an HGV on a ferry or train as long as you take regular daily rests of 11 hours and the interruptions total no more than one hour and you have access to a bunk during the rest period.

In summary:

  • Rest periods are normally 11 hours a day. This can be reduced to 9 hours but only three times a week
  • A minimum of 45 hours rest must be taken each week. This can be reduced to 24 hours by agreement with employer
  • You must take two weekly rests within a fortnight. One must be at least 45 hours long
  • Rests may be taken in the vehicle provided the vehicle is stationary and is fitted with suitable sleeping facilities.

What’s the difference between driving time and working time?

During a driver’s shift there will be time spent carrying out duties that don’t involve driving. This is classed as working time. Driving time in its purest sense is classed as time spent behind the wheel.

Working time is any time when a driver works for a company/is on duty. If you’re self-employed, working time is only the time spent driving the vehicle or doing other work related to the vehicle or its load.

Driving time is a form of working time and hours aren’t always defined in the same way. It is a complex area to understand. Comprehensive guidance is available from the DVSA.

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Working time includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Loading and unloading
  • Monitoring of loading and unloading activities
  • Driver CPC or other industry specific training
  • Vehicle cleaning and vehicle maintenance
  • Daily defect walk-round check and report
  • Administrative work
  • Time spent waiting (also known as advance unknown duration)
  • Anything connected with transport operation

Whether a driver is driving their HGV or carrying out other work-related duties the correct breaks must be taken to ensure that their driving and working time rules are met.

Breaks must be distributed within a working shift (i.e. not taken at the start or end of a shift). Furthermore, break periods can double up to act as a break from work and a break from driving if both sets of rules are satisfied.

Weekly work limits

Drivers may work up to a maximum of 60 hours in any week with a 48-hour average over a reference period. Your reference period is calculated by your employer, usually over 17-26 weeks by agreement.

Your employer is responsible for keeping records for this average. You must tell your employer if you carry out any other work for another employer as this needs to be considered in your calculation.

By now you’ll see (if you didn’t already know!) that drivers’ hours, working hours and the WTD are pretty complicated. All working time must be recorded on a weekly record sheet or on a tachograph.

What is a tachograph?

Tachographs are used to record information about driving time, speed and distance. Available in both analogue and digital formats, drivers and employers use them to ensure that everyone follow rules on drivers’ hours. They are also used to record the various activities that drivers undertake whilst working.

Most tachographs are now digital and are tested regularly to ensure that they are accurate. They are widely recognised to be the most effective method of recording working and driving hours.

Fines can be incurred if a tachograph isn’t used correctly or if equipment is not working properly.

What is the Working Time Directive (WTD) 6-hour rule?

The working time directive states that no driver must work for more than 6 hours without taking a break of at least 15 minutes. Remember, working time includes driving time, so after 6 hours of carrying out work-related duties, be they driving or loading/checking/cleaning the driver must take a minimum 15-minute break.

So, before an HGV driver reaches 6 hours of work or 4.5 hours of driving, they must take a 15-minute break to ensure that they stay within the law.

What is the HGV 15-hour rule?

The HGV 15-hour rule applies where rest periods are concerned. Drivers must take a daily rest period of 11 hours, which can be taken in two parts, with the first being a minimum of 3 hours.

However, as mentioned earlier, the daily rest period can be reduced to 9 hours (up to three times a week), so allowing for a 15-hour working day (24h – 9h = 15h).

Can a driver work 6 days every week?

A driver can work for 6 days a week providing their work meets regulations on minimum periods of rest.

What are the new HGV driving hours?

Temporary relaxations to the rules governing EU driver hours were introduced on 9th April 2022 in response to cancellations of P&O ferries and congestion of international freight traffic.

Drivers were permitted to drive for 99 hours (instead of 90). However, as the situation eased, these relaxations were removed on 22nd April 2022.

At the time of writing there are no further changes to HGV driving hours, which remain at the following:

  • 9 hours driving per shift (10 hours twice a week)
  • 56 hours driving per week maximum
  • 90 hours driving in consecutive weeks