What do the new rules on relaxed HGV drivers’ hours mean to you?
Background to the problem
Our previous blog looked into the reasons behind the current HGV driver shortage in the UK and possible remedies for the problem, so we won’t go into those details again.
However, one thing is clear. The driver shortage is causing huge problems across all industry sectors. Supermarkets are suffering from stock shortages, prompting Tesco to offer a £1000 signing-on bonus for new HGV drivers. Construction companies are experiencing delays on their projects due to raw materials not arriving on site, and supply chains are being severely disrupted.
We considered a few solutions in our article, but we never saw this one coming when the Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced they were relaxing the rules on drivers’ hours.
The plan has come in for heavy criticism from various bodies, like the Unite trade union and Road Haulage Association, who called it “madness”. Their view is that the current regulations are in place as they are agreed to be safe, so relaxing those regulations will be unsafe by definition.
The Government have responded to those comments by putting the onus back onto the haulage companies saying that drivers shouldn’t be forced to work while tired and employers are responsible for the health and safety of their staff and the public.
Basically, you can relax the safe hours limit, as long as it’s safe to do so, which it isn’t because that’s why we have the safe hours limit in the first place. So maybe the RHA have a point?
However, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors has welcomed it, which shows it’s all about your perspective.
Dr Kirkwood (firstname.lastname@example.org), compliance specialist and technical director of Tachograph Analysis Consultants Limited (TACL), commented there were benefits to the relaxations in specific circumstances.
“Noting the working day had not been extended, a recent case enabled a driver to take their required daily rest at home, rather than in the cab, freeing facilities in the process. Used in specific circumstances and cautioning against general adoption, for operators with robust compliance systems to manage relaxations, they were a judicious tool available to support drivers and operators alike.”
However, the long-established rules on drivers’ hours have been relaxed for a temporary period from 12th July until 8th August and may even continue into the Autumn. So here are the facts.
What are the changes to drivers’ hours?
As anyone in the haulage industry will know, the current legislation allows drivers to drive for a maximum of nine hours per day, broken up by a 45 min rest period after 4.5 hours. This limit can be extended to ten hours, twice a week, with a maximum of 56 hours of driving time in the week.
The new regulations allow the daily driving limit to be increased from nine to ten hours and eleven hours twice in a week. Or weekly rest patterns can be changed from the current 45 hours in a two week period to the following (taken from the Government website):
· The regular weekly rest period in a 2-week period can be replaced by 2 reduced weekly rest periods of at least 24 hours
· Following this, 2 regular weekly rest periods must be taken. However, any reduction in weekly rest shall be compensated for in the usual way by an equivalent period of rest taken before the end of the third week following the week in question
· In addition, any rest taken as compensation for a reduced weekly rest period shall be attached to a regular weekly rest period of at least 45 hours (which can be split over 2 regular weekly rest periods).
This relaxation must not be used in combination with existing rules for international driving, which allow for 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest breaks in certain circumstances.
It is not recommended this relaxation be used for drivers engaged partly in international journeys.
Implementing the relaxed drivers’ hours
The Government is keen for companies adopting relaxed hours to consult with their drivers and representatives. However, they’ve made it clear that the responsibility for operating safely is the transport company’s and drivers shouldn’t be forced to drive while tired. The view is that these relaxed hours should only be used when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, drivers should stay within the established limits on hours.
But you can’t just relax the hours and crack on, as you have to notify the Department for Transport by submitting this form within 24 hours of using the relaxations.
Then, one week after the end of relaxations, i.e. by the 15th August, you have to submit this follow-up form.
Your drivers also have to note on the back of their tachographs charts or printouts why they are going over the usual limits. It’s the standard practice in emergencies and is essential for enforcement purposes.
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