Guidance on drivers’ hours relaxations

Guidance on drivers’ hours relaxations

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Guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Brexit: guidance on drivers’ hours relaxations
Guidance on the relaxation of drivers’ hours rules in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19) and Brexit.



General guidance on the application of the relaxation of drivers’ hours rules, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and exiting the European Union.

This document should be used in conjunction with the existing guidance on drivers’ hours.



  1. Stay up to date
  2. Relaxation of drivers’ hours rules
  3. Drivers’ hours rules for goods vehicles
  4. Emergency relaxations
  5. Drivers’ hours relaxations
  6. Current temporary relaxations
  7. Health and safety legislation

Stay up to date


This page tells you about drivers’ hours rules during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and Brexit. It will be updated if anything changes.


Relaxation of drivers’ hours rules


This document provides further advice on the relaxation of drivers’ hours rules, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and Brexit. It should be considered in conjunction with the extensive existing guidance provided on drivers’ hours.

The drivers’ hours and working time rules are in place to protect road safety and the working conditions of drivers and to reduce the risk of drivers being involved in fatigue-related accidents. As such, any relaxation of these rules should only be considered where genuinely necessary and when other supply chain management interventions are unable to alleviate issues. The Department for Transport (DfT) wishes to make clear that driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired – employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.


Drivers’ hours rules for goods vehicles


For journeys within Great Britain (GB), either the GB or EU rules may apply. For international journeys either the EU rules or the European Agreement Concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport (AETR) may apply. Which set of rules applies depends on the type of driving and the type of vehicle being used, and, in the case of international journeys, the countries to be visited.

Most vehicles used for the carriage of goods by road and with a maximum permissible weight (including any trailer or semi-trailer) of over 3.5 tonnes are in scope of the EU rules.

Detailed information is available covering the GBEU and AETR rules. Information is also available on working time rules. The working time rules that apply depend on whether you drive a vehicle in scope of the EU or GB domestic drivers’ hours rules.


Emergency relaxations


Both the GB and EU 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 or health of people. The definition of an emergency is contained in domestic legislation (The Drivers’ Hours (Goods Vehicles) (Exemptions) Regulations 1986 and the Drivers’ Hours (Passenger Vehicles) (Exemptions) Regulations 1970).


The department’s advice about emergency situations is if your journey is necessary to enable someone to:

1) provide goods or services to protect public health, and/or

2) meet their or others’ basic needs for day to day living, and/or

3) provide medical treatment

and there is a risk of danger to the life or health of people if your journey is not carried out; then you should make use of the emergency exemption.


Operators do not need to ask the department for a temporary ‘urgent’ exemption for these type of journeys. The emergency exemptions cease to apply once the situation is under control and there is no longer a need for immediate preventative action.


The department would not normally expect drivers in emergencies to:

  • drive for more than 11 hours in one day
  • have less than 9 hours of daily rest
  • work for more than 7 days before the start of the regular or reduced weekly rest (if operating under the EU rules), or
  • have less than 24 hours weekly rest


In addition, drivers operating under the EU drivers’ hours rules should ensure they take a 45 minute break after 4.5 hours driving.

The relevant provisions of the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005 will not apply, to the extent that they conflict with the requirements of responding to the emergency. Drivers will, however, remain subject to all other requirements of the Working Time Regulations in an emergency event.

The practical implementation of any changes should be through agreement between employers, employees and (where available) driver representatives. Employers must, where possible, agree any extension of working time with employees or other workers, before that work starts.

The drivers in question must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.

Operators should maintain records of when standard drivers’ hours have been deviated from, along with a justification of why this was needed. The responsibilities of operators, transport managers and the wider supply chain may be examined after the current events. It is important that on subsequent inspections and checks it can be clear that a relaxation was used appropriately, was well implemented and in a way to reduce fatigue (for example in relation to shift patterns).


Drivers’ hours relaxations


If a journey doesn’t fall under the emergency provisions the drivers’ hours rules must be complied with. If the situation is still urgent and an operator believes a temporary relaxation of the drivers’ hours rules would be applicable, they should contact in the first instance an organisation representative of their part of the broader supply chain. Temporary, urgent relaxations will only be put in place on a systematic basis and only when other measures in the supply chain cannot be used.


Current temporary relaxations


You can find any temporary relaxations that are currently in place on the Driver’s hours collection page. If there are no relaxations showing on that page it means that there are none currently in place.


Health and safety legislation


As well as the drivers’ hours and working time rules, transport operators, as employers, are required, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of their employees while at work and others who may be put at risk by their work activities. In addition, they have a legal duty as an employer to manage risks from fatigue.

That is why when the department does relax the drivers’ hours and working time rules we remind operators, in our notification of the relaxation, that as employers, they remain responsible for the health and safety of their drivers and other road users and that they must ensure that driver safety is not compromised by expecting them to drive whilst tired.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued advice on managing the risks of fatigue and this includes good practice advice on shift lengths. HSE guidance on managing shift work advises that employers should avoid shifts that are longer than 8 hours where work is demanding, safety critical or monotonous and that they should limit shifts to a maximum of 12 hours (including overtime). It also advises that they should encourage and promote the benefit of frequent and regular breaks to reduce the risk of fatigue.



Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Brexit: guidance on drivers’ hours relaxations


From: Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

Published 20 March 2020
Last updated 30 December 2020


The guidance has been updated to reflect the fact that it also relates to leaving the European Union (Brexit).


First published.

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