Safety alert: HGV driving hours relaxation

The Department of Transport has announced (via Twitter) a temporary relaxation of HGV driving hours rules from Monday 12 July for drivers within Great Britain, operating under the retained EU drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road. The temporary changes would mean the replacement of either:

  • the permitted increase to the daily driving limit from 9 hours to 10 hours with one of 11 hours (allowed up to twice in 1 week) or
  • the requirement to take a regular weekly rest period of 45 hours in a 2-week period with an alternative pattern of weekly rest periods (detailed below), and an increase to the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 99 hours (enabling 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest periods to be taken)

The alternative pattern of weekly rest periods for drivers using the relaxation related to weekly rest periods is as follows:

  • 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 normal 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).

Consecutive weekly rest periods taken before 12 July 2021 must be taken into account for this relaxation, and up to 3 consecutive rest periods may include 1 taken before 8 July 2021.

This can’t be used in combination with existing rules for international driving, which allow for 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest breaks in certain circumstances.

The temporary relaxation will come into force from 12.01am 12 July and will last until 11:59 pm on 8 August 2021.

It is essential that businesses who intend using the relaxation notify the Department of Transport and send a follow-up notification at the end of the relaxation period. Full details can be found in the guidance on the government website, or by clicking here.

The guidance warns that it should be used only where necessary and it should not be used where drivers are engaged in partly international journeys.

You should bear this in mind that this relaxation has been brought about by the national shortage of drivers. This makes consulting with and engaging your driving workforce of paramount importance because if you lose people through introducing changes which are unpopular, this will not only be hugely disruptive for the business but the likelihood of being able to replace them quickly is rapidly diminishing.

If your business has decided that it will not avail itself of the relaxation of the rules, it is still an opportunity to increase engagement with your drivers by communicating this to them, as this demonstrates your focus on their wellbeing. However, given the ever-changing economic landscape, you may wish to make it clear that you will keep this under review in case circumstances change.

What You Need To Do:

The guidance stresses that driver safety must not be compromised and drivers “should not be expected to drive while tired”. It also advises that the “practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and driver representatives”.

So, if you intend to use this relaxation, then we recommend that you:

Consult With Your Drivers:

  • Ensure that you engage your driving workforce and explain that you may need to take advantage of the relaxation. Ask them for input into how you may control the risks incurred. Any change which is not consistent with the terms of the employee’s contract should be made with their consent.
  • Review their health screening individually, considering drivers who may ordinarily have well-managed diabetes or other health conditions. Will these changes affect them and if so, how will you manage this?
  • If a driver raises concerns about their wellbeing or informs you that they are not fit to work the extended hours, take this on board and adjust your controls accordingly. Remember, mental health can have significant effects on driver fitness and capability.

Review Your Risk Assessments & Implement New Controls:

  • Ensure that they are up to date and factor in controls for longer working hours and the potential fatigue which may be incurred.
  • Consider your planned routes – do they need to adjust to take into account of new resting times or breaks? Will there still be adequate welfare in place for your drivers?
  • Consider any likely events which may affect the journeys, such as: severe weather, road traffic accidents, breakdowns and interruptions to ferry services, further information can be found by clicking here.
  • Consider your vehicles – will this extension and increased mileage affect the maintenance, wear and tear of the vehicles and ultimately their safety?
  • Consider schedules – are they reasonable and can the work be completed within a safe margin?
  • Consider how you keep in touch – do you need to adjust your driver communications schedules?
  • Ensure that your drivers have seen and signed off the risk assessment, including any additional controls required.

As a final note, you should also be mindful that employees and casual workers raising health and safety issues enjoy special protection under the Employment Rights Act, and these protections apply from day one of their employment/engagement. You should also be aware that in some circumstances the duty to make reasonable adjustments for those suffering long term physical or mental health conditions may apply. If you require assistance with navigating these changes, please contact the Health & Safety and Employment Law Advice Teams at Citation.

Remember… if you have any questions or concerns about how this may affect your business, you can call our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.

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