Did you know that HGV drivers can’t just drive for as long as they want? It might sound efficient, but driving for 9 hours at a time wouldn’t be the best experience for the driver! Instead, they take regular breaks so that they can relax, recharge, and hit the road again fresh and alert. But if you haven’t been driving for long, you might not know when you should take breaks, and how long they should be to make sure you’re on top form. Luckily, there are regulations that will help you understand what your breaks should look like! So today, we’re going to talk about what they are, and how they might affect your working patterns.
The human brain is not designed to do any task for a prolonged period of time – and that includes driving. After a while, your brain will start to tire, and eventually fatigue will set in. This is where you start to make mistakes, and when you’re in charge of a HGV, even the smallest mistakes can be fatal. This is why the EU put legal limits on the number of hours you can drive for, and the UK government enshrined these in British law (so no worrying about Brexit). The key rules for HGV driver hours include:
These limits take into account things like shift patterns, which is why they roll over both a week and a fortnightly time period. As long as you aren’t exceeding any of these limits on drive time, you’ll be on the right side of the law and you should keep driver fatigue at bay/
Hand in hand with how long you’re allowed to drive for it how many breaks you need to take, and when. While the exact timings of your breaks won’t be dictated, there are rules around how often you need to stop driving and take a break, and how long that break needs to be. Essentially, after 4.5 hours of driving, you are legally required to take a break that’s a minimum of 45 minutes long. That 4.5 hour drive time doesn’t have to be done in one stint – you can take breaks during it at well. But once you’ve clocked up 4.5 hours driving time on any one shift, you have to pull over and take a 45-minute break. And much like the driving part, you can take your break in sections as well. So you could take a 15 minute break, drive for a little while, and then take a 30 minute break. We say 15 minutes because if your break is less than 15 minutes, it’s not legally considered a break. If you don’t take the 45 minutes, or the 15 and then 30-minute breaks, then you and your fleet manager could face criminal prosecution.
Not only are you required to take regular breaks, but there are also regulations around the rest periods you need to take in between shifts. These longer periods are in place so that you have a decent break and time to relax, rest and recover. All drivers are required, by law, to take a daily rest period of 11 hours. Now you do have some control over how you take this break – many choose to take it all in one go (usually overnight), but some decide to split it into chunks. However, if you do decide to split it, you need to do it carefully. Your first break needs to be at least 3 uninterrupted hours, and the second needs to be an uninterrupted 9 hours. So if you do split your breaks, you will end up taking at least 12 hours break time.
On top of that, you could also choose to reduce this daily rest period to a minimum of 9 hours of uninterrupted rest. This is called a reduced daily rest period, and while it can be convenient, you can only do it three times a week. If any rest period you take is over 9 hours but under 11, it automatically falls into this category.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are also rules about how much rest you need to take each week, to make sure you’re fit and rested enough to keep you safe on the road. All drivers need to take a total of 45 hours weekly rest periods. Again, there is an allowance for reducing this to 24 hours, but at least one full rest has to be taken in any fortnight, and no more than 6 consecutive 24-hour periods are taken between weekly rests.
These rules apply to any driver of a vehicle and trailer of more than 3.5 tonnes – which makes up the majority of working HGV drivers. As HGV driver trainers, we see it as essential to teach new drivers about staying safe on the road, including battling driver fatigue. So with us, you will receive full training on the legal requirements of breaks and rest periods. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with the team today.
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