Here we kick off a series of features looking at specific aspects of the Driver’s Certificate of Professional
Competence (DCPC) and the first area under scrutiny is Drivers’ hours rules and the working time directive.

Believe it or not, too many drivers remain somewhat vague about the rules on the hours they can spend driving and the rest periods they must take between shifts.

And it’s kind of understandable, because they are indeed quite complex, especially when taking into account rest periods, fortnightly driving time and extended driving and reduced rest periods that you can legally take.

Drivers should not take it for granted that they know their hours’ rules like the back of your hand, and refreshing them as part of your DCPC training is always worthwhile.

EU Driver’s Hours Rules

The EU driving hours – which are unlikely to change if or when the UK leaves the European Union can be quite simple, but can easily become complicated!

As a rule, you can drive no more than for nine hours a day – however you can increase this to ten hours twice a week with a maximum of weekly driving limit 56 hours.

Yet if you do 56 hours actual driving, then the next week you can only drive for 34 hours because the maximum fortnightly driving limit is limited to 90 hours

The easiest way to not fall foul of this is five days of just nine hours each week. If only it was that simple!
Of course, you can’t drive for nine hours on the bounce – and nor should you!

Drivers have to take appropriate breaks during the day and that is – in its simplistic terms is a break of 45 minutes break after 4½ hours of driving

That 45 minute break can be split into two periods (known as split breaks) with the first break period being a minimum of 15 minutes and the following break a minimum of 30 minutes.

These breaks must be completed after 4½ hours of driving. Drivers need to be aware that any break of less than 15 minutes does not qualify as a break despite the fact they are not classed as driving time either.

The rules state that only split breaks that show the secondary period being 30 minutes or over will be allowed so you can’t doa 30 minute break followed by a 15 minute break; you would have to take the second break as 30 minutes.

Rest periods

The regular daily rest period a driver takes should be 11 hours. However, even here things can be altered, and a driver can reduce their daily rest period to a minimum of 9 hours uninterrupted, no more than three times a week.

The regular daily rest period can be split in to two periods, the first being an uninterrupted period of three hours minimum and the second an uninterrupted period of at least nine hours – so effectively extending the rest period to a minimum of 12 hours.

Any rest period over nine hours but under 11 hours will be classed as a reduced daily rest period.

Drivers’ weekly rest should be of 45 hours, which can be reduced to 24 hours, provided at least one full rest is taken in any fortnight. There should be no more than six consecutive 24 hour periods between weekly rests.

You can see why drivers’ hours still remain so confusing and complex even for experienced drivers.

HGV Working Time Directive Rules

Of course there is more to being a truck driver than just driving. There is supervising loading and unloading, paperwork, fork lift driving, training and other things classed as ‘other work’. Even stuck in traffic is classed as ‘other work’.

The ‘Working Time’ (including driving) must not exceed an average of 48 hours a week, calculated over a rolling 17-week period, but can be extended to a 26-week period under a collective or workforce agreement.

The maximum working time can be 60 hours in one week (provided average working time of 48 hours a week not exceeded).

There are other factors, and the maximum working time of 10 hours if night work performed but again this can be extended under a collective or workforce agreement.

Working Time Breaks

EU driver’s hours break requirements take precedence over working time breaks when driving, so drivers need to be sure they are taking the correct break periods when combing driving with other work.

A driver cannot work for more than six hours without a break of at least a minimum of 15 minutes, and they must take a 30 minute break if working between six and nine hours in total.

A 45 minute break is required if working more than nine hours in total and if a shift contains more than nine hours of working time a break period totalling 45 minutes is required.

The WTD rest requirements are the same as the EU drivers hours rest rules. Drivers of goods vehicles or combinations of vehicle and trailer of more than 3½-tonnes, unless covered by a specific EU-wide exemption or a UK derogation.

For more details on these exemptions visit goods-vehicles/introduction.


So, it’s clear drivers’ hours are complex and refreshing your employees on the ins and outs is valuable training.

Drivers hours cannot be taken lightly, and infringements can be heavily penalised, both for the driver and the company, and can even lead to the loss of an operator’s licence should they be repeat offenders.

Drivers also need to be aware of why we have strict restrictions on the hours they can spend both behind the wheel and at work; it’s about making roads safer.

A tired driver is a lethal driver and no driver wants a fatality on their record – or their conscience.


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