HGV Driving Hours Simplified: How Many Hours Can Drivers Drive?
18 March 2021
The haulage industry is defined by long distances and a lot of pressure. You and your fleet drivers might be tempted to drive constantly through day and night to meet those tight deadlines. But how many hours can drivers drive before they’re legally required to take a break?
Too much driving without a break is dangerous – even deadly – so there are strict laws when it comes to HGV driving hours. In this post, we’ll explore what the law has to say about HGV driving hours, and why it matters.
HGV Driving Hours Simplified
There are actually a few different rules when it comes to HGV driving hours. The rules cover daily hours, weekly hours, and rest hours.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
How Many Hours Can an HGV Driver Drive Per Day?
First, how long can a lorry driver drive? HGV drivers cannot drive for more than 9 hours in one day. However, they may drive for up to 10 hours a day twice a week. Whether they’re driving for 9 or 10 hours in a day, HGV drivers must not drive for more than 4.5 hours without taking a 45 minute break.
Drivers can split up this break if they want. But their first break has to be 15 minutes or more, and their second break has to be 30 minutes or more. And again, they must not drive for any longer than 4.5 hours between their breaks.
How Many Hours Can an HGV Driver Drive Per Week?
By law, HGV drivers cannot drive for more than 56 hours in a week. The law also states that drivers cannot drive for more than 90 hours over the course of two weeks. What does this mean, in practice? It means your drivers need to pace themselves to stay consistent.
If they drive for the full 56 hours in one week, then the following week they will only be allowed to drive for 34 hours. So while they’ll probably cover a lot of ground in that first week, they won’t be able to cover nearly as much ground in that second week. It pays to stay consistent!
And remember that, most of the time, a driver cannot drive more than nine hours in one day. For just two days a week, they can drive for up to 10 hours in one day.
So drivers and fleet managers have a lot of numbers and obligations to juggle when it comes to planning routes and shifts! But there’s one more thing to consider, too.
Resting Periods for HGV Drivers
As we said above, for every 4.5 hours of driving, HGV drivers must take a 45 minute break. On top of this, the law states that HGV drivers must have an uninterrupted period of 11 hours rest in each 24 hour period.
What are the implications of this? It means that 13 hours after a driver’s shift begins, they must have 11 hours of rest, regardless of how many hours of breaktime they’ve taken over the course of their shift.
Drivers can split this rest period if they want. But in one 24 hour period, they can only take two resting periods: One of no less than 9 hours, and one of no less than 3 hours. Also, they can only reduce their rest hours in this way up to three times a week.
HGV Driving Hours – Why Are The Rules So Strict?
Tiredness can kill. The government estimates that up to 20% of road accidents are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. If a car driver falls asleep at the wheel, they’ll pose the greatest danger to themselves and their passengers. But if an HGV driver falls asleep at the wheel, it can cause a major incident that could endanger multiple road users. HGVs are huge, and at high speeds they’re deadly. If a driver loses control, it can be catastrophic.
So the laws are strict when it comes to how many hours a driver can drive. There are also strict penalties for anyone who breaks the rules.
Penalties for Breaking HGV Driving Rules
If the authorities catch one of your drivers driving for longer than is legal, they might demand to see the driver’s tachograph information for the past 28 days. For every breach of the rules they find in this time, they can fine the driver up to £1,500. And if they find more than five infringements in this time period, they could take the driver to court, and they might also impound the HGV.
Yes, it won’t be you who’ll be liable for these offences. It’ll be your driver. But as any fleet manager will tell you: You simply cannot take your drivers or your vehicles for granted. Any problems for them are problems for you and your business.
Also, the law requires you to take care of your drivers, your vehicles and other road users. As part of this, you should keep track of your drivers’ hours to ensure that they never go over the limit. If the authorities catch any of your drivers breaking the rules, they might investigate you, too. And if they find you’re not currently tracking your drivers’ hours, they could serve you a prohibition notice. You won’t be able to continue trading until you make improvements.
Finally, if any of your drivers are involved in an accident while driving tired, if your insurers found they broke the rules, or that you don’t track hours and enforce rules, it could invalidate your haulage insurance.
You and your drivers might be tempted to bend the rules if you’ve huge distances to cover or tight deadlines to meet. But the penalties are so harsh that it’s simply not worth the risk.
Has Brexit Changed HGV Driving Hours?
One last thing: All of the HGV driving rules we’ve covered in this post are based on EU laws. But of course, Britain has now left the EU. So will these laws change? Probably not. Drivers, haulage firms and fleet managers across the industry understand and respect these rules.
There seems to be a wide consensus that the current rules are fair, and that they meet the needs of businesses and drivers alike. So while we have no way of knowing for sure, it’s very unlikely that the UK will abandon these EU laws completely.
For more information on drivers’ hours, and how they might differ in the UK and the EU, head to the government’s website.