Goods and passenger drivers’ hours: changes relating to rests and fixed penalties

Posted 03/11/2017 : By: Tim Ridyard

A change to the enforcement approach relating to weekly rests and where they can be taken came into force on 1 November 2017. Separately, a change in the scope of offences for which a fixed penalty can be issued has been announced and is due to come into force soon on a date to be announced.

For how long can drivers take weekly rests in their cabs?

A regular weekly rest period is a period of rest of at least 45 hours. A reduced weekly rest period is less than 45 hours but a minimum of 24 hours. The regulations state that, where drivers choose to do so, reduced weekly rest periods away from their base can be taken in a vehicle – so long as there are suitable sleeping facilities and the vehicle is stationary. So, regular rests are interpreted as not capable of being taken in cabs, though this has not historically been enforced in the UK.

From 1 November 2017 Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) examiners intend to issue fixed penalty offers to some drivers taking regular rests (45 hours or more) in their cabs. The intention is that they will apply this approach only where drivers are parked at locations other than what might be termed formal or dedicated rest locations, such as service areas or truck stops. This is to deter drivers from taking prolonged rest periods in roadside laybys or other locations such as residential areas that may cause a nuisance and also where a driver clearly cannot have access to proper rest, shower and toilet facilities. This has become an increasing area of concern.

This issue came to prominence when a couple of years ago when French and Belgium authorities started to issue significant penalties for drivers taking full regular weekly rests in their cabs.

Fixed penalty offers of up to £300 will be issued. If drivers are without a satisfactory UK address then they will be required to immediately pay a deposit equivalent to the fixed penalty amount to avoid immobilisation being imposed. Targetting may be greater in the areas near to ports e.g. in Kent where international drivers may wish to take long rests.

Reduced weekly rests and daily rests are not affected by this initiative.

This issue highlights the welfare problems surrounding the appropriateness of drivers taking very long rests in cabs, albeit they are often very well equipped. The lack of suitable rest and truck stop facilities all over the country is severe anyway and the clampdown on drivers taking full weekly rest away from such facilities may well place additional strain given the very low capacity. This state of affairs is deemed to be one of a number of reasons for the UK shortage of drivers that was being alleviated but has now worsened again with current estimates of a shortfall of up to 50,000 drivers.

‘Historical’ Drivers’ Hours Offences

Offences committed on the 28 days preceding the vehicle roadside stop/check are to become part of the fixed penalty scheme. The implementation date has not yet been announced but will come into force through the Community Drivers’ Hours Offences (Enforcement) Regulations 2017.

The new Regulations as drafted permit DVSA / police to issue more fixed penalty notices for four categories of offences committed up to 28 days prior to the check. Currently fixed penalties can only be issued for offences committed on the occasion of the stop – in essence these are offences committed or being committed that day, e.g. breaks, rest, excess driving and wrong use of tachograph equipment.

The impact of the above will be to very considerably increase the total amount of penalties that may be imposed on drivers as the maximum for each offence is £300. This may be a sum possibly greater than the driver would receive if prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court. More offences will be actioned that currently have to be ignored by DVSA / police unless prosecuted and in turn more offences will have to be reported to the Traffic Commissioner that of itself could lead to operators facing greater scrutiny.

We will provide a further update when these rules are due to come into force. 

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