1200px-Department_for_Transport.svgWITH mounting pressure on a number of distribution operations, the government has taken steps to ease the pressure on drivers and transport operations to make sure that the supplies that we all need continue to get through.

The Department for Transport (DfT) agreed to a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales until 23.59hrs on Tuesday 21 April 2020 and apply to all road haulage operations, and not just limited to the food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals as originally planned.

The move follows discussions between RHA chief executive Richard Burnett and secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps. ‘This is a blanket relaxation covering all sectors,’ Richard said, ‘and recognises how integrated and inter-dependent supply chains are across the whole economy. The sector is working as efficiently and as quickly possible.

‘This relaxation improves resilience in a way that ensures all goods can reach the area where they are needed.

‘Shortages are not the problem at the moment – the problem lies with supplying the current excess demand for goods caused by panic buying. This just creates bottlenecks that undermine efficient delivery schedules.

‘The relaxation in hours will not reduce the levels of enforcement of the drivers’ hours. It is vital that companies only use these relaxed rules when needed and companies must monitor drivers to ensure they do not drive tired or in any way unfit. The need for compliance with the rules is absolute. This relaxation must be used wisely, not abused recklessly.’

A spokesperson for the DfT added: ‘The department wishes to make clear that driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired – employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.’

For the drivers and work in question, the EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

  1. a) Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours;
  2. b) Reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours;
  3. c) Lifting the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) to 60 and 96 hours respectively;
  4. d) Postponement of the requirement to start a weekly rest period after six 24 hours periods, for after seven 24 hours periods; although two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight;
  5. e) The requirements for daily breaks of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours driving replaced with a break of 45 minutes after 5.5 hours of driving.

Drivers’ must not use relaxation ‘a’ and ‘d’ at the same time. This is to ensure drivers are able to get adequate rest.

The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and/or driver representatives.

The drivers in question must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.

The temporary relaxation of the rules described above reflects the exceptional circumstances stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. The department wishes to emphasise that, as a general rule, it expects business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.