Drivers' working hours

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Drivers' working hours is the commonly used term for regulations that govern the activities of the drivers of commercial goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles.

Within the European Union, EU Regulation 561/2006 [1][1][2] is the current regulation concerning the driving times, breaks and rest periods required to be taken by drivers of goods or passenger vehicles who drive in the EU. In certain circumstances, drivers may be exempt from EU Regulation 561/2006 throughout the EU, or there may be a derogation for the driver on a national journey within a particular country.

Other non-EU countries have signed the European Agreement Concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport (Accord Européen sur les Transports Routiers, AETR).[3] If the vehicle has passed through an AETR signatory country during the course of its journey then it will fall within scope of AETR rules for the whole of that journey.

Since September 2010, AETR rules have been amended to align closely with EU Regulation 561/2006.

Under certain circumstances, drivers may instead fall within scope of the domestic rules of that country.

In addition to the above requirements, drivers in the EU must also abide with the European Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC.


In the European Union, drivers' working hours are regulated by EU regulation (EC) No 561/2006[4] which entered into force on April 11, 2007. The non-stop driving time may not exceed 4.5 hours. After 4.5 hours of driving the driver must take a break period of at least 45 minutes. However, this can be split into 2 breaks, the first being at least 15 minutes, and the second being at least 30 minutes in length.

The daily driving time shall not exceed 9 hours. The daily driving time may be extended to at most 10 hours not more than twice during the week. The weekly driving time may not exceed 56 hours. In addition to this, a driver cannot exceed 90 hours driving in a fortnight. Within each period of 24 hours after the end of the previous daily rest period or weekly rest period a driver must take a new daily rest period. An 11-hour (or more) daily rest is called a regular daily rest period. Alternatively, a driver can split a regular daily rest period into two periods. The first period must be at least 3 hours of uninterrupted rest and can be taken at any time during the day. The second must be at least 9 hours of uninterrupted rest, giving a total minimum rest of 12 hours. A driver may reduce his daily rest period to no less than 9 continuous hours, but this can be done no more than three times between any two weekly rest periods; no compensation for the reduction is required. A daily rest that is less than 11 hours but at least 9 hours long is called a reduced daily rest period. When a daily rest is taken, this may be taken in a vehicle, as long as it has suitable sleeping facilities and is stationary.

‘Multi-manning’ The situation where, during each period of driving between any two consecutive daily rest periods, or between a daily rest period and a weekly rest period, there are at least two drivers in the vehicle to do the driving. For the first hour of multi-manning the presence of another driver or drivers is optional, but for the remainder of the period it is compulsory. This allows for a vehicle to depart from its operating centre and collect a second driver along the way, providing that this is done within 1 hour of the first driver starting work. Vehicles manned by two or more drivers are governed by the same rules that apply to single-manned vehicles, apart from the daily rest requirements. Where a vehicle is manned by two or more drivers, each driver must have a daily rest period of at least 9 consecutive hours within the 30-hour period that starts at the end of the last daily or weekly rest period. Organising drivers’ duties in such a fashion enables a crew’s duties to be spread over 21 hours. The maximum driving time for a two-man crew taking advantage of this concession is 20 hours before a daily rest is required (although only if both drivers are entitled to drive 10 hours). Under multi-manning, the ‘second’ driver in a crew may not necessarily be the same driver from the duration of the first driver’s shift but could in principle be any number of drivers as long as the conditions are met. Whether these second drivers could claim the multi-manning concession in these circumstances would depend on their other duties. On a multi-manning operation the first 45 minutes of a period of availability will be considered to be a break, so long as the co-driver does no work.

Journeys involving ferry or train transport Where a driver accompanies a vehicle that is being transported by ferry or train, the daily rest requirements are more flexible. A regular daily rest period may be interrupted no more than twice, but the total interruption must not exceed 1 hour in total. This allows for a vehicle to be driven on to a ferry and off again at the end of the crossing. Where the rest period is interrupted in this way, the total accumulated rest period must still be 11 hours. A bunk or couchette must be available during the rest period.

Weekly rest A regular weekly rest period is a period of at least 45 consecutive hours. An actual working week starts at the end of a weekly rest period, and finishes when another weekly rest period is commenced, which may mean that weekly rest is taken in the middle of a fixed (Monday–Sunday) week. This is perfectly acceptable – the working week is not required to be aligned with the ‘fixed’ week defined in the rules, provided all the relevant limits are complied with. Alternatively, a driver can take a reduced weekly rest period of a minimum of 24 consecutive hours. If a reduction is taken, it must be compensated for by an equivalent period of rest taken in one block before the end of the third week following the week in question. The compensating rest must be attached to a period of rest of at least 9 hours – in effect either a weekly or a daily rest period. For example, where a driver reduces a weekly rest period to 33 hours in week 1, he must compensate for this by attaching a 12-hour period of rest to another rest period of at least 9 hours before the end of week 4. This compensation cannot be taken in several smaller periods. A weekly rest period that falls in two weeks may be counted in either week but not in both. However, a rest period of at least 69 hours in total may be counted as two back-to-back weekly rests (e.g. a 45-hour weekly rest followed by 24 hours), provided that the driver does not exceed 144 hours’ work either before or after the rest period in question. Where reduced weekly rest periods are taken away from base, these may be taken in a vehicle, provided that it has suitable sleeping facilities and is stationary.

Unforeseen events Provided that road safety is not jeopardised, and to enable a driver to reach a suitable stopping place, a departure from the EU rules may be permitted to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of persons, the vehicle or its load. Drivers must note all the reasons for doing so on the back of their tachograph record sheets (if using an analogue tachograph) or on a printout or temporary sheet (if using a digital tachograph) at the latest on reaching the suitable stopping place (see relevant sections covering manual entries). Repeated and regular occurrences, however, might indicate to enforcement officers that employers were not in fact scheduling work to enable compliance with the applicable rules. [5]

EU countries[edit]

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

AETR countries[edit]

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

EEA countries[edit]

All EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.


An approved tachograph is the required instrument by which the activity of drivers subject to the EU or AETR drivers’ hours rules, the vehicle’s speed and distance, and the time are recorded. There are two main types of tachograph – analogue and digital.[6]

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