New in-cab weekly rest rules come into force

As of today, the new weekly rest rules will be enforced nationwide by the DVSA as they crackdown on weekly rest taken outside of formal rest areas.

The new rules specifically concern drivers who take their full weekly rest periods in their cab in public lay-bys, on or close to public roads, on motorway slip roads or simply anywhere other than a service station or a truck stop.

Current rules

Article 8(6) and 8(8) of EU Regulation 561/2006, introduced in 2007, provides that:

  • in any two consecutive weeks, a driver shall take at least two regular weekly rest periods or one regular weekly rest period and one reduced weekly rest period of at least 24 hours;
  • however, the reduction shall be compensated by an equivalent period of rest taken en bloc before the end of the third week following the week in question. A weekly rest period shall start no later than the end of six 24-hour periods from the end of the previous weekly rest period;
  • where a driver chooses to do this, daily rest periods and reduced weekly rest periods away from base may be taken in a vehicle if it has suitable sleeping facilities for each driver and the vehicle is stationary.

In February 2017, however, European Court of Justice (ECJ) advocate general Evgeni Tanchev provided the opinion that drivers were in breach of the weekly rest rules if they take their weekly rest period in a vehicle’s cab.

Some countries, such as France, are enforcing this interpretation of the rule strongly and fines of up to €30,000 (£26,000) can be imposed if a driver is found sleeping in his cab at the side of the road.

The UK is enforcing the rule that a driver’s full weekly rest period is not taken in the cab of a vehicle through DVSA sanctions.

What are the sanctions?

From today, drivers and operators found in breach of the rules may face:

  • Financial penalty deposits (for non-UK drivers) or fixed penalty notices of £300;
  • Prohibitions on the driver until the full weekly rest is properly taken (drivers can be required to start their rest all over again); and
  • The reporting of operators to their licensing authorities, such as the Traffic Commissioners, including similar authorities in other EU states.

It is important to note that a daily rest and reduced weekly rest period can still be taken in the cab.

Easier said than done?

It is without doubt that the current infrastructure for drivers who wish to access suitable facilities of consistent standard is poor. Under EU Law, rest facilities should be located every 100km across the European road network by 2030, but what about now?

RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “Rest facilities for HGV drivers are scarce and in order to comply with their working hours they need somewhere safe and secure to rest. The authorities are duty bound to tackle this urgent problem“.

It is arguable that in some cases, the standard of a driver’s cab may be better than that of a cheap motel or B&B and so it is inevitable that some drivers and operators may ignore the provisions and risk the fine. Further, when considering profit margins in the industry are notoriously small, an operator who has spent money ensuring his drivers have the best specification of cab for taking their full weekly rest periods may be unwilling to then spend money ensuring their drivers’ accommodation is that of a high standard.

If you are issued with a prohibition notice/fixed penalty notice or wish for advice surrounding the weekly rest rules, contact Joanne Witheford or Vikki Woodfine.