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    How long can lorry drivers drive for

    Due to the sheer size and weight of a Heavy Goods Vehicle, statistics show that they are more likely to be involved in an accident causing fatality. As the nature of driving a HGV routinely involves long hours, legal requirements are in place and enforced on drivers to ensure they only drive their vehicles for a set amount of time. If you do not abide by the driving rules, then you can face some hefty fines. In this article we answer the question, how long can lorry drivers drive for and how many breaks do drivers need to take?

    A great deal of responsibility comes with driving an HGV, such as a lorry or a truck. HGV's are difficult to drive and manoeuvre and can be extremely dangerous causing serious injury or fatalities if involved in an accident. Due to the long journeys HGV drivers inherently take, there are guidelines and rules in place to ensure that drivers take regular breaks. See our infographic on HGV driver hours for a visual representation of these rules.

    How long can lorry drivers drive for in a day or week?

    The rules on driving hours are based on regulations set by the European Union, and they also are enforced in UK law. The rules include:

    • A 9-hour daily limit on driving an HGV. These hours can increase to 10 hours, but you can only do that twice a week.
    • A 56-hour maximum weekly driving limit.
    • 90 hours is the maximum within a fortnight.

    If you go over these driving hours, then you are at risk of being fined, as well as the increased risk of causing a serious accident so fleet managers need to strictly enforce and manage their driver hours.

    Following Brexit, there is no announced plan to amend driving hours now that the UK has left the EU, however you can stay up to date with any changes on the .gov website

    Daily driving hours

    Within the rules of how long a lorry driver can drive for, drivers must not drive more than four and a half hours without taking a 45-minute break.

    Therefore, an HGV driver could start their day by driving 4.5 hours, then take a 45-minute break. After their break, they can then drive another 4.5 hours before finishing their shift. 

    However, you can split the day up differently, and drive two hours, then take a 15-minute break, then another 2.5 hours, then a 30 min break, before finishing the shift by driving another 4.5 hours.

    How long can lorry drivers drive for in a week?

    On a weekly basis lorry drivers can’t drive more than 56 hours, or over 90 hours over two weeks. So, if a driver drives 56 hours one week, they can only drive for 34 hours the next. 

    56 hours could look like four 9 hour shifts and two 10 hour shifts in one week and then four 7-hour shifts, and one 6-hour shift the next. 

    These shifts do not include breaks, so you will need to add 45 minutes to those hours each working day.

    How many 15-hour shifts can an HGV driver do?

    Drivers can work 15-hours up to three times per week. Although, as mentioned, you can’t exceed 10 hours of driving in one shift twice a week or 9 hours driving three times a week.

    However, you sometimes see that drivers work for 15 hours a day. These hours therefore cannot solely made up of driving. 

    In the instance of a 15-hour day, the following must be accounted for within the hours:

    • Driving time
    • Other work such as deliveries or admin
    • Rest periods
    • Breaks

    So, to answer how many 15-hour shifts can a driver do? They can only work 15 hour shifts three times a week, but only if 9 hours or less of the day are spent driving.

    The difference between driving and working time

    As mentioned, lorry drivers are limited on how many hours they drive, but they can also do more work outside of their driving hours to make up their shift. 

    Working time can include driving, loading and uploading, monitoring of any loading/unloading activities, driver training or industry-specific training, cleaning and maintaining vehicles, daily vehicle checks and reporting, administrative work and waiting periods.

    There are different rules when taking breaks when not driving. Drivers can take a 15-minute break after 6 hours of working, rather than 4.5 hours of driving.

    If a driver is working between 6-9 hours in a day, then they are required to take a half-hour break, anything over 9 hours and they will need a break period totalling 45 minutes.

    How much rest should a lorry driver have?

    When driving or working, drivers are required to get a set number of breaks and rest periods. 

    Lorry drivers need to take a daily rest period of 11 hours. This can be in two parts, with the first rest period a minimum of 3 hours.

    Drivers can reduce their daily rest period to nine hours of uninterrupted time, which is why drivers can work a 15-hour day. Although, drivers can only do 15-hour shifts no more than three times a week.

    For example, within a 24-hour period, lorry drivers will have to have done one of the following:

    • Taken an 11-hour rest period without interruption
    • Taken a reduced daily rest period of a minimum of 9 hours if entitled to
    • Split their rest period of 12 hours across two periods, with a minimum of a 3-hour rest first, and nine for the second rest period.

    For more details on lorry driving hours and rest breaks, see our useful infographic which can be downloaded or linked to from your own website.

    What happens if you break the rules?

    If you are caught breaking the rules, authorities can legally look at the past 28 days’ worth of tachograph information and issue fines up to £1,500 for any breaches of driving hours.

    If a driver has broken the rules more than five times with the 28-day period, the driver can then be taken to court and even face having their vehicle immobilised.

    There are set rules on how long lorry drivers can drive for, and it is the driver’s responsibility should they be responsible for any offences. However, employers are also responsible for tracking how many hours their drivers are driving and monitoring driving behaviour to keep their drivers and other road users safe. 

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