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The law makes it very clear that lorry drivers are limited in terms of the amount of time they can spend behind the wheel in a given work day. Once that limit is reached, drivers must pull off the road and get the mandatory rest. However, things such as Operation Stack may inadvertently interfere with a driver’s ability to comply with the law. The question then becomes, can a lorry driver ever exceed working hours limits without incurring points or penalties? The simple answer is ‘yes’.

Article 12 of the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations allows the driver to exceed daily limits under certain conditions. First, the purpose for doing so must be the direct result of unexpected circumstances that are beyond the control of the driver in question. Second, a driver may exceed the legally allowed amount of time only long enough to find a safe place to pull off the road and rest. Third, drivers must record the excess hours and the reason for them on the back of the tachograph sheet. There is an expectation that police officials will use common sense regarding excess hours and written explanations.

It should be clear that drivers could not go out of their way to purposely plan violating the working hours rules. They must also do their best to find a safe place as quickly as possible in the event they must exceed hours. A police officer who believes the extra time was planned or that a driver did not try to find a safe place as quickly as possible could assess a fixed penalty.

Getting the Necessary Rest

Whether we agree with the law or not, the Drivers’ Hours Regulations were put in place to make sure that drivers get the appropriate amounts of rest between journeys. This ensures safe driving conditions for both the professional and the non-professionals he/she is sharing the road with. Exceptions can be made in certain circumstances, but drivers must practice due diligence in making sure the law is followed.

The HGV Training Centre explains the Drivers’ Hours Regulations to our students as part of their regular training. However, it is up to individual drivers to maintain compliance. It is our hope that covering the drivers’ responsibility to the law makes each one a better and safer lorry driver throughout his or her career.

The lorry driver who has any questions about the working hours limits should seek out his/her fleet manager for guidance. Clearly, managers need to know the law. They also need to make sure the law is being followed by every driver under their management. Allowing drivers to exceed working hours rules is both illegal and dangerous. Purposely encouraging it is even worse.

The HGV Training Centre can prepare you to be a lorry driver if you are considering it as a career. Professional driving is an excellent first career or a great option to transition to as a result of downsizing. It offers good pay and long-term stability.


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