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Drivers struggle with Drivers' Hours and WTD rules

  • 18 April 2007
  • By Roanna Avison

Drivers have called on VOSA to clarify how the drivers’ hours regs, which came into force last week, and the Working Time Directive (WTD) operate side-by-side.

Since the introduction of the EU drivers’ hours legislation last week drivers have been grappling with when to take their breaks to satisfy both sets of regulations.

The drivers’ hours rules state that your first break must be at least 15 minutes and the second break taken before or at the end of the four and half hour driving period must be at least 30 minutes. The WTD states drivers must have a 30-minute break before or at the end of a six-hour working period.

One driver who contacted CM says: “Following a large amount of confusion amongst the drivers regarding the new Driver's hours rules conflicting with the WTD I decided to phone VOSA for clarification. Now the new Drivers rules state clearly that your first period of break must be at least 15 minutes which is fine, the second break which must be taken before or at the end of the four and a half hour driving period must be at least 30 minutes. And there's your first problem with the two words 'at least'. Some drivers are presuming that if you take your 30-minute break first then you'll only have to take 15 minutes on the second break to make up your 45-minute total break, according to VOSA you will be breaking the drivers' rules according to what is stated, in other words you take 30 minutes on your first break you must take at least 30 minutes on your second break.

“Now we get paid as part of our daily work the 45 minute break period, so if we took the 30 minutes first and 30 minutes second break we would be losing 15 minutes per day per week per year. ‘What’s the problem?’ I hear you cry just take your 15 minutes first, well here's the second problem.

“The Working Time Directive states that you must have a 30-minute break before or at the end of a six-hour working period from the time you start, and that’s any work.”

The driver says this is where it becomes a minefield for drivers and “to be fair to the man I spoke to at VOSA even he said that it does seem to conflict with each other”.

“I asked if maybe it was an error to put 'at least' for the second break? to which he replied "possibly", but he did say that if you didn't take at least 30 minutes on your second break you will be breaking the new drivers rules. Now if you can split the break for the WTD, let's say you drive for two hours to a RDC you have 15 minutes break on site while waiting to be unloaded, are still at the RDC 3 hours and 45 minutes later, can you then take the 30 minute second break to be on the right side of both laws?, or does the break for WTD have to be a block of 30 minutes?”

He adds that his overall point to this is that once again someone somewhere has changed the rules no doubt thinking they were making them easier to understand, most drivers new the basic rules of 45 minute break before or at the end of a four and a half hour driving period either taking a 20-25 minute split or 15-30 split or visa versa on both of these, even if they were a little unsure of the rest they understood this. “Now this basic rule has been blown apart and drivers are going to have to be very careful not only to keep on the right side of the law, but also juggling this with getting the most out of their working day.”

Gordon MacDonald, traffic enforcement policy advisor at VOSA, says: “The question only involves two hours worth of driving, so the first 15 minute break fulfils the driver’s obligation for part of a 45 minute break after four and a half hours driving. There is no requirement to take another break in relation to EC driving, at least not until the driver does another two and a half hours driving, at which point he'd half to take 30 minutes break.

“As far as WTD breaks are concerned, these can be broken down into periods of no less than 15 minutes. Therefore, having taken one break of 15 minutes after two hours, he then needs to take another 15 minute break after the lengthy spell at the RDC. The driver obviously can't use this additional 15 minutes towards his EU break, because the second break must be at least 30 minutes.”





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