Drivers' hours changes in 2007 will hit UK operators

Commercial Motor
January 25, 2007

Solicitor Stephen Kirkbright warned delegates at last week's Motor Transport Fleet management conference that the changes to drivers' hours regulations may impact more than first thought.

"Many people have said to me that the new drivers' hours are not too significant but there are two or three fundamental matters," he said.

Kirkbright talked through the changes to current drivers' hours regulations due to take effect on April 11, 2007.

One key change is the liability for prosecution in the UK of drivers if they commit a road offence anywhere in the European Union. Offence reports are currently given by the appropriate European authority to an operator's local traffic commissioner.

Drivers can also be spot-fined, Kirkbright warned.

The change was to be launched in 2009, but will now take place in 2007, he told delegates.

The same principles will apply to foreign drivers in the UK, and "will perhaps go some way to create a level playing field," he said.

A significant difference under the new rules comes with the meaning of "other work". The term will be defined in the same way as under the working time directive. Kirkbright told of the common practice of casual drivers working "other" work in a non-regulated industry. Under the new rules, this provision will not apply, which he says is affecting agencies' abilities to provide drivers. "How will you cope with the requirement?" he asked delegates.

The rules will be extended to self-employed workers, where courts will rule that there is no difference in fatigue rates, he added. They will also cause changes for full-time drivers, who under the new rules cannot take a casual job alongside their main employment.

The new drivers' hours regulations place a major obligation on driver training, Kirkbright stressed. Current training mainly involves providing a drivers' handbook, but drivers will need proper instruction, and operators will need to give evidence that this has been done.

Under the new regulations, drivers will need to keep up to 28 days'-worth of tachograph charts, an increase from the current requirement of 21.

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