Can drivers smoke in commercial vehicles?

smoking in commercial vehicle


Commercial vehicle drivers have been forbidden from smoking in their cabs since the ban on smoking in public places, including the workplace, came into force more than a decade ago.

Which situations are covered by the ban?

The Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006 prevent anybody from smoking in any vehicle used by one or more people for work, regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time. The regulation covers HGVs, vans, buses, taxis and company cars.

The rules came into effect in England on 1 July 2007; in Scotland on 26 March 2006; in Wales on 2 April 2007; and in Northern Ireland on 30 April 2007.

Most HGV drivers are likely to be affected by the ban, unless they are an owner-driver who does not share their truck with another person.

However, owner-drivers who smoke may be affected by another regulation that came into action in 2015. The Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulation 2015 prevent anybody from smoking in a private vehicle if somebody under the age of 18 is present – for example, their child or an apprentice.

What are the sanctions if a driver is caught smoking in their cab?

Commercial vehicle drivers can be fined up to £200, or up to £50 in Scotland, if they are caught smoking in their truck or van.

Businesses also have a duty to ensure drivers do not smoke in their cab, or any other place of work. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, companies can be fined up to £2,500 if they do not stop people smoking in the workplace, or up to £1,000 if they don’t display ‘no smoking’ signs in offices or in their trucks.

Businesses in Scotland could receive a fixed penalty fine of £200, which can go up to £2,500 if this goes unpaid.

What responsibilities do employers have?

All vehicles covered by the ban must display a ‘no smoking’ sign of at least 70mm in diameter. The penalty for not displaying the sign is a £200 fixed penalty notice or a maximum fine of £1,000 if convicted in court.

According to the HSE, employers should have a specific policy on smoking in the workplace, which gives priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe tobacco smoke.

Can drivers use e-cigarettes in their cabs?

There is currently no law preventing drivers from using e-cigarettes or vapes in their cab, but individual employers may have a policy in place.


Operator panel: should drivers be allowed to take their weekend break in their cabs?

Sleeping in truck cab

Should drivers be allowed to take their weekend break in their cabs? Or should the suggestion that it is in breach of the drivers’ hours rules be used to push forward an improvement in roadside accommodation? We asked our operator panel.

Moves by countries such as France and Belgium to prevent drivers from taking their weekly rest in their cabs have come under fire by hauliers, transport lawyers and industry associations.

The European Court of Justice earlier this year issued its interpretation of the rules surrounding weekly rest, which suggested that drivers who take their 45-hour break in their cabs are in breach of the drivers’ hours rules (see News Extra, page 14).

Such moves have sparked confusion among those in the industry, with the jury out on whether a break in a truck’s cab can be considered a true weekly rest. Some operators believe it is safer and more convenient for drivers to take their rest in their vehicle, while others argue their employer should pay for an overnight stay in a hotel.

The prospect of such a ban being imposed in the UK is growing more likely, with the DVSA planning to introduce a £300 fine if drivers are found taking a break in their cab.

With trucks now fitted with modern home comforts such as microwaves and fridges, and concerns about the availability of safe lorry parking in the UK, CM asked its operator panel: “Should drivers be allowed to take their weekend break in their cabs? Or should the suggestion that it is in breach of the drivers’ hours rules be used to push forward an improvement in the quality of motorway service areas and roadside accommodation?”

Andy Boyle, ABE (Ledbury)

Andy Boyle

Owner-driver, former owner at ABE (Ledbury)

In an ideal world drivers should not spend all their waking and sleeping hours in a vehicle, no matter how elaborately equipped it may be.

At the one end there are those (mostly Eastern European) drivers who are paid a pittance and live for weeks over here, probably pulling trailers outside the cabotage rules. At the other end is a driver on a long-haul trip that takes more than a week.

I would like to be booked into reasonably priced accommodation for a night or two, but I accept that security of the truck and its load can be a problem.

A rested driver is most desirable, and it is possibly easier to take a break away from the vehicle, so I would favour weekly rest being taken in the cab as an exception and not the norm.

I would expect the employer to pay for modest, clean and comfortable accommodation.

Matthew Kibble

Matthew Kibble

MD, Matthew Kibble Transport

Drivers should be able to take their weekend break in a truck.

The French are protecting their own jobs and this will drive up the cost for foreign hauliers. I have driven on the Continent for weeks on end, living in a truck, and this is over the top.

Only last month I had nine consecutive nights in a truck. A couple of weeks later I stayed at a hotel and wished I could have slept in the truck!

If it was made law, we would be back to the days of sharing digs with other drivers. How many drivers would prefer that? It’s like sleeping in your own bed and then stopping in a hotel for one night; do you get the same rest?

I’m sure most drivers would prefer to stop in their truck given the choice, and those that don’t would find a job on day shifts.

Elaine Harries

Elaine Harries

MD, Action Express

Sadly, even if a ban were introduced, this would not improve the facilities and quality of accommodation available. Employers will have to pick up the additional costs for cheap accommodation because customers won’t, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect the drivers to. 

I would prefer the DVSA to focus on more important issues such as ensuring vehicles are roadworthy or drivers are legal and not in breach of tachograph rules. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.


Barry Proctor

Barry Proctor

MD, Barry Proctor Services

I am in favour of a driver not taking their rest in the cab at weekends. However, I am not sure how this would effect drivers who stay in their cabs at truck shows for a full weekend and go back to work on Monday.

Truck shows have always been a grey area in terms of drivers’ hours law. I remember asking for clarification at an evening with a traffic commissioner but had no success.

One area, however, that needs urgent attention is the vast number of overseas operators running containers from various ports with impunity. The drivers appear to live in their cabs for weeks on end, giving them the ability to undercut UK operators as they have no housing costs to fund.

Robert Wilcox

Robert Wilcox

MD, Massey Wilcox Transport

It should be decided by the driver. If they are happy to take the rest period in their cab then fine, but if hey choose a hotel the operator should respect that choice.

This issue is compounded by the treatment of Eastern European drivers who can spend extraordinary amounts of time with their vehicles without a home-based break or even a break away from the vehicle. The driver who has the very occasional weekend away is being tarred with the same brush.

On the occasions our drivers have had to spend weekend rest away from home, they have received a taxable payment for this inconvenience.

Either way, as responsible operators, we can only abide by the rules that govern our industry.

Lesley O'Brien, Freightlink Europe

Lesley O’Brien

Partner, Freightlink Europe

“Drivers employed in activities requiring weekends away from base are usually driving state-of-the-art vehicles, equipped with modern conveniences – fridge, coffee maker, microwave etc.

 Bearing this in mind, I believe that the vast majority of drivers feel more relaxed and prefer to remain in their own environment rather than hotels, which, other than motorway services, are ill-equipped for HGV parking.

This also raises the issue of insurance for vehicles left unattended.  Many goods in transit policies are void if drivers are away from vehicles for periods longer than 45 minutes.  With motorway services offering no security, drivers sleeping in their cab also perform a security function. 

Dare I raise the question of overnight tax-free subsistence payments?  What would be HMRC’s view of any level of tax-free payment for drivers spending nights away from base in a hotel?  I can hear the outcry from drivers.

Surely the answer is improved parking, leisure and catering facilities for drivers, while allowing them to remain in their own environment?

Karen Stalker

Karen Stalker

Director, Stalkers Transport

Although it’s not ideal, I see no reason why drivers should not be allowed to take their weekly rest in their cabs if they so choose, or indeed, if circumstances leave little alternative.

I think perhaps it’s a far more important consideration where their truck is parked during that period of rest. So long as they have the facilities they require at their disposal and its quiet enough for them to be able to sleep properly then I don’t see what the problem is. I don’t think for a minute that enforcing a ban on this would have any impact whatsoever on improving the quality of roadside or motorway accommodation.