Drivers’ hours rules need to be clearer

Drivers' hours legislation


A lack of clear guidance on how operators can manage and comply with drivers’ hours rules means enforcement authorities could be breaching government guidelines, according to a transport lawyer.

James Backhouse, at Backhouse Jones, said many of the issues drivers and hauliers face in trying to follow drivers’ hours regulations would be improved if proper guidance was available. “There’s a guide to maintaining roadworthiness, which is regularly updated, but there’s nothing for drivers’ hours except for a summary of the rules,” he said.

“Why is there no guidance at all for operators who are supposed to manage these drivers? What about systems management? What’s expected? Should operators be analysing every record, or a sample? How far do you go systematically to look for false records? How frequently should you analyse charts? What about training?”

Backhouse was responding to suggestions that the current drivers’ hours rules are reviewed, to reflect increasing congestion and roadworks on the UK network. He said: “More important than looking at the rules is for the DfT, the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) and the DVSA to put some guidance out for the industry.”

Backhouse referred to the Regulators’ Code, which was introduced in 2013 to improve the way regulations are delivered by setting clear expectations for businesses, and suggested that the enforcement authorities could be in breach for failing to provide information to hauliers. However, an OTC spokesman said it did not recognise Backhouse’s description of the available guidance.

The spokesman referred to the senior traffic commissioner’s (TC) statutory documents and said: “The DVSA is responsible for the drivers’ hours guidance published on gov.uk. With respect to the point raised about corresponding guidance for vehicle roadworthiness, we would argue that elements such as the ‘key points of a good maintenance system’ are echoed in the statutory documents and gov.uk guidance.”

A DVSA spokesman said: “We keep all our guidance under review to ensure we always serve people’s needs and help everyone stay safe on the roads.” But in response, Backhouse said: “The statutory documents were for the TCs and not guidance to the industries that they regulate.

"Although they are helpful to operators to understand how a TC will approach their licence they are not industry compliance guidance as required under the regulators’ code, as they are not focused on, nor issued to the industries.

"It is simply inaccurate to suggest that the OTC, the DVSA and the DfT are meeting the obligation to give guidance on how the obligations relating to the EU drivers’ hours and record keeping are met by referring to internal, though published, senior TC and TC guidance. In any event, it doesn’t set out any guidance as to how the obligations are to be met by operators, it merely restates the legal obligations.”