EU Drivers’ Hours Rules: Relaxation during Cross-Channel Disruption & Operation Stack


With effect from midnight on Thursday 30th July 2015 there is a temporary relaxation of some EU drivers’ hours rules. Transport lawyer Tim Ridyard explains.

This permits an EU daily driving limit of 11 hours (increased from 9 hours) and a daily rest reduction from 11 hours to 9 hours. This will be in force during times when Operation Stack is in place. It only applies to drivers with journeys delayed because of industrial action or disruption at Calais and either have used a cross-channel ferry or Eurotunnel to reach or leave Kent or they are waiting within Kent for departure to mainland Europe or they are driving a commercial vehicle operated from an operating centre in Kent and whose journey has been disrupted.

Woodfines Road Transport Partner, Tim Ridyard comments: “Operators and drivers are utterly frustrated by the disruption caused by events primarily in Calais whether these relate to industrial action or migrant issues. Huge commercial problems and losses are occurring not only for those involved in international traffic but also for other operators affected, not least those in Kent.’

He adds: ‘It is unclear how much this relaxation will assist but is at least some acknowledgement and recognition of the difficulties faced by drivers. There is in addition the question of safety concerns for drivers in Calais and the risk operators and drivers are facing in having significant civil penalties imposed on them for clandestine entrants found within vehicles. If any operators and drivers have questions or problems to be resolved they should not hesitate to get in contact with us. We can advise accordingly.’

The Department for Transport is allowed under Article 14 (2) EC Regulation 561/2006 to create a temporary relaxation but it is vital that any drivers seeking to deploy this provision endorse on the back of their tachograph charts or a digital printout the reason why they are deviating from normal limits. This is required anyway but it is commonplace for drivers not to endorse this as required, with the effect that there is an absence of clear evidence to support deviation from the normal rules. A driver thereby loses his of her ‘defence’ as Article 14 is not complied with.

The full text of the Department for Transport Notification issued on 29th July 2015 is produced below and it is important to be clear as to the limits of its ambit:

NOTIFICATION - PORT OF CALAIS INDUSTRIAL ACTION: TEMPORARY RELAXATION OF THE ENFORCEMENT OF DRIVERS’ HOURS RULES

In reaction to the current industrial action at the Port of Calais and incidents at the Euro Tunnel terminal and Channel Tunnel, there has been major disruption to cross-Channel commercial vehicle traffic through the Tunnel and to some ferry routes to and from Kent. This has resulted in Operation Stack being invoked on the M20.

The Department for Transport has, pursuant to Article 14(2) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006, agreed to a temporary and limited, exceptional relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules for the drivers involved in the transport of goods and passengers in Europe whose journeys are affected by this disruption and for drivers of commercial vehicles operated by local operators based in Kent.

This temporary relaxation applies from 00:01 on Thursday 30th July 2015 and will run for a period of 30 days at the times when Operation Stack is in place. Up to date information on the status of Operation Stack is available from Kent Police and Highways England.

The temporary relaxation applies only to drivers whose journeys are delayed due to the industrial action or disruption at Calais and who:

  • have used a cross channel ferry or Eurotunnel to reach or leave Kent; or
  • are waiting within Kent for departure to mainland Europe; or
  • are driving a commercial vehicle operated from an operating centre in Kent and
  • whose journey has been disrupted.

This relaxation is not available for other commercial vehicle drivers in Kent and is not available for international journeys that do not pass through Kent.

The Department reserves the right to withdraw or suspend the relaxation earlier if circumstances change. This relaxation is under constant review and may be withdrawn or suspended with less than twenty four hours’ notice.

The Department wishes to make clear that driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired - employers remain responsible for the safety of their employees and other road users.

For the drivers and work in question, the EU drivers’ hours rules will be temporarily relaxed
as follows:

  • Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours
  • Reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours.

The requirement to take a 45 minute break after 4½ hours driving remains and will continue to be rigorously enforced.

The enforcement of working time rules has NOT been relaxed for this period.

The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and/or driver representatives.

The drivers in question must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.

In addition, drivers of lorries within the “Operation Stack” queue can use exceptional provision to allow them to move slowly within the queue as required and they cannot claim this as a break or rest.

The temporary relaxation of the rules described above reflects the exceptional circumstances of the industrial action, incidents and the severe delays at the Channel Tunnel and Calais. The Department wishes to emphasise that, as a general rule, we expect business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.

All enquiries regarding interpretation of these temporary arrangements should, in the first
instance, be made to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency on 0300 1239000 or via
email at enquiries@vosa.gov.uk

We will keep these temporary arrangements under review.