Northern Ireland: Temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours enforcement

Northern Ireland’s Ministry for Infrastructure has temporarily relaxed the enforcement of both EU Driver’s Hours rules and NI Domestic Hours for all sectors handling the carriage of goods by road.

The Ministry said:

In response to unprecedented pressures, caused by the current COVID-19 circumstances on local and national supply chains, the Department for Infrastructure, pursuant to Article 14(2) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006, has introduced a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in Northern Ireland.  The Department for Infrastructure has also introduced a temporary relaxation of NI Domestic drivers’ hours rules.  Similar relaxations will be introduced in England, Scotland and Wales at the same time.

Anyone driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules or the NI Domestic drivers’ hours rules and undertaking carriage of goods by road can use the relevant relaxation where necessary.

The relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys.

The relaxations apply from 00:01 on Monday 23 March 2020 and will run until 23:59 on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

This will cover all sectors not previously covered by the three relaxations already granted and will now cover, for example, delivery of gas, collection/delivery of milk/dairy, commercial and environmental waste.

Detail of relaxation of EU drivers’ hours rules

The EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

a) Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours

b) Reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours

c) Lifting the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) to 60 and 96 hours respectively

d) Postponement of the requirement to start a weekly rest period after six-24 hours periods, for after seven 24 hours period; although two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight

e) The requirements for daily breaks of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours driving replaced with replaced with a break of 45 minutes after 5.5 hours of driving

Drivers must not use relaxation ‘a’ and ‘d’ at the same time. This is to ensure drivers are able to get adequate rest.

Relaxation of NI drivers’ hours rule

The NI drivers’ hours rule can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

a) Replacement of the daily driving time limit of 10 hours with 11 hours

Drivers can only take advantage of this temporary relaxation 5 days in any 7 day period, and must take a rest period of 24 hours within the same 7 day period when taking advantage of this relaxation.

Interaction with other relaxations

There are currently 3 other active relaxations for certain journeys and sectors. These remain active during this exemption and expire at the date specified in the notice of those relaxations. These can be found here:

·         Delivery of essential items to retailers

·         Delivery of essential items to consumers

·         Delivery of oil and solid fuel

Using the relaxation

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 health and safety of their employees and other road users.

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

When driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules, drivers 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.

When driving under the NI domestic drivers’ hours rule, drivers must note on their record sheet (or tachograph charts or printouts, if applicable) the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.

The temporary relaxation of the rules described above reflects the exceptional circumstances stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. It must be used only where necessary, otherwise the normal drivers’ hours should be followed. The department encourages operators facing high work demands or work absences to take urgent measures to secure drivers who have limited or no current work. It will be working to encourage and facilitate the movement of drivers into priority areas.

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.

We will keep these temporary arrangements under review.