Could you be heading towards prison?

Andrew Newbound

By: Andrew Newbound

Over 10 hours daily driving could land you in prison

We all know the legal restrictions that govern HGV drivers. Yet how many of us are aware that the nation’s van drivers are governed by a similar set of restrictions? Or that if these restrictions are breached or ignored, the punishment could be a stretch in prison?

If the van you drive weighs no more than 3.5 tonnes when full loaded, you’re limited by British law to a maximum of 10 hours of driving per day.

This seems a lot, but a single trip from Leeds to London can take five or six hours. Add the return journey in a single day and you could easily exceed ten hours driving.

UK drivers only permitted to ‘work’ a maximum 11 hours each day

Even more worrying, if you plan on doing a stint of work between driving shifts, tread very carefully. UK law states that drivers can only do a daily duty – that’s ‘work’, in plain English – of 11 hours. So, if you spend ten hours driving, you only have one hour free for any other work.

Exceed this and you’re risking a fine of £300. If you’re found guilty of causing an accident and it’s proven that you’ve exceeded these hours, the punishment could be a custodial sentence.

Some professions are exclude from the ‘working’ limit. These include doctors, midwives, nurses, cleaners (yes, really), roadside assistance workers employed by the AA or RAC, forestry workers and even those working in cinema and radio broadcasting. The police, armed forces and fire brigade are excluded too. And if yours or someone else’s life is in danger, the rules don’t apply.

EU driving rules even more restrictive

If you tow a trailer and the total combined weight exceeds 3.5 tonnes, EU rules apply (at least until the terms of Brexit are agreed.) It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that these rules are even more stringent and restrictive.

For instance, EU rules only allow 9 hours of daily driving and this must be broken up at 4.5 hours with a 45 minute rest (there are rules about this too.) In extra busy weeks, this 9 hour daily maximum can be extended to 10 hours, but only for two days.

To complicate matters even further, there are limits to how many hours you can drive in a week or rolling two-week period; 45 and 90, respectively. Plus, the EU stipulate that there must be a period of 45 hours rest every week and 11 hours rest in every 24 hours. Although this can be reduced to 9 hours, but only 3 times between weekly rests.

It’s hardly a surprise if you’re confused and of course, Brexit may simplify matters by applying UK laws to all levels of van driving. But any changes are still several years away and until then, it’s in the interests of all van drivers to brush up on the rules. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets caught out.