News article

Coronavirus: Drivers' hours rules

30 March 2020


Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the EU and NI drivers' hours rules across all sectors

In response to unprecedented pressures on local and national supply chains, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has introduced a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in Northern Ireland. It has also introduced a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of NI drivers’ hours rules in Northern Ireland.

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

  • replacement of the NI daily driving time limit of 10 hours with 11 hours

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

Timing of the relaxations
These two temporary relaxations apply from 00:01 on Monday 23 March 2020 and will run until 23:59 on Tuesday 21 April 2020. DfI reserves the right to withdraw the relaxations earlier or extend the relaxations if circumstances change.

Who can use the relaxation?
Anyone driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules or the NI 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.

How to use the relaxation
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 drivers’ hours rules, drivers must note in their log book the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits, and this must be signed each week by the operator. 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. Operators facing high work demands or work absences should take urgent measures to secure drivers who have limited or no current work.

Business should continue to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.

Previously announced relaxations
There are currently three 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:

1. Delivery of essential items to retailers
A temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in Northern Ireland for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking the following journeys:

  • distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centre)
  • from manufacturer or supplier to distribution centre (including backhaul collections)
  • from manufacturer or supplier to store (or fulfilment centre)
  • between distribution centres and transport hub trunking
  • transport hub deliveries to stores

Find more detail on the nidirect website.

2. Delivery of essential items to consumers
A temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of domestic drivers’ hours rules in Northern Ireland for the drivers of vehicles not exceeding 3.5 tonnes involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning), over the counter pharmaceuticals and other essential items when undertaking the following journeys:

  • manufacturer to consumers’ home
  • distribution centre to consumers’ home
  • supplier to consumers’ home
  • fulfillment centre to consumers’ home

Find more detail on the nidirect website.

3. Delivery of oil and solid fuel
A temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in Northern Ireland for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of oil and solid fuel to agricultural, commercial and domestic consumers in Northern Ireland – this includes hospitals, landfill sites, airports.

Find more detail on the nidirect website.


First published 30 March 2020