driver shot

New guidance on the breaks required under the drivers’ hours and working time rules is to be published later this year by the DfT in an effort to address confusion between the two.

The guide, which will be put together by a working group led by the FTA, was announced by transport minister Stephen Hammond this week. It should, he said, “help drivers better understand the rules, making compliance easier”.

The decision is based on a report published at the same time by the DfT on the work of an industry group that considered the creation of a new set of rules aligning the requirements for breaks in working time rules with those in the drivers’ hours rules, via changes to the UK’s domestic working time legislation. This, however, would require drivers and crew to take a break of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours of either driving or non-driving work, increasing the frequency and duration of breaks for non-driving work, the working group warned.

The working group also considered the interaction between periods of availability (POAs) and rests/breaks within current working time rules. It concluded that both operators and drivers had “an incentive to consider certain activities as POAs, when it could be argued that they were work”; that the POA system was “difficult” for the DVSA to enforce, as no documented evidence was required under the current regime; and that some drivers were “being forced to record a period of work as [a] POA when they don’t agree it should be”. No solution was put forward by the working group, however.

FTA head of road freight and enforcement policy James Firth said the association was preparing an initial meeting with the DfT to discuss the exact content of the new guide but stressed that it would major on the issue of breaks. “That was the driving point,” he confirmed. “The rules are clear, but it’s the way in which they are presented, and drivers and operators apply them, where clearer guidance is required.”

FTA remains in favour of the use of POAs and does not believe abuse of the system is widespread, he added. “We are not aware of any significant specific evidence that POAs are being routinely abused. There’s no significant evidence it is an endemic problem,” he said.