The relaxation of drivers’ hours rules has been extended until 30 December, in response to crippling port congestion, Covid-19 and “unusual demand patterns”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the relaxation applies to anyone driving within Great Britain under the EU drivers’ hours rules and involved in the transport of food and other essential goods from ports, including mixed loads with a significant content of such goods.

In addition, the DfT said anyone transporting food and other essential goods for retail, including mixed loads, would also come under the relaxation.

It said this category included journeys from distribution centres to stores or fulfilment centres; from manufacturer or supplier to distribution centres, including backhaul collections; from manufacturer or supplier to stores; between distribution centres and transport hub trunking and transport hub deliveries to stores.

The relaxation does not apply to drivers not subject to tachograph controls.

It means drivers can replace the requirement to take a 45-hour weekly rest in a two-week period with an alternative pattern of weekly rest period.

They can also take two consecutive reduced weekly rest periods of at least 24 hours in a four-week period beginning on 10 December, even if the week before the driver had already taken a reduced weekly rest.

However, any reduction in weekly rest must be compensated for in the normal way by an equivalent period of rest taken before the end of the third week following the week in question.

Fortnightly driving limits are also increased from 90 hours to 99 hours.

The DfT said the relaxation must not be used in combination with existing rules for international driving and it is not recommended that it is used by drivers engaged partly in international work.

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

The DfT said drivers must note on the back of their tacho charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits.

“This temporary relaxation of the rules reflects the exceptional circumstances stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak,” it added.

“It must be used only where necessary, otherwise, the normal drivers’ hours should be followed.”

Jeremy Woodcraft, road transport solicitor at Keystone Law, said: “Operators of goods vehicles must be aware that whilst the relaxations announced do give potentially more capacity and flexibility for the driver resource, the use of the relaxations should be as closely controlled as the regular hours regime.

“It is clear that the government will expect every operator to be able to ensure that the modified rules are rigidly adhered to and that the overall objective of road safety is not compromised. So whilst on the one hand the relaxations do extend the available driver resource, on the other, they throw up the challenge of regulating the same.”

Details on the temporary relaxation can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/temporary-relaxation-of-the-enforcement-of-the-drivers-hours-rules-all-sectors-carriage-of-goods-by-road/temporary-relaxation-of-the-enforcement-of-the-eu-and-gb-drivers-hours-rules-all-sectors-carriage-of-goods-by-road