How many hours am I allowed to drive my van for?

For most same day couriers within the UK the only legal restrictions on driving and working time will be the domestic drivers’ hours rules and some aspects of the Working Time Directive.

The GB Domestic Drivers’ Hours Rules apply to all drivers of goods vehicles, however small, driven in Great Britain (Northern Ireland has its own rules) in connection with a business, where EU drivers’ hours rules (tacho regulations) don’t apply.

The rules are quite straightforward. In any day (defined as 24 hours from the start of duty) you’re allowed to drive for a maximum of 10 hours. Driving is defined as being at the controls of a vehicle for the purposes of controlling its movement, whether it is moving or stationary with the engine running.

The total amount of time that you’re allowed to be ‘on duty’ for the same 24 hour period is 11 hours.

For an employed driver, including directors of limited companies, ‘on duty’ means any working time, including sweeping the yard, answering the phone, loading and unloading etc.

For a self-employed driver ‘on duty’ means driving the vehicle or carrying out any other work in connection with the vehicle or its load. Answering the phone or sweeping the yard would not be duty time, cleaning the van or loading it up would be.

If you drive for less than 4 hours in a day there are no restrictions on duty time – you could legally work in the warehouse for 10 hours and then drive for up to 4 hours.

There are exemptions to the duty time BUT NOT THE DRIVING TIME for certain trades, but same day courier work wouldn’t fall into any of the exemptions.

If you only ever drive vehicles that are under 3,500kg GVW there is no legal requirement to keep records of your working or driving hours.

  • You can drive for up to 10 hours per day, breaks aren’t included in the 10 hours, nor is loading and unloading or waiting time with the engine switched off.
  • You can ‘work’ for up to 11 hours per day, breaks aren’t included but all other work is included (unless you’re self-employed when some work doesn’t count).
  • The ‘day’ lasts for 24 hours from the time you start work. So if you start at 10.00am today and work for 11 hours then you can’t do any more work until 10.00am tomorrow.
  • There are no record keeping requirements for drivers of vans under 3,500kg.
  • There is a requirement under the Working Time Directive and Health & Safety laws for drivers to have adequate rest.

The rules are enforced by VOSA, but except for in cases where tiredness has actually caused an accident I’ve never actually heard of anyone being prosecuted for being ‘over hours’ in a vehicle without a tacho or driving hours log. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, just that I’ve never heard of it.

In the case of an employee who causes an accident while exceeding their daily driving or duty time their employer would almost certainly be held liable for the accident. A death caused by an employee under these circumstances could leave the employer facing a charge of Corporate Manslaughter.

It should also be noted that both VOSA and the Police can go to extraordinary lengths to establish exactly how long a driver has been working, particularly following a serious accident. Mobile phone records can easily be checked to pinpoint the users whereabouts to within a few hundred metres, your own GPS tracking logs can provide even more conclusive evidence, fuel receipts can be examined and the time of fuel-card and credit-card purchases can be traced. Even a POD for a 500 mile round trip same day delivery may be enough to incriminate you.

VOSA are already using ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), in conjunction with axle weight sensors embedded in the road, to identify overloaded vehicles. I believe that it’s only a matter of time before they use it to detect drivers’ hours offences as well.

Posted under Courier Basics, Drivers' Hours, Employment

Posted by Alec at 4:19 pm, July 24, 2008

Tags: , , , ,

14 Comments so far

  1. Sparky added on  August 15th, 2011 at 09:30

    I work for a a company who we will not call by its real name we will call them ASBA (guess?lol)I worked from 11am (1st hour unpaid to 10:30pm. No breaks, only water during work. My contracted shift is 12pm-10pm. we have no union, I feel as if its now the norm. Not sure what steps to take next? but i will.

    Thank you

  2. Annoyed added on  March 20th, 2012 at 12:21

    I work for a courier company, also no names mentioned, and they get us to work from as early as 2am (after finishing the day before at around 8/9pm) get us to do a 4 hour drive north and back with no breaks. They then send us on other jobs throughout the day and make us work again till 8/9pm sometimes. No breaks apart from the 15/20 mins loading/unloading time. We usually work around 15 hours a day 5 days a week. Thanks to this web page I WILL be taking action against them!

  3. Annoyed added on  March 20th, 2012 at 12:33

    I just called VOSA and they said as I drive a 3.5 tonne van, I don’t have any driving regulations towards how many hours I work. Which, to me, is a contradiction to what’s posted on this web page! Can someone advise please?

  4. Alec added on  March 20th, 2012 at 12:43

    If they’ve told you that then they’re talking bollocks. European rules apply to drivers of vehicles over 3.5t GVW, GB domestic rules apply to drivers of all goods vehicles which don’t come under Euro rules.

    Drivers’ hours rules that apply to goods vehicles

  5. Annoyed added on  March 20th, 2012 at 12:56

    That’s what I thought, but the chap on the end of the line didn’t seem interested in what I had to say, maybe he was on a break and I was interrupting his biscuits and Jeremy Kyle!!
    I called the main VOSA number 0300 123 9000 and the gave me my local authority number 01708 868 229 and it was this guy who gave me the information.
    Do you have any advice as to what I can do next?

  6. Annoyed added on  March 20th, 2012 at 14:10

    Decided to e-mail VOSA directly instead. I’ll keep you updated.

  7. sarah added on  May 1st, 2012 at 16:50

    do you know how long im classed as to work for if i do multi drop in a renault traffic van , im told im supposed to be doing 8 and a halh hours and they only allow you half an hour for travelling so officially how many hours am i meant to drive in a day and what breaks am i supposed to do in a day if you understand

  8. Alec added on  May 1st, 2012 at 16:55

    As above –

    • You can drive for up to 10 hours per day, breaks aren’t included in the 10 hours, nor is loading and unloading or waiting time with the engine switched off.
    • You can ‘work’ for up to 11 hours per day, breaks aren’t included but all other work is included (unless you’re self-employed when some work doesn’t count).
    • The ‘day’ lasts for 24 hours from the time you start work. So if you start at 10.00am today and work for 11 hours then you can’t do any more work until 10.00am tomorrow.
    • There are no record keeping requirements for drivers of vans under 3,500kg.
    • There is a requirement under the Working Time Directive and Health & Safety laws for drivers to have adequate rest.
  9. On Average I Do 10 Hours Per Day …. This AIn’t the Main Issue .. I Travel Nearly 400 miles in this time multi-dropping along the way , and am exhausted after 6 hours constant travel, I do have a break else they send me back out when i get back, I Hate This Crap ,

  10. Adi Cowper added on  September 11th, 2012 at 14:36

    Its really frightning to here this, My work as a sign installer has on a daily basis for the past 12 years included twelve or more hours of work and driving on every single day of work. In the early days they had us i 7.5 trucks and where told to put them on rest while we were working. Worked for several firms who all do exactly the same in 3.5t vehicles.
    I have been selfemployed for the last five years and employed a standard 12 hour day for myself and my employee in keeping with the industry, never occured to me there would be a problem.

  11. Richard added on  October 3rd, 2012 at 00:40

    Hi I have been working for Romec royal mails cleaning company they have had me up and driving a small van as a mobile cleaner I’m meant to do 37.5 hours over 6 days but they have started split shifting me so I start at 6 am work until 1 pm then drive home and wait around and go back out to work at 4 pm until 6 pm then drive home again they deduct 1 hour off me each day for going to and coming back from work and 30 minutes for a none existent lunch break as they have me cleaning up to 4 or 5 post offices in a day .
    They just decided to tell me I’m split shifting all thus week I have refused I said I am too tired to do it as they are making me ill bullying me into it so they told me of I refuse to do it I’m fired this is after working a 69 hour week last week and 63 hours the week before ., I get home at 7 pm then up again at 6 is this right ? Or should I just give then their keys back and tell them to jog on ?!

  12. dumbo added on  November 22nd, 2013 at 04:34

    If I drive for 18 hours with a small break and the police pull me. Can I be charged if they check delivery times ..self employed

  13. You’re only allowed to drive a goods vehicle for 10 hours in a 24 hour period – so yes, you can be charged.

    Having said that, I’ve never actually heard of anyone in a van being charged with drivers’ hours offences. Of course it’s dangerous to drive those sort of hours and you could probably be charged with other offences (without due care and attention springs to mind) if you were found to be driving for that long. The fact that you’d ignored the legal driving hours would probably be brought up in court against you if you were involved in an accident.

  14. dumbo added on  November 25th, 2013 at 22:20

    thanks great help

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