In light of the potential impact of the COVID-19 on HGV operations and the importance of the road haulage sector to the national economy the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have allowed a temporary and urgent derogation of certain provisions of the EU driving and resting time rules. The proposed derogation will apply to all operators and drivers subject to the EU driver’s hours and tachograph rules engaged in the carriage of goods.
The derogation came into effect on 18 March 2020 and will remain in place up to 16 April 2020. This will be reviewed every week, as regards application and scope.
Driving time rules derogation
The driving time rules have been relaxed by lifting the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 112 hours. This means that drivers will be entitled to drive a maximum 56 hours in each consecutive week until further notice (there is no change to the rules relating to working time).
The rules relating to weekly rest are also being relaxed by allowing drivers to take a reduced weekly rest of at least 24 hours in each consecutive week during the relaxation period. There will be no obligation on a driver to take at least one regular weekly rest period in any two consecutive weeks until further notice. In addition, there is no requirement for compensation where reduced weekly rest is being taken.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) can amend or withdraw this relaxation of the rules if there is a change in circumstances.
The RSA emphasised that HGV operators must ensure that appropriate arrangements are put in place to record any extra driving time being undertaken by drivers resulting from the Coronavirus crisis. Drivers must record on the back of their analogue tachograph charts or digital tachograph print-outs (as soon as they finish their daily working period) the reasons and justification why they are exceeding the prescribed limits. Where there is a failure to do so, this will cause delays and issues at inspections. In addition, the practical implementation of this temporary relaxation of the rules should be agreed by employers with their drivers.
HGV operators must also put in place contingency measures to cater for emergency and urgent situations and this must be properly documented and retained for inspection. Documentary evidence in support of the reason for taking extra driving should be retained for at least 12 months. Any deviation from the driving and resting time rules must be a last resort. During inspections, the history of the driver and operator overall compliance with the rules will be carefully assessed.
The RSA emphasised that, while the current situation may impact on driving time, driver safety or other road user’s safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not deviate from the rules if it jeopardises road safety nor should they be expected to drive whilst tired - employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.
Relaxing drivers’ hours rules does not change an individual’s liability to fatigue
It also does not alter business’ obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to manage risk. Risk assessments for driver fatigue remain just as important to reduce risk so far as is reasonably practicable
Employers planning to take advantage of any of the relaxations will need to bear in mind that risk assessments should be reviewed and revisited as necessary to ensure driver safety
Particular care is needed where incremental changes are planned: as the risk profile evolves so must the corresponding assessment of that risk
There will be numerous employers and drivers who will want to agree longer driving shifts to ensure Ireland receives essential medical equipment, medicine, food and supplies in these uncertain times. Particular care will be needed to stay safe