Last reviewed 21 June 2021

Gordon Humphreys of Foster Tachographs Limited takes a look at the details of this complex aspect of the law, especially where drivers are mixing with EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations.

The basics

The British Domestic Hours Rules, unfortunately, are not straightforward, particularly when variables are added. Therefore, in this article, we have concentrated on certain specific areas where common failures occur.

When considering the rules, it is better for drivers, and the operator, to consider the basics of the subject area before delving into those areas which cause the greatest confusion. The British Domestic Rules, found within the Transport Act 1968, will apply to the majority of passenger carrying vehicles (PCVs) and goods vehicles which are exempt from the retained EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations, although there are some complete exemptions from both sets of rules.

The British Domestic Rules only apply within the boundaries of Great Britain. Northern Ireland has its own set of rules.

Who are the typical drivers operating under British Domestic Rules?

Under the PCV banner, the most typical transport businesses operating under GB Domestic Rules are the public transport buses seen daily operating within the towns and cities within Great Britain where the route covered by the service does not exceed 50km.

Further operations which may also fall within this operation are services such as school buses and other special regular services which are defined within EU Regulation 684/92 Article 2(1)(1.2) which states:

“Special regular services shall include:

  1. the carriage of workers between home and work;

  2. carriage to and from the educational institution for school pupils and students;

  3. the carriage of soldiers and their families between their state of origin and the area of their barracks;

  4. urban carriage in frontier areas.

The fact that a special service may be varied according to the needs of users shall not affect its classification as a regular service.”

For the goods industry, the list of vehicles exempt or with derogated exceptions from the retained EU rules is numerous and can be seen within EU Regulation 561/2006 Articles 3 and 13 (as amended by EU Regulation 165/2014 Article 45). Most notably exempt from EU rules but operating under GB domestic ones are all those vans and other smaller goods vehicles with a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 3.5 tonnes.

Some examples of larger goods vehicles operating under GB Domestic Rules include domestic refuse vehicles, specialised breakdown vehicles operating within 100km of base, vehicles carrying animal carcasses and vehicles carrying live animals from farms to local markets and vice versa and from markets to local slaughterhouses within a radius of 100km of base.

The Domestic Regulations as they apply to passenger and goods vehicles

To complicate matters further, the rules for drivers of vehicles operating under these domestic regulations differ according to whether they are driving passenger or goods vehicles (unlike the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations which, for the majority, do not differ between the two). Furthermore, the GB Domestic Rules only apply within the boundaries of Great Britain.

It should be noted that drivers and other travelling personnel working on operations under the Domestic Rules will also be subject to the Working Time Regulations 1998, as amended by the Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2003 and 2007. These introduce limits to weekly working time and a statutory right to adequate rest over and above the requirements of the Domestic Rules.

British Domestic Rules for Passenger Vehicles — a Summary

A day is defined as the time between two daily rest periods or between a weekly rest period and a daily rest period.

Continuous Driving

The limit of driving is 5 hours 30 minutes after which a break of 30 minutes is required.

Alternatively, within a total period of 8 hours 30 minutes, breaks of at least 45 minutes must be taken during this period, allowing a maximum of 7 hours 45 minutes driving within this period. At the end of this period a further 30 minutes break must be taken, unless the driver is to begin a rest period.

Daily Driving

The maximum driving time in a day is 10 hours.

Daily Spreadover

This should not exceed 16 hours between the start and end of work.

Daily Rest

At least 10 hours continuous rest should be taken between two working days, but this can be reduced to 8 hours 30 minutes up to three times in a week (a week is Monday to Sunday).

Fortnightly Rest

In any two week period, ie from Monday to two Sundays later, there must be at least 24 hours off duty.

British Domestic Rules for Goods Vehicles — a Summary

A day is defined as being 24 hours starting from the beginning of work.

Daily Driving

The maximum driving time in a day is 10 hours.

Daily Duty

In a working day the maximum duty time (Drive and Other Work) is 11 hours. If the driver does not drive more than 4 hours on each day of a week then the daily duty limit does not apply, nor does it apply on days the driver does not drive.

Continuous Driving

It may be controversial, but there is no limit on goods vehicle drivers before which they must take a driving break, although it would be sensible for operators to apply some internal control to prevent drivers becoming tired.

Daily Rest

There are also no stipulated durations for rest periods, although an aggregate off-duty period of 13 hours in 24 is implicit in the daily duty limit. The domestic law simply requires the driver to have regular rest periods that are sufficiently long and continuous that the driver does not cause harm to themselves or others. Again, responsible operators should have a policy in place to ensure that this requirement is met.

Record keeping — passenger

For a driver operating exclusively under GB Domestic Regulations and driving exclusively in PCVs then there are no record-keeping requirements.

However, the enforcement authorities are able to check compliance by reviewing records of duty rosters held by the operator.

Record keeping — goods

Drivers of goods vehicles operating under GB Domestic Regulations have a legal requirement to keep written records of the hours worked and driven on a weekly record sheet or tachograph for any day in which the driver drives more than four hours or drives outside a 50km radius of the vehicle’s operating centre.

The operator is expected to check and sign each driver record on a weekly basis with the driver retaining a copy for at least two weeks following the week in which the driver has worked.

Alternatively, records can be made using a driver’s digital card in a digital tachograph, but in those circumstances, the driver should be using the out of scope driving facility to record driving and also all the regulations relating to fitting, use and calibration and recalibration of the tachograph must be complied with at all times.

If the vehicle has a tachograph fitted but is not used for recording the driver’s activity then the tachograph should still be calibrated and sealed and providing the seals remain intact, there is no requirement to recalibrate.

Switching between passenger and goods Domestic Rules

Some drivers may be required to combine driving a bus and a goods vehicle while operating under domestic rules. For example, a mechanic at a bus company may undertake a school run in the morning and afternoon, but in between be required to recover a broken-down vehicle.

Where such a split in the driver’s duties occur it is necessary to look at how the driving duty is split, both in a day and during a week. Whichever type of vehicle he or she drives most takes priority on that day and in that week respectively when it comes to which legislation the driver should adhere to in the course of their work.

Mixing GB Domestic Rules and EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations

This is where one of the biggest problems occurs for drivers in the recording of their working day.

As soon as work is undertaken under the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations, then under these regulations, the driver is required to comply with all aspects of EU driving, breaks and rest periods for that day, the EU weekly rest regulations for that week and must also make a full and proper record of that working day in compliance with EU Regulation 165/2014.

Therefore, the time in the vehicle operating under EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations must be recorded using a tachograph record, while the other activity must, as a minimum be recorded manually onto the tachograph record to ensure that the driver has a full record of the working day. Failing to do so is failing to keep a proper record in accordance with the law.

The DVSA in Great Britain would expect the driver to keep a record of any work undertaken under non-EU regulations back to the driver’s previous daily or weekly rest period, but that is a complex matter that requires a more detailed explanation.

The key aspect is that drivers must, therefore, be trained to make manual entries using both analogue and digital tachographs, as appropriate.

Driving time

Also, driving time in a vehicle operating under GB Domestic Rules may be considered differently from driving a vehicle under EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations, but only when applying this to the EU Regulations.

To explain:

  • Option 1. Driving under GB Domestic Rules = OTHER WORK under EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations

  • Option 2. Driving under EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations = DRIVING under GB Domestic Rules

  • Option 3. Alternatively, where mixing the work the driver and Operator can choose to undertake all of the work under the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations.

Option 3 above is probably the safest policy to ensure compliance and is certainly the easiest to apply.

For example, to show the complexities, a driver of a coach who undertakes a school journey in the morning involving 1 hour 30 minutes driving is then put onto a Private Hire trip. The driving time from the school journey does not have to count as driving under EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations as it was undertaken under GB Domestic Rules and could be considered as Other Work. Therefore, the driver could then, potentially, drive 4 hours 30 minutes under the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations before having to take a break of 45 minutes.

However, at that stage the driver would have reached 6 hours driving without a break under the GB Domestic Rules, in excess of the first option of continuous driving for 5 hours 30 minutes. However, the option of 7 hours 45 minutes driving in 8 hours 30 minutes could then be applied, but this would then require the driver to stop again after a further 1 hour 45 minutes driving for a second break, under GB Domestic Rules, of 30 minutes.

If the driving limit of 5 hours 30 minutes was applied, then the driver would have been required to stop after 4 hours driving on the Private Hire work (1 hour 30 minutes hours under GB Domestic Rules + 4 hours under EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations), and take a 30 minute break, but if the driver then continued driving, he or she would be required to stop after a further 30 minutes driving to take a further 30 minutes break under the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations.

It is therefore, for that reason, easier to operate under one set of regulations, ie the EU Drivers’ Hours Regulations where the operation is mixing, recording the whole working day on the tachograph record and removing the requirement to be applying both sets of legislation at that time.