by Dakota Hudson
If you thought that rules for the amount of time you can be behind the wheel of your van only applies to drivers of large vehicles, such as lorries and articulated vehicles, then you’d be mistaken.
Whilst you might not need to fit a tachograph to your van, there are some rules that you should take on board. Otherwise, you could face a fine of up to £300 or even a bit of time behind bars if you are the cause of an accident and you have gone too long without a break or have exceeded the hours that you may legally drive.
In the UK, there are two sets of rules that govern how long between breaks you can go: the EU Rules and the Domestic Rules. For drivers of goods vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, the Domestic Rules apply. These rules differ slightly depending on whether you work as a van driver for a company or you are a self-employed van driver.
Why do we have rules of the road?
Why do we have these rules in place in the first place? Simply put, they make our roads safer, not just for the driver concerned but for everyone who uses our roads. According to the AA, driver fatigue is responsible for one in five of the accidents that occurs on our major roads, so a few small rules that help make everyone safer are surely a small price to pay.
Below you’ll find a rough guide to the Domestic Rules, how they apply to you in your role as a van driver and some tips on how to stay safe and within the law whilst out on the road. For full details of these rules head on over to the government website here.
If you use your vehicle as a goods vehicle then you must not exceed 10 hours driving per day. A word of caution here: you are also governed by the amount of actual duty hours per day which must not exceed 11 hours. This is actually counted from when you clock on and clock off if you work as a driver for a company. However, if you are self-employed then the time is only calculated on the actual time you are driving.
All hours must be recorded on a weekly basis either manually on a record sheet or by using a tachograph.
As with all rules there are some exemptions, for example if you are required to respond to an emergency such as a major disruption to public services (e.g. electricity, water or telecommunications). Disruption on our roads, railways, airports etc would also be a reason for a relaxation of the rules, as would being active in preventing serious damage to property or where there may be a danger to life or health of either humans or animals.
Curiously, certain professions are not bound by these Domestic Rules; these include doctors, dentists, vets, maintenance, installation, cinema and broadcasting and also all 999 emergency vehicles. If you are an AA or RAC mechanic or are in the army, you are not affected by these rules.
One more point to make regarding exemptions and the 11 hours of daily duty is that if your actual driving is not more than 4 hours within a week, then you are not restricted to just 11 hours total duty per day. However, there is a caveat to this exemption that should you exceed the 4 hours in one day, then the 11 hours daily duty will kick in for that entire week.
What, no specific rules about taking breaks?
Strangely though, there are no specific rules laid down to cover breaks during your 10 hours of driving per day except that you must have adequate rest. How many breaks and how long you should stop for is entirely at your discretion and everyone will have different needs.
We suggest that you follow Rule 91 of the Highway Code that recommends drivers should take a minimum of 15 mins break every 2 hours or so. The best way to do this is to get out of the driving seat and take a stroll, or a comfort break. Just moving about and getting some fresh air can help to relieve fatigue. Also consider getting a bite to eat or at least refresh yourself with a drink such as a coffee from a road side cafe.
The rules change again if you use your van to carry passengers, where you must take a break of a minimum of 30 minutes after driving for 5 and a half hours.