Thursday, January 14, 2016

Road Haulage Lobby Welcomes Relaxation of Freight Drivers Hours Whilst Bridge Repaired

Forth Crossing Closed to HGVs until at Least Mid February
Shipping News Feature
UK – The Department for Transport (DfT) has gained approval from the European Commission to a temporary and limited relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules for drivers of goods vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes involved in the distribution of freight within scope of the Regulation whose journeys are delayed or extended due to the partial closure of the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, news which has been welcomed by industry bodies, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

This temporary relaxation began on Tuesday 12 January 2016 at 00:01 and will end at 23:59 on Monday 15 February 2016. This relaxation will apply to drivers of goods vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes who would have used the Forth Road Bridge for the purpose of long distance movements involving journeys through and beyond Fife and the Lothians; and are based at either side of the Forth Road Bridge within the recognised diversion route of the A985, M876, M9 and M90. At least one articulated lorry driver has been prosecuted after trying to cross the bridge whilst the ban is in place.

The DfT reserves the right to withdraw the relaxation earlier if circumstances change and has made it clear that driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired, employers remain responsible for the safety of their employees and other road users. For the drivers to whom this relaxation applies, the EU drivers’ hours rules will be temporarily relaxed as follows:-

  • Replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours;
  • Increasing the weekly driving limit from 56 hours to 60 hours and the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 110 hours.

The requirement to take a 45 minute break after 4½ hours driving will remain and will be rigorously enforced. The requirement to take a minimum daily rest of 11 hours (which can be reduced to 9 hours three times a week) will remain and will also be rigorously enforced. The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and/or driver representatives. The drivers in question must note on the back of their tachograph charts or digital printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits, usual practice in emergencies and, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.

The temporary relaxation of the rules reflects the exceptional circumstances of the unprecedented continued closure of the Forth Road Bridge to heavy goods vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes. The Department wishes to emphasise that, as a general rule, it expects business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains. Expressing his delight following the announcement, RHA Director for Scotland, Martin Reid, said:

“This is a common-sense decision and one that the industry, particularly our Scottish members, will welcome. We were stunned at the news that the Bridge is to remain closed to HGVs until mid-February, despite opening to other road users on 22 December. The additional cost of the continued closure to hauliers, already working to very tight margins, has been extremely high. One of our long-standing members tells that the detour to cross from one side of the river to the other adds an extra hour each way in journey time alone and approximately £90 in additional fuel costs.

“Obviously the relaxation of drivers’ hours regulations will help our members get the job done, but the added fuel costs are really beginning to bite. Scotland is economically dependent upon an efficient supply chain network. The decision by the operators of the Bridge was made on safety grounds and we welcome the speed at which the problem and subsequent repairs were addressed. However, we would urge that the further strengthening work to enable hauliers to resume their use of the Bridge are completed as quickly as possible.”