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Van driver's hours and breaks: everything you need to know

By Mathilda Bartholomew | October 20, 2023


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Whether you're navigating the roads in the UK or EU, specific regulations dictate how long drivers can stay behind the wheel before taking a break.

Van driver's hours and breaks: everything you need to know

New to the world of commercial driving? Getting ready to hit the road in a rented van for a lengthy journey? Or perhaps you simply want to ensure you're not pushing your driving limits too far?

Whether you're navigating the roads in the UK or EU, specific regulations dictate how long drivers can stay behind the wheel before taking a break. While the urge to power through and reach your destination quickly may be strong, it's crucial to plan regular stops along the way for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Taking a moment for a coffee break, enjoying a tasty snack, or even a brief stroll to stretch your legs—all these pitstops contribute to a safer and more enjoyable journey.

Whether you're navigating the roads in the UK or cruising through the EU, the regulations regarding driving breaks share many similarities. However, there are some minor distinctions to be aware of.

Driving in the UK

For commercial drivers in the UK, the rules governing safe driving durations for vans are straightforward. Remember:

  • Take a break of at least 30 minutes after every five and a half hours of driving.
  • Alternatively, drive for up to eight and a half hours, but include a minimum 45-minute break within that time, along with an additional 30-minute break at the end.
  • Do not be on duty while driving for more than 11 hours in a single day; maintain a record of your hours on a sheet or tachograph.
  • After completing a day, ensure a break of at least 10 hours.

Are there any exceptions?

If you're operating a vehicle for emergency reasons, such as preventing a significant disruption to public service or saving someone's life, the aforementioned UK driving break rules do not apply.

Driving in the EU

If your work leads you across the Channel and into an EU country, be aware that the regulations are a bit more stringent. Here's what you need to do:

  • Take a break of at least 45 minutes for every four and a half hours of driving.
  • Limit your daily driving to a maximum of nine hours. However, twice a week, you're allowed to extend it to 10 hours.
  • Ensure you don't drive for more than 56 hours in total during a week or 90 hours in a fortnight.
  • Allocate a continuous 45-hour period per week when you're not engaged in work-related driving. Every other week, this can be reduced to 24 hours. In essence, grant yourself two days off every other week.

Why do I need to follow these rules?

Well, apart from the obvious legality, sticking to prescribed driving durations significantly minimises your risk of accidents.

Let's be real, extended periods behind the wheel can be draining! Aside from the intense focus required to navigate and avoid potential hazards, sitting in one position for hours can strain your body. Driving while fatigued, uncomfortable, and perhaps a bit irritable increases the likelihood of road incidents—whether it's a collision or a bout of road rage with another driver.

To mitigate these risks during your journey, consider:

  • Avoiding driving when exhausted: If driving is your profession, strive for a good sleep routine and a healthy lifestyle to stay fully alert.
  • Sharing the driving: If you have a travel companion who can drive, take turns on long-distance trips. This way, the non-driving individual can relax or even catch a quick nap.
  • Turning on the radio: Keep the radio at a moderate volume to stay awake and alert. Be cautious not to crank it up too loud, as loud music or chatter can be distracting.
  • Avoiding hunger: Insufficient food intake can seriously affect your energy levels and mood. Eat regular, nutritious meals and stay hydrated on the road.
  • Using a satnav: Especially if your routes vary daily, a satnav providing regular instructions can help keep you focused and aware of your surroundings.

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