Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the EU drivers’ hours rules: delivery of essential items to retailers

Updated 10 December 2020

This guidance was withdrawn on

This relaxation ended on 30 December 2020. Information on driver hours, rules plus current exemptions is available.

In response to pressures on local and national supply chains, the Department for Transport (DfT) has, pursuant to Article 14(2) of Regulation (EC) No 561/2006, introduced a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales.

This is as a consequence of urgent and exceptional issues related to certain road transport operations, including in the context of port congestion, unusual demand patterns and the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19)-related restrictions on supply chains and demand on them.

Who the relaxation applies to

The relaxation applies to anyone driving within Great Britain under the EU drivers’ hours rules involved in the transport of:

  1. Food and other essential goods from ports within Great Britain. This includes driving of mixed loads with a significant content of such goods. Essential goods include category 1 goods. Where transports of other goods are required to enable category 1 goods to be moved out of ports, the relaxation is also applicable.

  2. Food and other essential goods for retail, including mixed loads with a significant content of such goods. This category includes the following journeys:

  • distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centre)
  • from manufacturer or supplier to distribution centre (including backhaul collections)
  • from manufacturer or supplier to store (or fulfilment centre)
  • between distribution centres and transport hub trunking
  • transport hub deliveries to stores

This relaxation does not apply to drivers not subject to tachograph controls. This is the case for most deliveries direct to consumers, usually made by light goods vehicles. Point 2 can be used by drivers subject to tachograph controls for business to consumer deliveries.

It is permitted for a driver using this relaxation to drive outside Great Britain during the period of this relaxation.

Relaxation of EU drivers’ hours rules

The EU drivers’ hours rules can be temporarily relaxed as follows:

  • replacement of the requirement to take a full weekly rest period of 45 hours in a 2-week period with an alternative pattern of weekly rest periods specified below. This enables 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest periods to be taken on the run-up to Christmas

  • that in a 4-week period beginning on 10 December 2020, a driver can take 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest periods of at least 24 hours (allowing them to work two 6-day weeks); even if the week before the driver had already taken a reduced weekly rest

  • however, any reduction in weekly rest shall be compensated for in the normal way by an equivalent period of rest taken before the end of the third week following the week in question

  • in addition, any rest taken as compensation for a reduced weekly rest period (other than the initial reduced weekly rest period) shall be attached to a regular weekly rest period of at least 45 hours (which can be split over 2 regular weekly rest periods)

  • increasing the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 99 hours

This relaxation must not be used in combination with existing rules for international driving, which allow for 2 consecutive reduced weekly rest breaks in certain circumstances. It is not recommended this relaxation be used for drivers engaged partly in international journeys.

Timing of the relaxation

This temporary relaxation will apply from 12:01am on 10 December 2020 and will run until 11:59pm on 30 December 2020. Consecutive weekly rest periods taken before 10 December 2020 must be taken into account for this relaxation, and up to 3 consecutive rest periods may include 1 taken before 10 December 2020.

The 2 subsequent consecutive full regular rest periods, including compensatory rest, can be taken in whole or in part after the end of this relaxation.

The DfT reserves the right to withdraw the relaxation earlier, or extend the relaxation, if circumstances change.

Using the relaxation

Driver safety must not be compromised. Drivers should not be expected to drive while tired – employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users.

The practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and driver representatives.

Operators must notify the DfT if this relaxation is used by completing an initial notification of relaxation form and emailing a copy to

A completed follow-up notification of relaxation form must then be emailed to one week after the end of the period of relaxation.

Failure to comply with the requirement to notify the DfT would be an indication to enforcement authorities that the relaxation had been used inappropriately and follow-up investigatory action may occur.

In addition, when driving under the EU drivers’ hours rules, drivers must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is essential for enforcement purposes.

This temporary relaxation of the rules reflects the exceptional circumstances stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. It must be used only where necessary, otherwise, the normal drivers’ hours should be followed.

The DfT encourages operators facing high work demands or work absences to take urgent measures to secure drivers who have limited or no current work.

As a general rule, we expect business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.


All enquiries regarding interpretation of these temporary arrangements should be made to the DfT using the following contact details: