Breaks and the Working Time Directive

By October 1, 2017 blog

Breaks and the Working Time Directive

This article only looks at those Drivers who operate under EC Drivers Hours Rules.

“Breaks” and the Working Time Directive – we are going to call it the Working Time Directive so those of you who are reading this and want to contact us and go on about the RTD – don’t. Most drivers and Operators call it the Working Time Directive: hence our title.

A bit of background.

Working Time = Driving + OTHER WORK.

Breaks = Breaks and DO NOT include PERIODS OF AVAILABILITY.

Easy so far…. Well it does not get any harder.

There are, in essence TWO Breaks regulations –yes, honestly that’s true – so look at it this way -there really are TWO and you have to conform to both of them, we will explain:-

BREAK RULE 1 – think of this as the “Continuous Working rule”

A driver cannot work for more than SIX hours without taking a BREAK.

That BREAK can be as little as 15 Minutes – YES, 15 minutes – that’s correct.  FIFTEEN – ONE FIVE Minutes. Anyone who tells you that its 30 minutes is WRONG……

Once that 15 minute has been taken, it in effect “resets” the Drivers Continuous Working Clock and there the driver can then complete another maximum period of 6 hours straight (of Working Time) before another Break is needed. That BREAK can also be 15 minutes.

That’s it.

BREAK RULE 2 – think of this as the “Accumulated Working rule”

Under 6 hours – Forget it – this doesn’t apply

  1. Between 6 and 9 hours

If during the course of a Spreadover, a Driver accumulates between 6 and 9 hours of Working Time then that Driver must show BREAKS totalling at least 30 minutes INSIDE that Spreadover. The BREAKS have to be within the spreadover and therefore Daily and Weekly rest periods DO NOT COUNT – BREAKS are there in effect to “BREAK UP” the Drivers day.

  1. Over 9 hours

If, during the course of a Spreadover, a Driver accumulates over 9 hours of Working Time then that Driver must show BREAKS totalling at least 45 minutes inside that Spreadover.

As in BREAK RULE 1 – these breaks only need to be at least 15 minutes long to Qualify as BREAKS under the Working Time Directive. Therefore breaks of 18 and 27 minutes would not be enough for a 4 ½ hours Driving Breaks (as the 27 minutes would need to be 30 minutes) but the 18 and 27 would be enough for the 45 minutes under the WTD as they add up to 45 minutes.

So for Break Rule 2, simply add up the amount of Working Time accumulated and decide if it’s in Group 6 to 9 or in the Group above 9 and take the required breaks relevant to that period.

A Couple of things to remember that don’t make this any more complicated!

Breaks that a Drivers takes under EC Driver Hours Rules Count towards Working Time Directive breaks as well and vice versa – but remember the “qualifying Break limits” are slightly different under both sets of Regulations.

So, if you think about it, the maximum break time that’s ever required to comply with RULE 2 is 45 minutes. Therefore, if you take a single 45 minute break under EC Drivers Hours (for the 4 ½ hours Driving rule), then you automatically comply with Break Rule 2. End of.

The  4 ½ hour Driving Rule in the Drivers Hours rules allows breaks to be split into a 15 followed by a 30. If you do that, then each of those breaks will reset the SIX HOUR Clock as every 15 minute break resets the 6 hour cycle. Those same 15 and 30 minute breaks add up to 45 minutes which is the largest period of BREAK TIME required to comply with BREAK RULE 2.

Some of the Rumours that we have heard about the Working Time Directive – these are genuine rumours:

“You have to work at least for an hour before you can take a break” — Rubbish – you can take a break after a minute and if that break is 15 minutes you then start a new 6 hour maximum.

“All Breaks have to be at least 30 minutes long”  — Rubbish – minimum qualifying breaks are 15 minutes.

“If I accumulate 12 hours of Working Time, I have to take 30 minutes of breaks before the 9 hour point and 15 minutes after then”  — Rubbish – if you accumulate 12 hours of Working time the Law says you have to show 45 minutes of breaks somewhere INSIDE THAT SPREADOVER – it does not say WHERE in that spread you need to take them.

“POA counts as a break under the Working Time Directive” – Oh no it doesn’t.

“The Working Time Directive does not apply in Northern Ireland !” – OH YES IT DOES !


If you have any questions about the Working Time Directive, drop us an Email and we will get back to you.