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Drivers’ hours and working time rules – summary

Drivers’ working time comprises all legal regulations aimed at creating clear rules for calculating the working time frames of a professional driver. The developed standards are intended to constitute a consensus between the optimal fulfilment of daily duties by drivers and road safety. The applicable regulations are quite complicated and give rise to a number of ambiguities and interpretation problems. However, they cannot be underestimated, because a tired driver is a real threat to all road users. Violations of the regulations are also associated with high penalties imposed by the ITD, inspectors of the National Labour Inspectorate, police officers, customs service and border control. What is the difference between a break and a rest? What is the correct way to calculate driver working time? Please read our summary.

Drivers’ working hours under the law

European Union countries strive to unify the laws of the Member States relating to the work of a professional driver. The implementation of European standards into the Polish legal system is provided by the Act of April 16, 2004 on drivers’ working time. The following are also important when calculating the working time of professional drivers:

  • Regulation EC No. 561/2006 of March 15, 2006 on the harmonization of certain social legislation related to road transport
  • European agreement concerning the work of vehicles carrying out international road transport (AETR) of August 30, 1999
  • amending Council Regulations (EEC) No 3821/85 and (EC) 2135/98
  • Act of September 6, 2001 on road transport
  • Act of June 26, 1974 – the Labour Code
  • Act of November 15, 1984 – transport law.

Quite a few legal acts pertaining to one issue, right? Some law professors also refer to the Act of January 18, 1951 on public holidays and the Act of June 20, 1997, Road Traffic Law, but these play a rather complementary role.

Measuring a driver’s working time –  general rules

The main tool used to measure the driver’s working time is the tachograph, i.e. a measuring tool. Professional drivers traveling in vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, carrying both goods and over 9 people, are required to record driving times, any breaks and rest periods. The tachograph records the vehicle speedometer readings and the driver’s ongoing activity. This is extremely important because the working time of a professional driver includes all activities related to the performance of road transport, that is:

  • driving a vehicle
  • all activities related to loading and unloading, including the waiting period
  • securing the goods
  • vehicle and semi-trailer servicing
  • cleaning the vehicle
  • administrative formalities, i.e. completing transport documents and other “paperwork”
  • forwarding activities
  • assistance and supervision activities connected to persons getting on and off the vehicle
  • 15-minute breakfast break, if the daily shift is at least 6 hours

What cannot be counted as working time?

The objective scope of the driver’s working time is quite extensive and includes all activities that make up the work actually performed. The following cannot be included in the driver’s working time:

  • on-call time during which the driver did not perform his duties
  • unjustified stops while driving
  • daily uninterrupted rest
  • breaks established in the equivalent working time system

Calculating a driver’s working time is not easy because his responsibilities are not limited to driving. There is no ideal method to verify the driver’s activities that are performed outside the truck. Working time and driving time are two separate matters.

Driver’s working time and the mobility package

Technological progress and subsequent changes implemented through the so-called Mobility Package seek to develop tachographs and greater control of driver activity. Currently, the requirement to have tachographs is limited to drivers of vehicles with a maximum permissible weight exceeding 3.5 tons, carrying out road transport. The driver’s responsibilities in this regard will be gradually expanded in 2024 and 2026. New generation tachographs will also appear in delivery vehicles of transport companies, and the work regulations concerning van drivers will be harmonized with those of truck drivers.

Daily driving time

Daily driving time

According to the current legal regulations, the maximum daily driving time for a professional driver is 9 hours. Two times a week, it can go up to 10 hours, where the week is considered to run from 00:01 on Monday until midnight on Sunday. Daily driving can be done in several parts and is usually dependent on the logistics of the route planning. On international stretches, the most popular formula is 4h 30 minutes of driving, 45 minutes break and again 4 h 30 minutes of driving. However, this is only an example. To fully understand the issue of the driver’s daily working time, it is necessary familiarize oneself with the rules of driver breaks.

Mandatory break from work

A break at work results from generally accepted employee rights, which affect the safety, well-being and productivity of employees. If the driver has driven the vehicle for 4.5 hours, he is required to take a 45-minute break. It can be broken down over time into two shorter breaks: minimum 15 and 30 minutes. The sequence is important here – the second break should, as a rule, be longer. Apart from the above-mentioned breaks in driving, the driver also has a 15-minute breakfast break. Another scenario occurs where the driver drives the vehicle for 10 hours in one day. In this case, he is required to take two 45-minute breaks after each 4.5 hours of driving the truck. The last hour of driving then only takes place after the second break.

Working day

The working day is a period of 24 hours that begins when the driver starts work. Other colloquial terms, such as “driver’s day”, “daily period” or “daily work” are also common. The working day consists of periods of work, breaks and rest, all included in the 24-hour cycle. Therefore, there is no such thing as 8-9 days in one week or the beginning of two working days in one day. The day is 24 hours and depends on the moment the first professional activities are taken up, even if it is only being ready at your workplace. It works in a similar way in other professional groups. If you work from Monday to Friday from 08:00 am to 3:00 pm, your working day starts at 08:00 on one day and ends at 08:00 on the next day. Certain semantic turmoil in the day of the working driver resulted earlier from counting the driving time after each rest period. Remember that the working day and the driving period between rests are two different concepts that should not be confused.

Team driving – crew of two

Road transport drivers have the option of driving in a crew, i.e. doing team driving. In this option, they travel together in the same vehicle and take turns at the wheel, while respecting their right to rest. It is important that the second driver joins the first within the first hour of driving. In practice, the abovementioned time is usually used to pick up the second driver who could not show up at the company’s base. Each of the drivers can drive the vehicle for 9 hours each day, with the option of going up to 10 hours twice per week. Both drivers must rest at the same time, as the period spent in the passenger seat while one of the drivers is driving is not considered rest. Thus, the double manning of one transport introduces further changes in the calculation of working time.

Driver’s on-call shift –  the charms of the passenger seat

In the case of team driving, a shift is understood to be the time spent by the driver on the passenger seat while the co-driver drives the truck. The driver is entitled to 50% of the base salary for this on-call shift . If drivers switch on the route and drive based on a mixed cycle, this should be recorded in the tachograph – the driver who is driving the vehicle should put his card in the first slot. There are no exceptions to this rule. Drivers are required to log their cards in the tachographs immediately after starting work, even if for one of the drivers this only means readiness to work.

Daily rest period

Daily rest period

The rest period should not be understood as short breaks between periods of driving. It is undisturbed time devoted to sleeping and resting. In other words – after the working time there is time to regenerate. In other professions, it is usually the moment when you leave your workplace and go home. An international driver does not have this option, but is still entitled to a rest period. It is important that the specific driving time and rest period fit within the 24-hour working day. The driver does not have to perform any work-related tasks during the daily rest period. It’s his free time.

How many hours a day can a driver rest?

Basically, we distinguish three types of daily rests:

  • regular rest, which lasts at least 11 hours
  • divided rest, i.e. split into two parts –3 hours + minimum 9 hours
  • shortened rest that lasts at least 9 hours.

The driver’s regular daily rest period is understood to be rest lasting at least 11 hours each working day. This time can be divided into two parts, i.e. 3 hours and an uninterrupted period of 9 hours. The driver can continue driving between the divided rest. However, it is important that he stick to the daily work limits and not interrupt his 9-hour rest. The daily rest may be taken in the vehicle if the vehicle is stationary and is equipped with a place to sleep.

9-hour break – how many times per week?        

Drivers can take advantage of a reduced daily rest of 9 hours. It cannot be interspersed with performed work and can only be used three times within a three-week period. Put simply – within a 3 weeks period, the driver can reduce their rest time three times to an uninterrupted period of 9 hours each. This is actually a rest period, not a break, but drivers usually use the term “9-hour break”.

Daily rest on the ferry

There may be a situation in which the driver takes his daily rest on a ferry. There are no contraindications to this. This rest may be interrupted for the purposes of entering and exiting the ferry. The unused part of the daily rest can be used right after leaving the ferry, in the nearest possible parking lot. The driver must however, have his own sleeping cabin on the ferry. Analogously, these provisions also apply to rail transport. There is also nothing stopping the driver from taking his break on a ship or train. In reality, however, it is unlikely.

Driver’s weekly working time – cheat sheet

Driver’s weekly working time – cheat sheet

The weekly working time does not depend on what time the first working day started. In order to standardize the rules for calculating driver working time, a fixed time frame has been adopted. The driver’s weekly working period begins at 00:00 on Monday and ends at midnight on Sunday. The legislator simplified the matter in order to systematize weekly work cycles and weekly rest periods. The basic rule is very simple. The driver cannot drive the vehicle for longer than 56 hours in a week. Where does this number come from? 6 days a week times 9 hours of driving gives us 54 hours. If we add to this the option of extending the driving time twice to 10 hours within one week, we get 56 hours. This is an impassable limit, which if violated may result in high fines.

Two-week working time for drivers, i.e. new restrictions

You are probably asking yourself at this point whether a driver may drive 112 hours in two weeks since he is allowed to drive 56 hours in one work week? The answer is no. Within a period of two consecutive weeks, the driver may drive the vehicle for a maximum of 90 hours. There is the maximum 56 hours in one week, and at the same time a limit of 90 hours over a 2-week period. This could be 56 hours in the first week and 34 hours in the second, or an even split of 45 hours in each of the two weeks. The driver’s two-week driving time assumes 90 hours of driving for 14 days, which comes out to an average of 6.42 hours of driving per day.

Driver weekly rest

This is by no means a 7-day rest period. The regular weekly rest lasts 45 hours and should be started at the latest by the driver at the end of the six daily work cycles, based on the end of the previous weekly rest period. Simply put, the driver’s working time is the driving time and the rest time. After finishing the weekly regular rest, the driver may proceed to the next cycle of six working days. It is important that the regular weekly rest period not take place in the cabin of the vehicle. To simplify the matter a bit: 6 workdays spent on work-related tasks should culminate in a 45-hour regular rest.

Reduced regular rest periods

In the case of international transport, when the driver is outside the country where the company’s headquarters are located, he may take two reduced rest periods of at least 24 hours. However, this entails the requirement to take two consecutive regular rests of 45 hours. In a 4- week period, the driver may therefore take two regular weekly rests and two shortened weekly rests.

Two shortened weekly rests in a row – rules

In order for a driver to be able to take shortened weekly rests of a minimum of 24 hours (less than 45 hours) two weeks in a row, the following conditions must be met:

  • the rest period applies strictly to international transport
  • both reduced rest periods must be performed outside Poland
  • after two reduced weekly rests, the driver is entitled to compensation for the shortened rest
  • after two reduced weekly rest periods, there must be a regular rest, that will take place either at the company premises or at the place of residence.

What’s more, the changes introduced by the 2020 mobility package require a return to one’s place of residence for a weekly break every 4 weeks of work. It is also not possible to divide the regular weekly rest into two consecutive weeks.

Night working time

The Drivers’ Working Hours Act is lex specialis with respect to the Labour Code and defines night hours for drivers as a 4-hour period between midnight and 07:00. The employer is obliged to specify in the regulations or terms of employment the exact period considered to be night-time. It is up to each transport company to decide, depending on the specificity of work in a given place. This is important for the driver’s rest. If the driver performs any work during the hours specified by the employer as night-time, his working time between two rest periods may not exceed 10 hours.. Simultaneously, night work should require the employee’s consent.

Hour converter: driver overtime

In some situations, the driver may work overtime. The maximum annual limit of overtime hours recognized by the PIP is 416 hours. The Labour Code, in turn, specifies a maximum limit of 260 overtime hours. The jurisprudence of courts in this respect varies and focuses on the examination of individual cases.

Overtime and salary supplement

The employee is entitled to a payment of 50% or 100% added to the standard salary for overtime hours worked. However, this requires making individual arrangements with the employer. If there was no such agreement, then overtime may only result from a real threat to life or health, emergency or exceptional, urgent needs of the employer. The driver can exchange overtime for free time at his own request (ratio 1: 1) or at the request of the employer (ratio 1: 1.5).

What vehicles are not governed by drivers’ working time regulations?

The regulations on drivers’ working time exclude vehicles that are not required to record working time using tachographs, that is the following vehicles:

  • military
  • historic
  • medical
  • specialized
  • driven on private property, if they do not enter a public road even for a moment
  • not approved for traffic
  • public transport on fixed city routes

If vehicles equipped with a tachograph operate on private premises, such as construction sites or private forests, they should have the tachograph selector switched to the OUT position.

Employer obligations – working time records

After May 29, 2022, in accordance with Art. 25 of the Act on drivers’ working time, the records of working time kept in paper or electronic form must contain:

  • number of hours worked
  • start and end time of work
  • number of hours worked at night
  • number of overtime hours
  • days off with an indication of why they were granted
  • the number of on-call hours and the start and end time of the on-call shift, with an indication of whether it is on-call shift at home
  • type and number of leaves from work
  • type and number of other justified absences from work

The driver’s time record sheet is one of the requirements that falls on the employer. The employer will have to keep records of a driver’s working time for a period of 10 years after the end of the period covered by the records. In addition, they will have to provide the driver’s records if the driver submits the relevant request.

Driver’s working time uncovered

Conscientious running of a transport company and keeping up with changes in the law is a real challenge. In various legal acts, one can find contradictory information on drivers’ working time, which is verified through experience and jurisprudence of courts. Reading the above article should dispel any doubts regarding the calculation of a driver’s working time. Social and technological progress aims at even greater control of driver activity, and any violations of drivers’ working time can lead to painful financial repercussions. Therefore, make sure that the working time records of professional drivers carrying out road transport are properly recorded.