Governments in the UK have acted swiftly in recent days and weeks to adjust rules and requirements in response to COVID-19, providing some regulatory flexibility for organisations that provide essential goods and services during the outbreak.
Among the temporary changes are the relaxation of drivers’ hours rules, a suspension of the London Lorry Control Scheme, an MOT exemption for cars and lorries, and a delay in the implementation of the IR35 Tax Reform provision that affects commercial contract drivers.
In the spirit of information sharing with our friends and colleagues in transportation during this difficult time, below are some details and links to resources to information for each of these four changes.
Temporary relaxation of UK drivers’ hours rules
Similar to the Hours of Service rules in the United States, the UK’s driver hour rules are designed by the Department for Transport to reduce the risk of drivers being involved in fatigue-related accidents, thus increasing road safety and protecting the working conditions of drivers. On 20 March, the UK Government issued a temporary relaxation of enforcement of EU or GB drivers hours rules. The changes apply to four categories:
- Drivers of vehicles delivering essential products to supermarkets through 16 April in England, Scotland and Wales
- Drivers of vehicles delivering essential items to consumers through 3 April in England, Scotland and Wales
- Drivers undertaking carriage of goods by road in all sectors, through 21 April (continuation of the relaxation past 5 April is subject to review) in England, Scotland and Wales
- Drivers undertaking trunk deliveries of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in England, Scotland and Wales through 29 March 2020
An important aspect to take into account is that the driver hour rules have not been suspended; they have been modified. For qualified drivers, there are five changes:
- The daily driving limit expanded from 9 hours to 11 hours
- The daily rest requirement applies after 11 hours of driving rather than 9 hours
- The maximum number of hours worked in a week increases from 56 to 60
- The requirement to start a weekly rest period after six 24-hour periods increased to seven 24-hour periods
- Daily 45-minute breaks are required after 5.5 hours of driving, up from 4.5 hours
If a journey doesn’t fall under the emergency provisions, the drivers’ hours rules must still be complied with. Also note that the period is subject to change, so check the Department’s website for updates.
Temporary suspension of the London Lorry Control Scheme
The London Councils temporarily suspended enforcement of the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS). The LLCS was devised to help minimise pollution and noise within certain hours and days of the week in London’s residential areas.
“This move aims to help keep London’s shop shelves filled with essential supplies such as food, toilet rolls and hand sanitiser,” the Council said in its statement announcing the suspension.
The suspension extends to April 30, although the Council noted that it will continue to “review and will consider extending the suspension if necessary.”
Delay in the implementation of the IR35 tax reform
Just days before the IR35 tax reform was scheduled to kick in on 6 April 2020, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay announced a one-year postponement to 6 April 2021. The reform applies to personal service companies (PSCs) and would have restricted haulage companies with either 1) net turnover of above £10 million; or 2) 50 or more workers from using drivers who work as limited companies. Instead, the companies would need to either bring on those drivers as employees or hire them through a driver agency.
MOT exemption for cars and vans
Starting March 30, cars and trucks will be exempt from MOT testing for six months.
“Allowing this temporary exemption from vehicle testing will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement announcing the exemption. Shapps noted that repair and maintenance shops will remain open for essential repair work as “safety is key.”
Although these regulations have been relaxed or deferred, Government bodies are emphasising that companies and drivers maintain exemplary safety practices in this unusual and difficult time to prevent collisions and protect drivers who are critical to the supply chain and the continued operation of essential services.