Sometimes it can be confusing for a courier trying to work out how many hours and days they can legally work for and how exactly the ‘on-duty’ rule works. Such confusion can cause problems in the workplace with self-employed couriers worried about their record-keeping, and employers worried about the legal implications of the ‘Working Time Directive’. In this article we attempt to clean up some of the confusion and lay out the law in a simple and non-complicated format.
One thing that it’s important to know is that the rules by which you are bound, the GB Domestic Drivers’ Rules, apply to the drivers of all vehicles in Great Britain, however small – cycle couriers take note! Of course, it goes without saying that these rules only apply to vehicles that are driven in connection with a business. So driving your personal vehicle to and from the work place doesn’t count and neither do hours spent driving as a courier in the EU; for example your tacho regulations don’t count towards your GB Domestic Drivers’ limit.
Hopefully this doesn’t sound too complicated as the rules are actually quite straightforward. In any day, which is defined as a 24 hour period from the time that your shift started, you’re allowed to drive for a maximum of 10 hours. The legal definition of driving is being at the controls of a vehicle for the purposes of controlling its movement, whether it’s moving or stationary with the engine running. The reason we’ve specified this definition is to clear up any confusion you may have as a courier over whether or not sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 counts towards your working time – the answer is that yes, it does.
However, while you’re only allowed to drive for 10 hours, you are allowed to be on duty for 11 hours during the same period. The ‘on duty’ rule differs between employed and self-employed couriers and as a result many people get confused about this aspect.
If you’re an employed courier then the term on-duty means any working time. Washing the vans, answering the phones and loading and unloading are all included under this umbrella term. However, for self-employed drivers it’s different. In this instance “on-duty” only refers to work that’s connected with the vehicle – cleaning your van, loading it up and of course driving would be classed as “on-duty”, however, answering the phone and sweeping the yard would not.
Ultimately this is where the confusion lies, but one thing that it’s important to note is that in both instances the actual driving time can never exceed more than 10 hours. Even though obviously driving is classified as “on-duty” for self-employed couriers, if you’re having a particularly slow day, delivery wise, you’ll be pleased to note that there are no restrictions on on-duty time if you’re driving for less than four hours a day. In this instance it would be fine to work in the warehouse loading and unloading for ten hours and then go onto drive for four hours.
These rules are enforced by the VOSA and it’s worth mentioning that the police and the VOSA officials will go to extraordinary lengths to establish how long a courier has been working, so make sure you stick to the rules.