Working hours of drivers. Breaks in continuous driving

22 October 2019

A professional driver, like any other employee, is entitled to work breaks in addition to driving breaks. This is regulated by Article 7 of Regulation 561/2006, which requires the driver to take a minimum break of 45 minutes after a maximum of 4.5 hours of driving a truck. Taking these breaks is verified by the Polish Road Transport Inspection (ITD) and the Labour Inspectorate, and their inspection must be taken very seriously, as the authorities take similar offences very rigorously. For this reason, it is advisable to look for parking lots for trucks to take breaks as early as possible.

In Poland, as in other Member States of the European Union, the problem of the lack of parking spaces for trucks is very acute. This results in drivers flexing their working time because, on the one hand, delivery times are important and, on the other hand, drivers have to waste time looking for an available parking space. In case when there is no availble space, the truck drivers stop in prohibited places, for example at the road and motorway sides. And as we know, a truck cannot be parked just anywhere, because it affects the carrier’s responsibility for the load in case of theft or damage.

The result is an absurd situation in which truck drivers have to pay fines for the lack of adequate parking infrastructure. Unfortunately, this is not illegal, as the judicial and control authorities believe that proper route planning, including the margin that may arise from unforeseen events on the road, is the responsibility of transport companies and their drivers. They have no choice but to comply with the law and follow all requirements and regulations.

Break when the truck is stationary

With this in mind, it is recommended to plan the driving and delivery according to the risk calculation. Therefore, a suitable parking space for the truck should be sought at least one hour before the planned stop. If the traffic is heavy, for example on weekends or before Christmas, even earlier. If possible, a booking can also be made at the parking lot for trucks.
Just remember that the driving planning should be done with consideration of all the norms and possibilities that can be used. In this case, the driver shall not be obliged to take a break during one stop. The break can be divided into two parts, the first one being at least 15 minutes and the second one at least 30 minutes.

Caution! The order is important. In addition, a split break should be planned so that these 30 minutes end a maximum of 4.5 hours of driving time.

Work break and driving break

The rules governing the working time of truck drivers stipulate that the break must start at the latest after the sixth working hour, and in continuous driving no later than after 4.5 hours. Therefore, if the truck driver’s job is just to drive, then a break must be taken first, as a 45-minute break is considered a required work break. Regardless of whether it is realised as a whole or divided into two: 15 and 30 minutes.
The situation is slightly different if the driver, in addition to driving, also performs other activities that are included in the working time of the truck driver. In this case, the sixth working hour shall end when the driver starts working and not only driving. For example, a truck driver would drive for four hours by car to the pick-up point of a truck, which would then only be driven for two hours. Therefore, the sixth working hour ends after the second truck driving hour. The driver must take a break from work and this break can also be considered as a break from driving. If it was long, it can be treated as part of the driving break.