Severe weather: drivers’ hours regulations

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Severe weather: drivers’ hours regulations

During severe weather, all drivers should only travel if absolutely essential. They are encouraged to follow all travel warnings, and follow Met Office and Highways England advice.

Lorry drivers who get stuck in snow can use special dispensation to continue their journeys to a parking spot, only if safe to do so. This is to ensure roads are kept as free as possible.

Weather conditions are liable to deteriorate in some areas and both essential and non-essential transport may be advised against or not be possible.

During special circumstances, such as extreme weather events, normal drivers’ hours limits can be exceeded in order for drivers to reach a safe stopping place necessary for public safety (including the safety of the driver, other road users, the load or and the vehicle).

For example, if a commercial vehicle driver gets stuck on a closed road, or experiences a serious delay due to bad weather, they are allowed to continue travelling to a safe parking zone even if this exceeds their normal drivers’ hours.

The decision to travel is as the discretion of the driver. However, they must also ensure that road safety is not compromised when finding a safe and secure stopping place.

Drivers should also note

In addition, an emergency exemption is available for certain operations. This is available when deviation from the normal rules is needed to avoid:

  • danger to life or health of people or animals
  • serious interruption to the maintenance of public services (e.g. water, gas, electricity, drainage) or in the use of roads
  • serious interruption in private or public transport
  • serious damage to property


The use of this exemption is at the discretion of the driver and operator and does not require authorisation from the Department for Transport. Drivers using this exemption should not be expected to drive while tired – employers remain responsible for the safety of their employees and other road users. Therefore, we would not normally expect drivers to drive for more than 11 hours in one day or have less than 9 hours of daily rest. In addition, we believe they should still ensure they take a 45 minute break after 4½ hours driving.

It is unlikely that the relevant provisions of the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005 will apply, to the extent that they conflict with the requirements of responding to the emergency. They will, however, remain subject to all other requirements of the Working Time Regulations in an emergency event.

If exceeding the normally permitted limits, all drivers must indicate the reason on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts. This must be done, at the latest, on arrival at a safe and secure destination or rest area.

If you have any uncertainty or queries about the use of the emergencies or rescue operations exemption, please contact Department for Transport’s Freight Operator Licensing and Roadworthiness Division on 020 7944 2123. Out of hours please contact the DfT Duty Office on 020 7944 5999.