Covid-19: Relaxed Driving Hours and Testing Changes

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the transport and haulage sector has been experiencing unprecedented pressures to help maintain local and national supply chains. In response to these pressures, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) recently introduced a variety of temporary measures to help transport and haulage organisations cope.  

Specifically, these measures include MOT exemptions, driving test suspensions and a temporary relaxation of the EU and GB drivers’ hours regulations. Have a look at the following compliance guidance for further information on these measures.  

MOT Exemptions 

The DVSA has issued MOT exemptions for all cars, motorcycles, vans and other light vehicles for six months, starting 30th March 2020. This means that each of your vehicles’ existing MOT due dates will be extended by an additional six months if they were due to expire on or before 30th March 2020.  

The DVSA will automatically update each vehicle’s expiry date about seven days before they’re due for an MOT. If any of your vehicles’ expiry dates are not updated three days before they’re due for an MOT, you will need to email the DVSA for further guidance. In your email, be sure to include the date your MOT expired and your vehicle registration number. From there, the DVSA will email you when your vehicle’s record has been updated. 

If any of your vehicles’ MOTs expired on or before 29th March 2020, you must still book an MOT as usual, unless you or someone you live with has COVID-19 or you’re extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. If you cannot get your vehicle(s) tested for any reason, you will need to register your vehicle(s) as ‘off the road’ and avoid operating on public roads. 

The DVSA has also issued MOT exemptions for all lorries, buses and trailers for three months, starting 31st March 2020. This means that each of your vehicle’s existing MOT due dates will be extended by an additional three months. In most cases, your vehicles will automatically be issued this exemption, and you will not need to do anything further. However, you will need to apply for an exemption if any of your vehicles fit into the following categories: 

  • Any lorry, bus or trailer that was due for its first MOT before 31st March 2020 but wasn’t tested 
  • Any lorry, bus or trailer that is returning to service with a test certificate that expired before March 2020 
  • Any lorry, bus or trailer that was due for a dangerous goods test (ADR) before 31st March 2020 but wasn’t tested 
  • A lorry, bus or trailer that was due for an MOT before 31st March 2020 and didn’t receive an exemption 

In these circumstances, you will need to email the DVSA for further guidance. In your email, be sure to include your name, phone number, address, vehicle registration number, vehicle identification number, trailer ID (if applicable) and test expiry date. Further, ensure your email has an appropriate subject heading (eg ‘first text exemptions’, ‘out of service vehicles’, ‘ADR enquiries’ or ‘test exemption error’).  

You can tax any of your vehicles (regardless of vehicle type) as soon as its MOT expiry date has been extended. You will not receive a paper certificate confirming each vehicle’s MOT exemption. To check the MOT history of any of your vehicles, click here (this service does not apply to vehicles that haven’t had an MOT before). Keep in mind that you must still keep all of your vehicles safe to drive 

Driving Test Suspensions 

The DVSA has suspended driving tests for three months, starting 20th March 2020. If any of your employees had a car-driving test booked, they will get an email within two weeks of their originally scheduled testing date from the DVSA telling them the new date and time of their test. Employees can expect their new test to be around three months after their originally scheduled testing date. 

If any of your employees had a different type of driving test booked (eg lorry or bus), the DVSA will not rebook the test for them. They will receive a full refund and have to schedule their test in the future. The DVSA is currently not scheduling new driving tests. However, when driving tests begin again, those who had their tests cancelled will be given first priority. Employees can sign up for email alerts from the DVSA regarding testing capabilities here. 

The DVSA has also suspended theory tests until 8th May 2020. This includes Driver Certificate of Professional Competence theory tests. If any of your employees had a theory test booked on or before 8th May 2020, their test will be cancelled and they will have to schedule a new testing date after 8th May 2020. The DVSA will fully refund all cancelled tests during this time. Employees can still book, change or cancel theory tests for 9th May 2020 and onwards. 

If your organisation’s operations are deemed critical to the COVID-19 response (eg transporting medical supplies or other essential goods), your employees can apply for an emergency driving or theory test.    

Relaxed Drivers’ Hours Regulations 

The DVSA recently introduced a relaxation of both EU and GB drivers’ hours regulations. Any organisation involved in the transport of goods by road that must usually comply with the EU driver’s hours rules or the GB drivers’ hours rules can implement these relaxations. However, they should only be used when necessary (eg the transport of essential goods). Otherwise, normal drivers’ hours rules should apply. 

The EU drivers’ hours relaxations include: 

  • Increasing the EU daily driving limit from nine hours to 11 hours 
  • Reducing the daily rest requirements from 11 to nine hours 
  • Lifting weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly (90 hours) driving limits to 60 and 96 hours, respectively 
  • Adjusting the requirement to start a weekly rest period from after six 24-hour periods to after seven 24-hour periods (although two regular, weekly rest periods, or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight) 
  • Allowing drivers that utilise relaxation ‘b’ to interrupt their daily rest, by up to one hour, to embark and disembark from a train or a ferry 

Drivers cannot use relaxation ‘a’ and ‘d’ simultaneously. 

The GB drivers’ hours relaxations include: 

  • Increasing the GB duty time limit from 11 hours to 12 hours 
  • Increasing the GB daily driving limit from 10 hours to 11 hours 

Drivers can only take advantage of these relaxations five days in any seven-day period, and must take a rest period of 24 hours within the same seven-day period when taking advantage of this relaxation. 

These relaxations are scheduled to be in place until 31st May 2020, but could be withdrawn earlier depending on COVID-19 developments. Above all, the DVSA emphasised that implementing these relaxations must not compromise road safety. Employers like you remain responsible for maintaining the health and safety of their employees, as well as other road users. 

For additional industry-specific guidance and the latest COVID-19 resources, contact us today.