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How long can I drive a van for?

If you drive a van for work, there are strict rules on how often you should stop for a break – follow our guide to avoid a hefty fine...

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As with most things related to the world of vans, the issue of how long you can actually drive for isn’t straightforward. And of course, not knowing the rules is no defence if you fall foul of the law. You’ll face a heavy fine and most likely have points added to your licence for breaking the rules, so it pays to know what’s what. Here, we'll run through what you need to know.

Driving licence

For a start, you need to make sure you have the correct driving licence. If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you’ll already have category C1 entitlement, which allows you to drive anything up to 7.5 tonnes. In addition, you should also have C1+E towing entitlement, which lets you tow a 750kg trailer behind a 7.5-tonne van. 

However, if you passed your test after 1 January 1997, your licence will only cover you to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes, although you can still use that vehicle to tow a 750kg trailer. If you want to drive a heavier van and passed your test after that date, you’ll need to pass a supplementary driving test first.

Van Driver

Drivers’ hours and breaks

If you happen to be moving from one end of the country to the other and have hired a van to carry all your stuff, then you can drive for as long as you need to. Of course, if you have an accident because you were too tired to drive, then that’s a different matter altogether.

However, if you drive a van for business use, then there are some strict rules you must adhere to, called the Great Britain domestic rules on drivers’ hours. These are complex, so it’s well worth your time familiarising yourself with them.

If you are driving a van that weighs less than 3.5 tonnes, you must not drive for more than 10 hours in a single 24-hour period. In addition to that, the total time you spend driving and working for an employer, which is called your duty, must not exceed 11 hours. Bear in mind, however, that this figure does not incorporate time spent on breaks.

Duty rules are not applicable if you drive for less than four hours on each day, but if your driving time exceed four hours on just one day, then duty rules apply for the entirety of the following week. Some professions are granted exemptions from these rules, so if you’re a doctor, dentist, midwife, nurse or vet who drives a van, then the duty rules don’t apply to you.

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A different set of regulations apply if you are driving a vehicle that weighs more than 3.5 tonnes. These rules, originally from the European Union, prevent you from driving more than nine hours per day, but allow drivers to do a 10-hour day twice per week. Drivers must also drive less than 56 hours in a week, or 90 hours in a two-week period.

The rules dictate a 45-minute rest after every four-and-a-half hours of driving. This needn’t be one period – it can be two shorter stops, but the first must last for at least quarter of an hour. Any driver should also have at least 11 consecutive hours of rest between shifts (again, there is flexibility because you can have as few as nine hours, three times per week), and a driver must also log 45 hours of continuous ‘weekly rest’ six days after their previous weekly rest.

It's worth noting that if you are driving a van weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, then you'll be required to use a time-keeping device called a tachograph to record your hours under most circumstances.

Stay in the know

It pays to make sure that you and anyone you employ are both properly licensed and adhering to the rules on driving time. Failure to do so could land you and your employee in court, and could seriously restrict your ability to conduct your business. So make sure you know what’s what and stay on the right side of the law.

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