Vehicles which are used in connection with sewerage, flood protection, water, gas and electricity maintenance services may be exempt from the EC drivers’ hours rules. For interested readers, this is covered by EC Regulation 561/2006.
But there is also a maintenance caveat that limits how far this exemption goes.
The key word here is ‘maintenance’ – what does it actually mean? We have published an advice note on GOV.UK to define what ‘maintenance’ can mean in the context of the exemption.
Basically, for vehicles to qualify they must be directly involved in maintenance work, where part of the existing utility infrastructure is being repaired or replaced.
For example, a vehicle used when replacing an existing section of underground pipe would be exempt from the EC drivers’ hours rules, but a vehicle used when installing a new underground piping system would not.
Some electricity companies argue that all their vehicles are exempt because all their work goes towards maintaining the national grid. But this goes beyond the exemption, and some of these operations are in fact bound by EC drivers’ hours rules.
Some sewerage companies believe that vehicles transporting sludge from their plants should be exempt. Although removing sludge from the sewage system can be seen as maintenance, actually transporting sludge from the plant may not. If sludge is removed directly from the sewage system onto the vehicle and transported away immediately, this maintenance work would be exempt. However, if sludge is removed from the system then stored at the plant before being transferred onto a vehicle, the ‘maintenance’ element would have been completed before the sludge was transported, so this journey would fall under EC drivers’ hours rules.