Ground investigation industry urged to take heed of new EC regulations

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In April 2007, yet another piece of EC Regulation came into force. This relates to drivers’ hours and the need for tachographs to record the information. While the regulations were prompted by the need to revise the conditions for those that spend most of their working day actually behind the wheel as drivers, they do have an impact on the ground investigation industry.

The new rules and regulations are complex but below is an attempt to summarise the important points. Acknowledgement and thanks is due to the British Drilling Association (BDA) who have put a lot of work into ploughing through this potential minefield. The Regulations are available in full from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) in the document GV262 (Second Edition 12/2006) “Drivers Hours and  Tachograph Rules for Goods Vehicles in the UK and Europe”.

The summary below developed from a series of meetings between the BDA, VOSA and the Department of Transport.

The regulations define an “in scope vehicle” as one capable of carrying goods for commercial purposes and over 3.5 tonnes maximum permissible weight. To quote VOSA, this means “either the maximum permissible gross weight of the vehicle and that of any trailer (added together) or the towing vehicle’s maximum permissible train weight, whichever is the less.” “In scope vehicles” have to be fitted with a tachograph.

Dual purpose vehicles are classified as being capable of carrying goods and towing trailers or drilling rigs. Such vehicles are typically used within the ground investigation industry for towing cable percussion drilling rigs. The words “capable of carrying goods” are important since tools of the trade may be excluded but recovered samples would not.

A trailer is defined as anything that is trailed so includes a cable percussion rig, compressor, bowser or other mobile plant. This definition comes from a Court ruling.

As we all know the tachograph records drivers’ hours. From the 1st May any new ‘’in scope vehicle’’ must have a digital tachograph conforming to EC regulations. Analogue or digital tachographs are allowed in vehicles supplied before this date. Some older vehicles may not be suitable to take digital tachographs so check with the manufacturer before deciding on which type to buy.

EC Drivers’ Hours Rules are complex and require detailed and careful record keeping. They apply to drivers of ‘’in scope vehicles’’ fitted with a tachograph (when 50 kms or more from base) other than drivers who never exceed 10 days driving over a rolling reference period, typically of 17 weeks. UK Domestic Drivers Hours Rules apply to drivers “of in scope vehicles” fitted with a tachograph when within 50 kms of base.

Drivers subject to EC Rules must not exceed an average weekly driving/working time of 48 hours calculated over the rolling reference period. The calculation of the 48 hours has to include all hours worked (driving and other work) wherever incurred. VOSA have stated that there is no opt-out for individuals wishing to work longer than an average 48 hour week, but break periods and periods of availability will not count as working time.

Because the rules are so complex it is advisable that anyone affected consults the Regulations very carefully. If in doubt seek legal advice.

Greg Southgate
RSA Geotechnics Ltd