Driving times and breaks

A coach driver is not allowed to drive longer than 4 ½ hour straight, then has to take a break. A break of journey is regulated as “a period during which the driver must not carry out any driving activities or any other work and which is solely to be used for relaxation…”.

These breaks have to take at least 45 minutes and the driver is not even allowed to e.g. make coffee for his guests.

In a multi-driver crew (see below), the break of journey can take place in the front passenger seat. But the same counts: No work.

The described break may be split, in which the first half has to take at least 15 minutes and the other half at least 30 minutes. The 30-minute break has to take place no later than 4 ½ hours. When exactly the 15-minute break takes place doesn’t matter, as long as it’s before the 30-minute break. Theoretically, the driver could take his first break after 10 minutes. The second part then has to take place after 4 ½ hours at the most.

A violation of the drive and break times can result in considerable fines!

It is also important to point out that once the 45-minute break has taken place, a new driving block begins and the driver can again drive for 4 ½ hours.

One bus driver may not drive more than 9 hours a day although twice a week, the travel time can be increased to 10 hours. The term ‘week’ is defined as “… the period between 00.00 on Monday and 24.00 on Sunday…”.
The maximum weekly travel time is restricted to 56 hours. In two consecutive weeks, the maximum travel time is 90 hours.

Daily rest periods

Regulated daily rest periods

The regulation defines that a bus driver’s work shift cannot exceed 13 hours after which he then has to take a break of at least 11 hours.

Split daily rest periods

The daily rest period may be taken in two parts, in which the first part has to be at least 3 hours long and the second part at least 9 hours. The maximum shift time of the driver is then 15 hours, in which a 3-hour rest period has to occur.

Shortened daily rest periods

As an exception, the daily shift time can also be extended to 15 hours and the subsequent rest period may be reduced to 9 hours, without a 3-hour rest period in between. However this is only allowed on three days between two weekly rest periods (see below).

“Ferry rule”

The “Ferry rule” governs a situation that is more common in freight than in passenger transport. For completeness, it is nevertheless mentioned briefly. If a coach is transported by train or ferry, the driver my interrupt his daily rest period up to two times for a total of no more than an hour (e.g. to manoeuvre the vehicle). This is only possible, if the interruption occurs during a rest period of at least 11 hours.

Multi-driver crew

A multi-driver crew is according to the regulations given, if there are at least two drivers in one vehicle. This even applies if the trip begins with only one driver, and the second driver boards within a maximum of one hour after departure.

In a multi-driver crew, the day is considered to be not 24-hours, but 30-hours long. At the end of this period, the driver must take a 9-hour rest period. Accordingly, the maximum shift length is 21 hours.

Weekly rest period

Over a period of two weeks, a driver must take two weekly rest periods. This weekly rest period must take place no later than 6 working days into the two-week period  (see exception below).

To get normal (“regular”) weekly rest periods, a daily rest period is extended to 45 hours. Every second weekly rest period may be reduced to up to 24 hours however the difference must be made up in the following three weeks.

Rule of thumb for practice (no night driving!)

A day of driving is roughly equivalent of a rest period of about 32 to 36 hours, so it must be made up in about 9-13 hours. Two days off work correspond to a rest period of about 56-60 hours. Within these days off, they can be made up within 11-15 hours. Weekly alternating patterns of one, then two days off a week can thus allow a good balance.

Exceptions for cross-border travel

Before EU regulation 561 came into effect, drivers were allowed to work for up to 12 consecutive days and had to subsequently add two rest days.

Apparently, the associations were asleep during the hearings, because since regulation 561, this was suddenly not the case anymore.  Foreign travel that went longer than six days now had to include an entire rest day or the driver had to be replaced. Therefore, the organisations were up in arms against the new regime of weekly rest periods  – with success.

Since December 4, 2011, drivers that are used in cross-border-travel, are now allowed to work 12 consecutive days, if the following conditions are met:

  • the journey must go abroad for at least 24 hours
  • the driver must have a minimum 45-hour rest period before driving
  • the driver has to take two weekly rest periods after the journey (one of which may be shortened)

From January 1, 2014, the following additional requirements apply to the application of the exception regulation:

  • the bus must be equipped with a digital tachograph
  • for night time travel (between 22:00 – 06:00), the allowable continuous driving time for the driver can be no more than 3 hours (does not apply to multi-driver crews)

Other provisions

Rest periods on the bus

If the bus is equipped with a sleeper cabin, daily rest periods and reduced weekly periods may be taken on the bus. However, the bus may not move.

Take-over trips

If a driver takes his own car to the take-over point (or back from there), it counts as additional work time, but not driving time. If the take-over driver is taken there by another person, it counts as willingness to work and also counts as shift time. Only if the driver has a bed (or sleeper) on a train, the time on the train counts as rest time.


If the driver gets caught in e.g. a traffic jam and thus exceeds his tolerable driving- or shift time, he cannot simply leave the bus on the highway. In this case, the driver may continue until he reaches a suitable stopping place; if this is necessary to guarantee the safety of the passengers and security of the vehicle; as long as the overall safety is not compromised.

Immediately after reaching the stopping place, the driver must write a handwritten reason for the deviation from the rules on the record sheet or on a printout of the recording sheet