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Driving their horsebox at weekends could be virtually impossible for many amateur riders, due to yet more red tape over vehicle legislation. An about-turn and strict ruling from the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA) bans anyone with a full-time job from driving their HGV lorry at weekends.

The latest ruling was given to reader Miles Nicholson last month, and confirmed to H&H. It concerns the rest periods required by law for all drivers of large vehicles over 7.5tonnes (formerly HGV), whether private or professional — and is not only at odds with previous advice, but comes as a shock to UK equestrian organisations.

Since 2006, it has been mandatory for all large horseboxes to have a tachograph fitted and for drivers of such vehicles to keep records of driving time. Under this ruling (EC Regulation 561/2006), drivers are required to take weekly rest periods of either 24 or 45 hours (see article on legal requirements and restrictions for horsebox drivers).

But this is not just a rest from driving — the individual must have a rest from any work for the requisite number of hours if they are to drive their vehicle within the law.

This means any rider or parent of a rider who has an unconnected full-time job to their hobby is not legally able to drive their horses in a large horsebox for both days of every weekend.

A VOSA spokesman confirmed: “Other work, as well as driving hours, are counted as duty days — i.e working in an office from Monday to Friday counts as five daily periods, therefore after the sixth day, the driver requires a weekly rest period.”

This advice totally contradicts that given to H&H last summer (Your transport problems solved, 26 June 2008), to the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) and its member bodies, and the British Horse Society (BHS), which handles half a dozen calls each week from confused drivers.

BHS welfare executive Rachel Molloy said: “This is going to be huge. It’s not what we were led to believe — all sources of information we have received so far — from VOSA and Defra to the media — have said all along this legislation didn’t apply to private horseboxes.”

She added: “There must be a huge amount of non-compliance out there — people won’t know they’re breaking the law.”

For this story in full, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (5 March, 09)

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Find out more about legal requirements and restrictions for horsebox drivers