Shock as VOSA changes its mind on horsebox regulations

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

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