New regulations for charter coach services: understanding changes to legal driving times under regulation 561/2006

20th May 2024
By Rui Rocha

The European regulation 561/2006 is a legal act designed to ensure road safety by preventing driver fatigue and promoting adequate rest periods. Compliance with legal driving times is crucial in the transport industry, specifically for drivers of coaches, buses, and trucks. In other words, this regulation affects both passenger and freight industries. This regulation establishes caps for driving times on both a daily and a weekly basis. The regulation also sets minimum rest times. Such rules have a considerable impact on operational planning and will soon be subject to updates.

To summarize concisely, under regulation 561/2006, drivers are subject to specific driving and rest requirements:

  • Drivers cannot drive for more than 4 hours and 30 minutes continuously.
  • After this period, they must take a rest break of at least 45 minutes before driving for another maximum of 4 hours and 30 minutes. This can be replaced by two periods (15 minutes + 30 minutes)
  • The total daily driving time must not exceed 9 hours. Twice a week this time can be 10 hours.
  • Following driving, a rest period of 11 consecutive hours is required before resuming driving. This period can be reduced to 9 hours three times a week.
  • This cycle can be repeated for up to six consecutive days, after which a mandatory rest period of at least 45 hours is needed. This can be reduced to 24 hours every two weeks and must be recovered within a period of three weeks.
  • The 9 hours of daily driving must be completed within a maximum period of 15 hours (duty cycle).

These rules have an exception that applies to charter services. In this type of service, the total number of consecutive driving days can be increased to 12. There are two conditions for this exception: it must be a single service and the service must cross at least a border and remain in a third country for more than 24 hours.[1]

From May 22nd, 2024, there a few changes will enter into force regarding charter services.

The first change is the rest period required after a driving time of 4 hours and 30 minutes. Under normal circumstances, after driving for 4h 30’ drivers must take a period of rest of 45 minutes or take two periods of 15 minutes plus 30 minutes. The new regulation states that this rest can be replaced by two 15-minute periods. This change can have a significant impact, allowing the bus to arrive at its destination up to 30 minutes earlier. Consequently, drivers can start earlier the next day. These changes also enhance the quality of the service from the passenger’s perspective.

The second change relates to the provision allowing drivers to work for 12 consecutive days without the requirement to cross a border. This means they can conduct a single charter service within a single country for up to 12 days.

This change brings significant benefits to the operations departments, by removing the need to replace drivers during long services. It increases drivers’ availability and allows saving costs associated with transporting another driver to the service location and bringing the previous driver back (flights, train/bus tickets, hotels, etc.). In addition, usually tourists and tour leaders prefer to keep the same driver throughout the entire tour.

The third aspect concerns the duty cycle. In other words, if a service lasts more than eight days, drivers can extend his/her duty cycle for 16 hours twice, provided that he/she did not drive for more than 7 hours on the previous day. This adds flexibility to the operation planning process as well as to the service itself.

The new regulation also stipulates that drivers must retain a copy of the previous route sheets for 56 days, instead of the current 28 days. This rule will take effect from 2025.  Nevertheless, the European Union aims to replace paper route sheets with digital versions by the end of 2026. It is expected that by this date, it will be possible to indicate the type of service in the tachograph which will demonstrate that the driver was engaged in a charter service.

These changes will be highly beneficial for operations departments, as they introduce greater flexibility and availability when planning operations. VTM is well-informed of these changes and is fully available and prepared to advise our clients on bus operations planning.

As a final remark, operations managers are encouraged to observe these new rules prudently. Professional drivers are human beings, and factors such as mental health, work-life balance and family commitments should carefully be taken into consideration for the sake of all road users’ safety.



[1] The legal driving times are controlled by national traffic authorities across the European Union through tachographs. These devices record driver rests, driving times and vehicle operating data.