Tachograph History & Background Use

Tachographs, or as the legislation calls them 'recording equipment', have been in use under the current European Union (EU) legislation (EU regulation 3821/85). The regulation's full title is Council Regulation (EEC) No 3821/85 of 20 December 1985 on recording equipment in road transport.

However, tachographs were installed in HGV’s as early as the late ’70s, the author is aware of a new vehicle added to the fleet in 1978 with an analogue VU installed, which was quite an eye-opener.

Over time the tachograph inevitably evolved. In the early days, there were mechanical tachographs, which progressed to the early electronic units, but these were subject to interference by unscrupulous users. In order to combat this interference some amendments were made to the regulations that required diagnostic features to be incorporated into the tachograph, and for the signal, cables to be armoured to prevent tampering. This moves us forward to the modern electronic heads, for example, VDO Siemens 1318, 1319, Stoneridge 8400, and the Motometer.

All of these analogue units record the driver's periods of duty on a waxed paper disc - a tachograph chart. These are not always interchangeable between the different units and are vulnerable to damage and tampering. Then came a new concept in design with the modular units - VDO's 1420 and Stoneridge's 2400. These still use charts but have a remote speedometer fitted, allowing variable location of the main unit. The sender unit signal is also encrypted, increasing security and reducing the need for some of the sealing requirements.

Moving on - the Future

It was inevitable that as technology moved forward, so too would the legislative process that would dictate the future requirements of the industry, and after much debate and testing of the new generation of Tachograph Units, 2007 saw this become reality. Consequently, those vehicles which were not required to be fitted with tachographs had to be as of 11 April 2007.

A vehicle first registered before 1 May 2006 may be fitted with either an analogue or a digital tachograph. A vehicle first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must only be fitted with a digital tachograph.

In the case of Passenger Vehicles, between 11 April 2007 and the date a tachograph is fitted, drivers must keep an extract of the duty roster and service timetable, whereas the drivers of goods vehicles will need to keep manual records.

Digital Tachographs

The legislation governing the use of tachographs in the European Union came into force in October 2011. The main focus of which clarified some of the more important issues facing users in the industry.

Of most immediate impact for the transport industry will be the so-called “One Minute Rule”, which states that the single longest continuous activity undertaken within a given minute will be logged against that specific action. This is a departure from the previous legislation which specified that any minute with at least 5 seconds of drive, be logged as a drive. The implications of this change are huge, potentially allowing significant extra driving time in a day and resolving an issue that had troubled the industry since digital tachographs were introduced in 2006.

The new legislation also addresses the problem of unscrupulous drivers or companies using magnets to invalidate tachograph readings. With the introduction in October 2012 of the requirement to compare the motion sensor input against a second source of motion and the added requirement of having the motion sensor protected against external magnets, the vast majority of companies who keep to the rules found they are not faced with unfair competition from those who flaunt them.

With a number of other measures, including 255 company locks instead of the previous 20, the opportunity to enter the VRN one-time-only on company mode, and improved manual entries provisions, most haulage operators welcomed the new legislation.

It would inevitably happen and subsequently, EU regulation 3821/85 was repealed by Regulation (EU) No 165/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 February 2014 on tachographs in road transport, repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport (Text with EEA Relevance).

So, what is a digital tachograph?

As of 2006, it became a legal requirement to have a digital tachograph installed on your new vehicle (within the categories of passenger, commercial, and goods).

The more advanced version of its well-known predecessor, the analogue tachograph, the digital tachograph records information on a range of vehicle and driver activities, including:

  • Driver activity: This includes what the driver is doing (e.g. driving, working, or having a break).
  • Distance travelled by the driver
  • Date: logged across all activity to ensure the correct hours are assigned to the correct dates.
  • Date and time of each individual activity, including changes made by fleet managers and/or drivers.
  • Tachograph calibrations: This needs to be inspected by an Approved Tachograph Centre every two years to ensure correct readings are recorded.
  • Events that take place, like Card Inserted whilst driving, as well as any faults that happen during the journey.
  • Vehicle speed: This is recorded for every second of movement.
  • Enforcement checks made by either management or emergency services like DVSA.
  • Any tampering with the system: With digital tachographs, this is nearly impossible to do, and, in the vast majority of cases, any tampering activity will be captured.
  • The number of times a driver card is inserted each day: This may include moving from one vehicle to another or could be an indication of tampering.
  • Whether there were a single or two co-drivers: In this instance, there may be co-drivers as a result of the laws that were introduced in 2007, regulated by the EU. The non-stop driving time may not exceed 4.5 hours for a single driver, after which time, the driver must take a break. However, if you are sharing the driving with another individual, this enables a crew’s duties to be spread over a longer period of time.
  • Vehicle registration number.

How Does a Digital Tachograph Work?

Digital tachographs work by digitally recording all data on the driver and vehicle in both its internal memory and also separately on the driver’s smart card. The information must be downloaded every 90 days from the digital tachograph; and every 28 days from the driver card. The tachograph data then needs to be analysed. The analysis covers areas like hours’ law compliance and Working Time Directive compliance.

Although the current requirement for downloading data is as noted above, we strongly recommend downloading the VU at no more than 56 days intervals and preferable every 28 days as is currently the case with driver smart cards.

The analysis of the data held on the VU and driver smart card checks the tachograph data against legislation and displays summaries and infringements.

There are many companies out there who produce analysis software, however, there’s the quality analysis and then there’s the ‘other stuff’. In our view, ‘Smart Analysis’ and the Stoneridge OPTAC Analysis software are two of the best on the market. However, this is our view only, it’s up to each operator to decide what they prefer.

Digital tachographs are made up of three different parts that all play important roles in the recording of the driver’s activity; the vehicle unit (VU), the speed sensor, and the smart card.

The VU comprises a real-time clock, a display, a printer, a processor, two card slots (for multi-manning drives), a download connector, and a method of entering manual information. The VU is located in the cab of the driver’s area for easy access and safe use.

The speed sensor is located on the gearbox. This records the speed of the vehicle, as well as the total distance travelled by the vehicle, which is then sent to the VU to be recorded for the overall analysis. All information recorded from both the VU and the speed sensor is encrypted, meaning that it is highly unlikely for the information to become compromised and any attempt to interfere with the information is recorded by the VU itself.

There are several types of cards that the cardholder can use to identify themselves:

  • A driver card
  • A company card
  • A control card – used by enforcement officers
  • A workshop card – used by registered tachograph centre's

It is illegal to drive a passenger or goods’ vehicle without the use of a driver card. If this has not been inserted in advance of starting a journey, the fact that this has happened will be picked up during the analysis of the VU data, and once identified, the driver can be fined or worse.

Out of scope?

The driver of a vehicle that is exempt from or out of the scope of the EU rules is not required to use the recording equipment, even if it is fitted unless the vehicle is operated by a universal service provider (USP). At the time of publication, the only USP is the Royal Mail.

New Legislation, what is Annex 1C?

The European Commission has revised tachograph legislation to make the manipulation of tachograph data harder, improve the efficiency of the control of the system, and reduce admin. The result is Annex 1C (EU 2016/799), which was approved in June 2016, and led to the introduction of the smart tachograph in June 2019.

What is a Smart Tachograph?

The fourth generation of Tachograph, referred to as Smart Tachographs will be installed to all new vehicles providing transport services within the European Union from 15th June 2019 and to all new vehicles sold in the UK from 25th June 2019.

The devices have a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) module which automatically records the vehicle location at the start and the end of the journey, as well as updating every three hours. One key element is that smart Tachographs can remotely communicate with roadside inspection officers.  

Enforcement officers can use a DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) device to remotely check the Tachograph data without the need to stop the vehicle. This is a much more efficient way to track data. If no issues are found during a check, drivers can continue their journey on the road uninterrupted – meaning no valuable time is wasted on unnecessary roadside inspections.

According to Article 9(4) of Regulation (EU), No 165/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on tachographs in road transport, only data necessary for targeted roadside checks of vehicles for which the Tachograph has been manipulated or misused may be transmitted remotely.

They must relate to specific recorded events or data such as:

  • The last attempt at a security breach
  • The longest power outage
  • Sensor malfunction
  • Speed or route data error
  • Data conflict associated with the movement of the vehicle
  • Driving without a valid card
  • Inserting a card whilst driving
  • Time settings data
  • Calibration data (including the dates of the previous 2 calibrations)
  • Vehicle registration number
  • The speed recorded by the VU

It should be noted that most of the information within this section can be found online on.Gov website. However, there have been several changes and updates to tachograph rules, etc. since the mandatory introduction of Digital Tachographs required to be installed in all new vehicles in 2006.

To fully appraise yourself of changing tachograph legislation, we recommend that you visit the. Gov website regularly to ensure you have the most relevant updated information. The data in this section was last updated by DVSA in October 2016.