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Tachograph Rules in the UK Made Easy

17 June 2021

A tachograph is a small black box that automatically records a vehicle’s speed and distance. It can also track certain forms of driver behaviour – or “driver modes”.

Tachographs can be analogue or digital, though most fleets use digital tachographs nowadays. The difference is that analogue tachographs record data on paper discs, whereas digital tachographs record to smart cards.

Do you need to fit your fleet with tachographs? And if so, what sort of rules do you need to follow?

Let’s explore the tachograph rules for UK fleets.

Do I Need a Tachograph?

You have a legal requirement to use a tachograph if your vehicle is subject to EU or AETR rules. You’re subject to EU rules if your vehicle weighs more than 3.5 tonnes, and if you’re driving in the EU, Switzerland, or a European Economic Area (EEA) country. Yes, this includes the UK, even after Brexit.

You’re subject to AETR rules whenever you pass through an AETR country. You can see a complete list of AETR countries here. Once again, note that this includes the UK!

Some vehicles are exempt from EU rules. Examples include vehicles manufactured more than 25 years ago, certain types of agricultural vehicles, and certain types of emergency aid vehicles. You can see a full list of exempt vehicles here.

If your vehicle’s exempt from EU rules, it’s instead subject to GB domestic rules. However, even these rules specify that you have a legal obligation to record your driving hours. The only difference is that you don’t need to use a tachograph to do so.

In the majority of cases, you need to use a tachograph. But even if you’re not required to use a tachograph, you’ll probably still have to record your driving hours. Using a tachograph makes all this recording automatic. You might as well use a tachograph, even if you’re not technically required to do so!

Driving Hours Explained

By law, HGV drivers cannot drive for more than 56 hours in a week. Nor can they drive more than 90 hours over the course of two weeks. The law also outlines how often drivers should take breaks, and how long these breaks should last.

For every 4.5 hours of driving, HGV drivers must take a 45 minute break. Also, HGV drivers must have an uninterrupted period of 11 hours’ rest in each 24 hour period.

For more information, read our complete guide to driving hours. Our guide also explains how the rules might differ depending on whether you’re driving in the UK or the EU.

Tachograph Rules Explained

Tachographs are there to ensure that fleets and drivers stay compliant with driving hour regulations. As a result, there are clear rules to ensure that fleets and drivers use tachographs properly, and that the data they produce is reliable.

Analogue and Digital Tachograph Rules

Because analogue and digital tachographs work in different ways, there are different rules for each. Again, most of these rules are designed to ensure accurate and reliable measurements. They also outline that you should let officials who request to view your tachograph data do so – whether it’s a police officer or a DVSA examiner.

Digital Tachographs (1 May 2006)

All vehicles first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must use digital tachographs. And if you’re using a digital tachograph, then you must travel with a “driver card”. All the data your tachograph records will be stored on your personal driver card. So you must never use another driver’s card, and you should never let any other driver use yours.

You can apply for a driver card online. Head here to apply in England, Scotland or Wales, or here to apply in Northern Ireland.

Simple & Easy Tachograph Rules

Beyond this, there are certain “common rules” that all drivers must follow, whether they’re using a digital or an analogue tachograph. For example:

  • Driving
  • Other work
  • Availability (i.e. downtime or waiting time that you knew about in advance)
  • Break or rest (which includes periods of annual and sick leave).

Tachograph Driver Modes

Tachographs let you specify one of four driving modes –

You must ensure your tachograph always records the correct activities. And if you make any mistakes, you must make and sign a record of the error.

Tachograph Rules for Second Drivers

The rules consider a “driver” to be anyone who’s currently driving the vehicle, as well as anyone who’s travelling in the vehicle to take over from driving when the first driver reaches their limit. Both drivers must keep a record of their activities. Some tachographs allow you to insert multiple driver cards at once, in which case it’ll simply be a case of ensuring the tachograph is collecting data for the right driver. But where this isn’t possible, you must manually record your activities on paper.

Tachograph Travelling Time Rules

Sometimes, drivers will have to travel to specific locations to take charge of a vehicle. Other times, they’ll have to relinquish the vehicle at a specific location before travelling home. In each case, you cannot count the time spent travelling to or from this location as a break – unless you’re travelling on a ferry or a train with sleeping accommodation.

These rules still apply even if you’re technically travelling in your free time, outside of your working hours. As a result, you must record any travelling time as either “other work” or “availability” on your tachograph.

You can read the complete tachograph rules here. This comprehensive guide lists the specific rules for analogue and digital tachographs, while also giving clear definitions on what constitutes each driver mode.

At Hazelton Mountford we have a team of haulage experts, here to help with all your haulage insurance requirements. Why not get in touch to find out more