Under EU and national law, the trucks over 3.5 tonnes and buses with more than 9 seats must be fitted with recording devices known as tachographs. Their function is to record the driving times, breaks and rest periods of individual drivers. It also logs vehicle speed, distance travelled and other information.
The records must be available for inspection by enforcement officers.
Some classes of vehicle are exempt from the EU rules on tachograph and driving times, breaks and rest periods. Drivers who are exempt should still keep a record of their total daily working activity.
Tachographs come in two types: analogue and digital. The EU introduced analogue tachographs in 1985, while digital tachograph technology replaced the existing analogue recording devices, in May 2006.
Digital tachograph smart cards are part of the new digital system, for use by drivers, companies, calibration workshops and enforcement officers. Goods and passenger vehicles first registered after 1 May 2006 must be fitted with a digital tachograph. If they are registered before that date, they can be fitted with either type of tachograph.
If a driver is using an analogue tachograph, they are responsible for writing their name, registration number, location of the start and end of the journey and the start and end of the odometer readings every day that they are driving.
Digital tachographs became mandatory in new commercial lorries and buses in May 2006.
The provision of driver cards for use by drivers, companies, calibration workshops and enforcement officers is central to digital tachographs.
Data is stored in the vehicle unit memory and on driver smart cards. The data contains a range of information including distance covered, vehicle speed (for previous 24 hours of driving), vehicle licence number, and driver activity (driving, rest, breaks, other work, periods of availability).
A driver’s card can store information for a maximum of 28 days before it begins to be overwritten; the vehicle unit has a larger memory capacity and can store data for 365 days.
The analogue tachograph records your driving information via three styluses that cut traces into a circular, wax-coated chart, or tacho. These marks act as a record of your speed, distance travelled and your working activity.
The analogue tachograph chart also contains areas for manual entries, measuring activities such as your daily working period, rest periods and work done outside of the vehicle.
Vehicle Unit (VU)
When a driver takes over a goods or passenger vehicle, they must insert the driver card into the digital tachograph unit. Where a vehicle is double-manned, both driver and co-driver must use a card.
Similar to an analogue tachograph, a digital tachograph will record a driver’s activities such as driving, other work, breaks and rest. Digital tachographs start recording automatically when the vehicle moves.
Drivers must use the mode switch (a manual input facility) on the tachograph to record other activities including rests, breaks and other periods of availability. The records are only stored on the driver card. Drivers don't need to manually enter activities recorded on analogue chart onto their driver cards.
A transport operator must download data from the card every 21 days and the Vehicle Unit every 3 months. The data should be retained for inspection by enforcement officers for at least 1 year from the date of downloading.
To download data from the vehicle unit and driver card, an operator will need a download device and a company card.
Operators are responsible for making sure drivers return their charts, if they are employing agency drivers. They should download data from the drivers' tachograph cards and retain that data for inspection.
Digital tachograph training
For information on digital-tachograph training please contact: The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport of Ireland Tel: 01 676-3188 www.cilt.ie
The RSA is responsible for enforcing EU and national transport legislation on tachographs, EU driver hour rules, Road transport working time directive and the licensing of road haulage and passenger operators to engage in hire and reward operations. Since 2009 the RSA have initiated prosecutions against drivers and operators in respect of breaches of this legislation details of which can be found in our prosecutions section.