MCL Transport Consultants

Digital Tachographs

EC regulation 561/2006, which was published on 11th April 2006 introduced the mandatory fitment of digital tachographs to new vehicles on 1st May the same year. Further changes affecting the production and retention on records at the roadside for all drivers of vehicles fitted with Analogue and Digital tachographs came into force from this date. EC regulation 561/2006 is now best known for the revision of EC Drivers Hours Rules which came into force on 11th April 2007. Digital tachographs will replace the fitment of Analogue units, and what follows is a simplistic overview of the Digital Tachograph/vehicle unit or vu.

What is a Digital Tachograph?
Digital tachographs are similar in appearance to a modular analogue tachograph e.g. 1324, 2400. They come in separate parts, a vehicle unit and a speedometer - but that is where similarities end. In all other aspects this is a totally different animal.
The Vehicle Unit (VU) is located within the driver's area of the vehicle cab. It sends a signal to the speedometer/odometer unit that is located where the driver has a clear view of it. The vehicle unit still receives a signal from the vehicle (usually from the gearbox) as the analogue units do, via a cable.
The VU is the brains of the system. It is able to hold data on drivers of the vehicle and their periods of driving and duty for a 12-month period. It will also hold data relating to faults, attempts to tamper with the system, over speeding, calibration details, and when data has been accessed, for example, by VOSA staff or Police.

The VU and the motion sensor from the gearbox will be encoded as a pair and the signals from the sensor will be fully encrypted so any attempt to interfere with them will be registered and recorded in the vehicle unit. The VU will be set to Universal Time Co-ordinated (UTC) - as another name for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) - all records will be against this time. The visual display will probably be set to the local time, but this will not affect the internal time. What needs to be remembered is that the stored record will be an hour behind in British Summer Time - for example - a driver starts at 0600 (6am), the record will show 0500 (5am). There will be no difference in the winter as we are back to GMT.

Drivers, companies (operators), workshops (tachograph calibration centres) and enforcement officers (VOSA & Police) will each have smart cards according to their specific needs. These enable them to use and/or give access to the data in the VU.

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How do they Work?
For a driver to use a Digital Tachograph, he/she will require a smart card. This is a plastic card similar in size to a photo driving licence/credit card, with a microchip in it. Before commencing a journey he/she will be required to insert their driver card(s) into the 1st or 2nd man slot (driver or co-driver) on the front of the Vehicle Unit (VU) in the same way a chart is put into the head. The 'centre field' details will be recorded automatically by the tachograph - driver name, vehicle registration number, start and finish odometer readings and place code. In the same way as now you will record your different activities-driving, other work, breaks and rest by changing the mode switch, and swap the cards between driver and co-driver slots when double manned, in the same manner as with record sheets.
Details of time spent working away from the vehicle that are currently written on the rear of the record sheet will now be inputed manually into the tachograph. The system will also record details of any faults/interference, errors and over speeding that occur. This information will be stored for at least 28 days on the personal driver card and for at least a year in the VU.

Digital Tachograph Unit How is the Data retrieved from the Tachograph Unit?
Data can be retrieved from the Tachograph Unit in three ways.

Both the VU and all drivers cards must be downloaded of data via a software system to enable the data to be analysed. It is important to note here that the VU will hold 365 days of data and the driver card only 28 days. So far as a system to ensure all data is captured before being over written, we suggest that the VU is downloaded every 12 weeks (3 months), and the driver card every 21 days.

The driver card will record at least 28 days average duty, after this time it will start to overwrite in sequence any day's data already stored. It is therefore imperative that a system of download dates are maintained and adhered to in much the same way that a vehicle flow chart is maintained. By doing this, all data will be made available for analysis without loss. Therefore a schedule to download both the driver cards and VU should be maintained and adhered to. Just as with Analogue Tachographs, all employers are required to ensure that they schedule all driver allocated work to be legal in respect of drivers hours regulations, and to carry out checks of their drivers duty activities.

Although the VU is digital, has no charts and records data both within itself and also on the drivers card, this data is critical in complying with the conditions of your Operators License. In the same way that your Analogue charts are sent away to a specialist company for analysis, the data downloaded from your vehicle fleet and drivers cards requires to be treated no differently.
There are many professional companies in the industry who specialise in fulfilling this role, don't try skirting around this very important aspect of your obligation, use the facilities out there that are available to you.

UTC - the time set on a digital tachograph
The internal clock of a digital tachograph is set to Universal Time Co-ordinated (UTC). The time displayed on the clock face can be set by the driver either to local time or to UTC. However, all data will be recorded by the VU on the time set by the integral clock, which operates on UTC - this is the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). You will need to remember that UTC is one hour behind British Summer Time (BST). So, between 01.00 on the last Sunday in March and 01.00 on the last Sunday in October drivers must account for the difference when manually inputting activity details in the digital tachograph.

For example, if drivers carried out other work for two hours between 06.00 and 08.00 in June before taking over the vehicle, they must enter this as between 05.00 and 07.00 in UTC time. As mentioned above, it is possible for drivers to set the display time on the VU to local BST, but this will not prevent the VU recording in UTC. Therefore, it is recommended that drivers leave the display time in UTC as a reminder of the difference.

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Faulty Equipment - Procedure
Article 16 EEC 3821/85 states that in the event of breakdown or faulty operation of the equipment, the employer shall have it repaired by an approved fitter or workshop, as soon as circumstances permit. If the vehicle is unable to return to the premises within a period of one week calculated from the day of the breakdown or of the discovery of defective operation, the repair shall be carried out en route.
Measures taken by Member States pursuant to Article 19 may give the competent authorities power to prohibit the use of the vehicle in cases where breakdown of faulty operation has not been put right as provided in the foregoing paragraphs.

While the recording equipment is unserviceable or malfunctioning, drivers shall mark on the record sheet or sheets, or on a temporary sheet to be attached to the record sheet or to the driver card, on which he shall enter data enabling him to be identified (driver's card number and/or name and/or driving licence number), including his signature, all information for the various periods of time which are no longer recorded or printed out correctly by the recording equipment.

While the equipment is unserviceable or operating defectively, drivers shall mark on the record sheet or sheets, or on a temporary sheet to be attached to the record sheet, all information for the various periods of time which is not recorded correctly by the equipment. See also Digital Driver Cards

Manual Records
A digital tachograph offers the ability for a driver to enter activities carried out by him away from his vehicle. This is by means of the manual input facility offered by the instrument. A true 'manual' record will only be necessary if:

If this happens, the driver should record his activities or reasons on the reverse of a portion of print roll.

Digital tachographs and second driver records amendment (Issued October 2007)
The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) issued new advice in relation to the use of digital tachos by two drivers. In double-manned operations both drivers must enter their driver cards at the start of the use of the vehicle (driver in slot 1, second man in slot 2). When the vehicle is in motion, all digital tachographs will automatically record all time spent as a second man as a period of availability and do not allow the mode to be changed to other work or break until the vehicle is stationary. Previous advice was that any periods of other work or break must be recorded manually on a printout.

New advice issued by DfT and VOSA on 1 October for double manned operations states that the first 45 minutes of a period of availability will now be treated as a break without the need for additional manual records. Whilst this has been agreed at EU level, it is recommended that drivers continue to provide an additional manual record of this break when undertaking an international operation.

Further Reading
For further information relating to Digital Tachographs, please use the links below.

VDO - Digital Tachograph Instruction Book

Digital Tachograph details - Driver Vehicle Testing Agency Northern Ireland

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