Tachograph Operation

History - the Background
Tachographs, or as the legislation calls them 'recording equipment', have been in use under the current European Union (EU) legislation (EU regulation 3821/85) for 18 years. The technical specification of the current tachograph is contained within Annex 1 of this regulation. VDO Unit

Over this time the tachograph has 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 to would 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, now have to be as of 11 April 2007, and will have until 31 December 2007 to ensure vehicles are fitted. 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.

Out of scope?
The driver of a vehicle that is exempt from or out of 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.

For further information regarding exemptions, please see the HGV and PCV Exemptions/Derogations at the links below.

HGV Exemptions and Derogations
PCV Exemptions and Derogations

Analogue or digital?
Vehicles first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must be fitted with a digital tachograph. Those vehicles registered before that date can be fitted with either analogue or digital equipment.

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