Introduced in 1985 to record speed, distance and driver activity, tachographs are an established safety feature and a legal requirement for commercial vehicles with a weight in excess of 3,500 kgs (approx. 3.5 tonnes). There are currently six million trucks and buses fitted with tachographs in the UK.
A key reason for the introduction of tachographs was to ensure that drivers do not exceed the number of hours they are legally allowed to drive. They have been referred to as ‘a spy in the cab’ and commonly subject to repeated tampering attempts.
As in all walks of life technology moves forward and a decade or so ago, older, analogue equipment became obsolete. In May 2006 it became a legal requirement that all vehicles (requiring tachographs) manufactured in the EU were fitted with digital tachograph heads and memory devices that allowed the easy downloading of data. Under the legislation introduced, drivers and their employers were obliged to retain files generated by digital tachographs and produce them, on demand, to the transport authorities who enforce regulations governing driver hours.
The rules are about to change again to embrace the latest technology. The fitting of smart tachographs will become a legal requirement for vehicles registered after 15 June 2019. As well as embracing digital technology, smart tachographs include a connection to the global navigation satellite system (‘GNSS’) facility and a new type of speed sensor and communication device, which can be accessed remotely by the transport authorities. The new tachographs with a ‘real time’ communication capability will make tampering much less likely.
In most cases compliant tachographs will be fitted as original equipment to vehicles currently being manufactured ensuring that 15 June deadline is met. In certain cases a non-compliant vehicle scheduled for delivery before 15 June might have delivery and registration delayed until after that date. Should this occur a smart tachograph will need to be fitted retrospectively at a cost of several thousand pounds.
Fleet operators should take steps now to ensure that any vehicles currently on order or likely to be ordered in the next few months are either fitted with smart tachographs, or if not, are registered before 15 June 2019.