Tachographs store data about driving time, distances and speeds, and they are used to record whether or not commercial drivers have followed the rules on maximum driving times as laid out in the EU Drivers Hours Regulations(2006) and current Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency guidelines.
The Introduction of the Tachograph Requirement in the EU
Tachographs, as a means of recording particular driver data, have existed since the 1920’s when they were introduced on German and Austrian railways using a design by Max Maria von Weber. They helped limit the number of hours that a driver worked, thus making an overall safer rail system.
A similar system was adopted on road vehicles in Germany in 1952 with all haulage vehicles over seven and a half tonnes and new vehicles built after the introduction had to be fitted with a means of recording road data by law.
It wasn’t until 1986 that Tachographs became mandatory throughout the European Union (EU) in a bid to stop drivers being overworked and becoming potentially dangerous at the wheel of their vehicles as they became weary with driving. The European Commission allows checking of the stored data by employers, the police, and other government agencies as required in a duty of care drive.
There were some unscrupulous operators have benefited from tachograph fraud, potentially gaining a business advantage over competitors by working longer shifts and taking fewer or shorter breaks to make them seem more efficient and therefore more likely to pick up return work.
When first introduced in the 1980’s, tachograph records consisted of a circular chart on which progress is recorded. The driver had access to the disc since they have the responsibly of changing the disc daily, but they can also be controlled by many others within a company.
That meant that fraud could be carried out by a number of means such altering a clock by hand to simulate a rest period, changing a graph for a fresh one, or even altering it by hand. With several high profile fraud cases solved, and sometimes hauliers facing prison sentences, the systems plainly needed change.
The Introduction of Digital Tachographs
Legislation change came in 2005 when EU regulation 1360/2002 called for all commercial vehicles to be fitted with a digital tachographs. Similar in size and look to a car radio, the tachographs require the driver’s tachograph card to be inserted when in use.
Using a completely different system from the cab-mounted paper units, these system consists of a sender unit which is attached to the vehicles gearbox and transmits information to a receiver in the cab. By reading the movement of the gearbox, total drive time, rest periods, and vehicle speed can be calculated.
The data is usually simultaneously stored within the receiver unit and on a chip fitted to the driver’s tachograph card. The encrypted data is only available to the driver and the company and represents a leap forward in data security and driver hours recording.
There have been some criticisms of the digital system, not least because the data isn’t easily readable by an enforcement officer on a casual check, and if the system is used on its own there isn’t any way to tell the start or finish positions each day. The first point will be overcome when the police and HM Customs or Highways agency officers are supplied with equipment that can carry out roadside interpretation of data, and the second can be easily solved by adding GPS data into the mix.
While some fraudulent practises such as a determined driver claiming that a hitch-hiker is a co-driver, cannot be prevented in this digital age, the use of digital tachographs makes correct and proper mileage recording much harder to fake, and that can only make our roads safer and the conscientious fleet manager free from prosecution.
Vehicle Tracking Systems and Digital Tachographs
Although it sounds like a Mexican fast food chain, TACHOfresh is actually a product from Masternaut that interfaces with the digital tachograph and transmits the data back to base, although it is separate from their vehicle tracking solution. TomTom Telematics also has a unit that allows real-time transmission of tachograph data.