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Digital Tachographs

Digital Tachographs are a replacement for the current analogue system and in the future all new vehicles in scope of Tachograph regulations will have to be fitted with this type of instrument. It is a completely new way of recording Drivers’ Hours, as information is stored in the memory of the vehicle unit (VU) and also on the driver smart card rather than scribed onto a wax-coated chart.
The information held is much more secure as the system has many security features, and will record any attempt at tampering.

The vehicle unit consists of a visual display, printer user controls and two smart card slots. It records and stores electronically, information about the vehicle, the driver(s) faults, events and speed in real time. It holds data for around 365 days before the oldest data is overwritten. The display relays information in pictogram and text format on a continual basis.

There are currently three different units available; all are similar in appearance and functionality.

Although it will take a little while to get used to this new system, for the driver there are many positive benefits. The centrefield information is recorded by the system., therefore eliminating any centrefield errors that previously could have constituted an offence. Information relation to start and finish location is less specific and entered by selecting the correct country code via a menu selection. The system will warn the driver by a visible or audible signal that 4 ¼ hours of driving has occurred without the appropriate breaks and again at 4 ½  hours driving infringement.

Driver Cards

In order to operate the instrument drivers must in possession of a valid card. These are available from the DVLA office in Swansea and in the event the driver is in possession of a photo card licence this generally will speed up the application as proof of identity has already been verified.  The cards are valid for a period of five years.

The card identifies the drivers to the VU and is capable of storing approximately 28 days of average data. It stores information on vehicle used, dates, times, duty periods, distance travelled, activities, specific conditions and withdrawal and insertion of cards. It will also hold data on faults and events that occur and information on roadside checks if an enforcement office has inserted a control card.

Lost, Damaged, Stolen or Malfunctioning Driver Cards 

It is illegal to drive a vehicle fitted with a digital tachograph unless the driver is in possession of a valid driver card.

If the driver card is damaged, lost, stolen or malfunctions, drivers must apply for a replacement within 7 days and have evidence of doing so and can only continue to drive without a card for a period of 15 days. Under special circumstances this may be longer but the circumstances would have to be such that an extension was deemed to be appropriate.

The driver/operator or their representative must complete an application form D779B and submit it with the relevant fee to the DVLA for replacement.
In the event of theft this must also be reported to the Police.

Drivers must take two printouts of their activities from the vehicle data – one at the start of the journey and one at the end. The printouts will not identify the driver as no driver card was inserted. Therefore the driver must mark and sign the printout with sufficient information to be identified

If the driver has simply forgotten the card then the vehicle cannot be legally driven.

If a driver things the card is malfunctioning it is advisable to test it in another vehicle unit, just to be sure that it is the card and to the VU that is faulty, before applying for a replacement card.
Replacement cards will be issued to a local VOSA office of the driver’s choice and have to be collected in person with appropriate proof of identity

UTC Time

All vehicle units will be set to UTC (universal time co coordinated) and all records will be in this time format across the EU. If required, the visual display unit can be set to local time, which is different throughout the EU.
In the UK, records will differ by one hour during British Summer Time; there will be no discrepancy when the clocks revert to GMT during the winter.

UK only
During Winter Time UTC = Local Time
During Summer Time UTC = Local Time – 1 hour

Log On Procedure

  • Switch on the ignition
  • Insert the driver card in slot 1 with the chip facing upwards and the arrow pointing forwards
  • If the vehicle is double manned once Driver 1’s card has been read Driver 2 can insert the card in slot 2
  • It is then necessary to follow the instruction on the display, which will show the following:
  • Greeting - Driver's name appears
  • The date and time the last card was withdrawn – always UTC time
  • There is an option now to make a manual entry relating to any activities that occurred after the last time the card was removed or before the card was inserted. All manual entries must be entered on the driver card by using the digital tachograph.
  • If no manual entries are required select NO and press OK
  • Select YES and the facility becomes available to enter additional activities
  • Select country and press OK
  • The card pictogram will appear when the data from the card has been read completely from the card
  • Log on complete.


Log Off Procedure

  • Press the driver card eject button
  • Select the country at the end of the shift and press OK
  • The system will then ask if a printout is required
  • If a printout is required select YES otherwise select NO and press OK
  • The printout of the driver's daily activities will be produced if required
  • The driver card will then be released from the slot
  • Log off complete.


Record Requirements

Since 1/05/06, if driving a vehicle fitted with an analogue or a digital tachograph drivers must carry with them:

  • The driver smart card (if they have one).
  • Charts for the current day and the previous 28 calendar days.
  • Any manual records or legally required printouts in relation to the current day and the previous 28 calendar days.
  •  If a driver card is lost, damaged or is malfunctioning the driver is obliged to produce a printout from the VU.
  • Drivers are required to make handwritten entries in the event that the tachograph is defective, or when information on the card does not reflect accurate information in respect of shift time or activities. There is a facility for this on the back of the printout.
  • Drivers must carry sufficient printer paper, ensuring that it incorporates the correct approval number for the tachograph in use.
  • The printouts should be stored effectively so they do not sustain any damage, as the thermal paper is sensitive to various everyday elements, such as heat, water oil, and grease.
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