Tachographs record information about driving time, speed and distance

There are two types of tachograph, analogue and digital, however all commercial vehicles first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must be fitted with digital tachographs (unless exempt).

Tachographs are used to make sure drivers are employers are following rules on driver’s hours and the introduction of digital tachos meant information could be held in a much secure way rather than being scribed onto a wax-coated chart as per the analogue tachograph. Information is stored both in the memory of the vehicle unit (VU) as well as the driver smart card, and the system has many security features including recording the attempts of any tampering.


Some vehicles are exempt from the rules. The main types are vehicles that can’t go faster than 40 km per hour, emergency aid services, specialised breakdown vehicles working within 100km of their base, vehicles undergoing road tests, non-commercial vehicles under 7.5 tonnes, milk collection vehicles and a few more. For further information, please visit the gov.uk website.

Digital Tachographs

The VU 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. The maximum legal limit for downloading data from the digital tachograph vehicle unit increased from 56 days to 90 days in April 2015. This allows operators whose vehicle safety inspections are at intervals of eight weeks or greater to incorporate the download as part of the inspection, and may aid operators whose vehicles spend significant amounts of time away from base. The centrefield information is recorded by the system, therefore eliminating any centrefield errors that previously could have constituted an offence. 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.


It is the driver’s responsibility to use the tachograph throughout each driving day to properly record driving time, periods of other work, periods of availability and breaks from driving/work. These records must be made on a chart of the correct type for the tachograph fitted in each vehicle to be used.

Drivers must carry with them during each driving day (and be able to show an enforcement officer if requested to do so) all completed records for the current working day plus those generated in the last 28 calendar days. Completed tachograph records must be handed in to your local Driver Hire office or the client no later than 30 days from use.

Using your Digital Tachograph

  • Check that the tachograph doesn’t need a recalibration
  • Ensure there are sufficient supplies of print roll on board the vehicle after inserting the driver card, plus complete any data entry manual records in UTC and confirm the start location as instructed by the equipment
  • Ensure the mode switch is set correctly throughout your shift
  • Tell the operator if the tachograph is faulty
  • Make a printout and provide written manual entries if it’s impossible use your card, the rules have been broken due to an emergency, or an enforcement officer requests it (you also be asked to sign that it’s a true record)
  • You must be able to produce the relevant records at the roadside
  • You must allow the operator to download data from your card

Driver Cards

In order to operate the digital tachograph, 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 on average 28 days of 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. Driving without it is one of the most fundamental offences that a HGV driver could commit.

If the tacho card is damaged, lost, stolen or malfunctions, drivers must inform the DVLA immediately, as well as your superior and anyone else your employer has advised you to inform. You must apply for a replacement immediately, no more than 7 days, and the DVLA is required to issued you a new card within 5 working days. You need to keep evidence of application and notification and can only continue to drive without a card for a period of 15 days whereby manual entries are accepted in this period for cards which have been lost, damaged, stolen or malfunctioning.

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; record your name and DL number on the back of each page. You must keep these records available for inspection for 28 calendar days and must then pass them to the vehicle operator.

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.

If the driver has simply forgotten the card, then the vehicle cannot be legally driven. Likewise, if the card has expired, you simply do not have one so cannot drive until you have received a new replacement.

If a driver thinks 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 car
  • 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.

Analogue Tachographs

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the tachograph clock is set to the correct UK local time before starting the journey (remember that the tachograph is a 24 hour instrument whereas its clock has only a 12 hour display). Tachograph charts are legal documents: Complete them fully, use the Mode switch properly, and handle them carefully.

Completing an Analogue Tachograph Chart

Before driving a vehicle fitted with an analogue tachograph, filling in the tachograph chart is the first thing you will be required to do. It is surprising how many people get it wrong – even drivers with many years’ experience. You are required to fill in 1-8 on the chart.

1. Your name (surname and first name). Filled in before driving.
2. The place where you started work. Filled in before driving.
3. The place where you finished work. Filled in after driving.
4. Start date. Fill in today’s date before you start driving.
5. Finish date. Fill in after you finish driving.
6. The registration number of your vehicle. Filled in before driving.
7. The odometer reading at the end of the day.
8. The odometer reading at the start of the day.
9. Opening reading subtracted from closing reading equals total daily kilometres travelled.

At the beginning of the day you must fill in 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8. At the end of the day you must fill in 3, 5 and 7. If you miss something out you may be taken to court. You should keep you original charts with you to produce for inspection by enforcement staff on request. Remember, you must carry tachograph charts for the current day and the previous 28 calendar days.

What Drivers need to carry

Drivers driving a vehicle fitted with an analogue or digital tachograph must carry with them at all times:

  • Tachograph Driver Card
  • Driver Qualification Card or Driver CPC Card (when completed your Driver CPC training or initial CPC)
  • 28 calendar days history of Work and Rest. This could include charts from analogue tachographs, ‘other work’ not recorded on the tacho, holiday and sick day information and digital tachograph card – even if driving an analogue vehicle.
  • Driving Licence. It is an offence if you cannot produce your licence when asked by an authorised person, such as a police officer according to the Road Traffic Act 1998.
  • Drivers must carry sufficient printer / tacho roll 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.
  • Defects Reports on the vehicle for that day (NIL Defect Report).
  • 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.