When you first get a vehicle fitted with a digital tachograph there are a number of basic things that you need to know: What smartcards you need, how to download the data from the driver cards and the digital tachograph vehicle unit, how to store the data, and how to view and analyse the data. This article is intended to provide brief answers to these questions to help you get up to speed with what you need to know.
All in-scope vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes registered in the UK, and throughout the whole of the European Union, on or after 1st May 2006 are required by law to be fitted with a digital tachograph. The digital tachograph is often also referred to as the Vehicle Unit (VU) or by the acronym DTCO.
As a company operating vehicles fitted with digital tachographs there are a number of basics that you need to get to grips with, and this article is intended to help you begin to do this.
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The digital tachograph uses ‘smartcards’ to identify drivers and record information. As an operator of vehicles, there are two smartcards that you need to know about:
* Driver Card: All drivers using the vehicle need to use a ‘Driver Card’ which is a special smartcard that records the activities. Each driver will need a smartcard of their own, because the card stores details about the driver and identifies individual drivers to the VU. Driver Cards in the UK must be obtained from the DVLA. In all other EU countries you must contact your own relevant authority.
* Company Card: Each company operating a vehicle subject to the EU drivers’ hours regulations must also get a ‘Company Card’. This is also the case if your company hires or loans vehicles that have a digital tachograph fitted. The company card allows you to ‘lock’ data recorded in the VU to prevent another operator looking at the data. You need to do this in order to ensure you protect the personal information of you and your driver(s), and details of work patterns and times from competitors. This would become important if you were to sell a vehicle or use a hire vehicle.
The Company Card will also allow you to download the information from the VU in order that you can carry out checks on drivers’ hours as required by the legislation, and to maintain records described in the undertakings of your Operators’ Licence issued by the Traffic Commissioner.
There are two other types of card – the ‘Workshop Card’ and the ‘Control Card’ – that are used by Calibration Centres and Enforcement Authorities respectively. As a company operating vehicles you do not need to know anything more about these cards.
So you have a vehicle, a company card and driver cards for all of your drivers. Your next questions will probably be “What should I do with the data, and how do I get it?”
As with the old paper tachograph charts, you are required to keep records for each of your drivers for a year. The data on a Driver Card will be overwritten by the VU after about 28 days (because the card has only a limited amount of storage space), so you will need to take a copy of this data before this happens. Most operators already using the digital tachograph download the data from all their Driver Cards at least once a week, and many drivers download every day at the end of their shift. Either of these methods ensures that all data from the Driver Card is safely downloaded and stored without risk of being overwritten.
In the case of the digital tachograph there is also data stored in the vehicle unit, and this must also be retained. According to the legislation, you are required to download data from your drivers’ cards at least every 28 days, and from your vehicle units at least every 56 days.
There has been no change to the operator’s obligation to ensure that drivers duties are organised to be legal and to make periodic inspections of drivers duties to ensure that they are complying with the regulations. This means that you must check the digital data for compliance in a similar way as you would check the information from the old paper charts. The big difference is that you cannot just ‘glance’ at a digital data file in the same way you would glance at a paper chart to see the driver’s activities.
To get the data, store it and view it you will need to invest in some hardware and software. An example of what you can use to do this is:
* A computer (PC) with a CD or DVD writer to back up your data
* A smartcard reader
* A Vehicle Unit download device
* Specialised software to do the download and storage of the data
The type of software that you need will depend on what you want to do with the data. If you want to do the bare minimum to conform to legislation requirements, then you could use a simple desktop – based software package available for a one – off purchase price. These packages typically enable you to download driver card and vehicle unit data, store the data on your computer hard–drive in the correct data format, and inspect the data as you are required to do periodically. You can get up and running with all you need (provided you have already have a suitable PC running Windows) for less than £300.
If you operate a fleet of a reasonable size (say 20 trucks or more) and you operate from multiple locations, then you probably already get your tachographs regularly analysed for drivers’ hours infringements, etc. either in–house or perhaps via a Tachograph Analysis Bureau. In any case you will need a more sophisticated analysis solution for your digital tachograph data that provides reports on all aspects of the legislation, and also perhaps driver and vehicle utilisation, missing mileage, working time directive, etc. A cost-effective and easy to use Internet-based tachograph analysis system provides all of the features you will need for a vehicle fleet of any size from a small number of trucks based in a single location to a trans–continental fleet with thousands of vehicle spread across hundreds of locations. The best online systems are a total paper chart and digital data analysis and management solution, and they are being used now by some of the largest commercial transport companies in the UK and European Union.
When you get a vehicle fitted with a digital tachograph, it’s easy to be confused by all of the things that you need to know and do. In the old days a tachograph just needed a paper chart, and you were free to start driving. Now there are more requirements and more things you have to know to get up and running. Hopefully this brief introduction to the digital tachograph has helped to get you up to speed.
Author: Chris R Lewis
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