What is a tachograph?

HomeGlossary of fleet termsWhat is a tachograph?

A tachograph is a system for recording vehicle speed, driving time and a lorry driver’s activities (driving, work, availability and rest) that is installed in commercial vehicles, including HGVs, lorries and passenger vehicles.

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Tachograph systems help ensure that Irish and EU rules for drivers hours and rest periods are followed.

Analogue tachographs record the speed of the vehicle onto circular tachograph charts, with one disc per 24-hour period. The installation of a digital tachograph (VU: On Board Vehicle Unit) has been mandatory on new vehicles since May 1, 2006. The digital tachograph unit is about the size of a car radio, including two smart card readers, one manual entry selector, a display screen and a printer. Digital tachographs are connected to the vehicle’s gearbox and motion sensors to accurately record vehicle data and driver activity and can store data for approximately 12 months.

What does a Digital Tachograph record?

A digital tachograph collects and stores the following data:

  • Vehicle registration number
  • Vehicle speed
  • Single or co-driver
  • Number of times a driver card is inserted each day
  • Distance travelled by the driver, captured via odometer readings
  • Driver activity (driving, rest, breaks, other activities, availability)
  • Date and time of activity change
  • Events (speeding, driving without a driver card, tampering, fraud attempts) and errors
  • Enforcement checks
  • Details of tachograph calibrations

What are digital tachograph cards?

Digital tachographs use smart cards to track usage of a vehicle as well as enable setup and administration of tachograph recording units:

  • Driver cards — each commercial driver must carry their own card and use it to log their use of the vehicle
  • Workshop cards — used by authorized technicians to set up and calibrate digital tachograph units
  • Company cards — used by vehicle owners to retrieve data about their employees, and authorize sharing of data with third parties
  • Control cards — used by law enforcement to retrieve tachograph data and override locks put on a unit by a company card

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