June 2019 will see the biggest change in tachograph regulation in more than 12 years - the mandatory introduction of ‘smart tachographs’ in all new vehicles.
With many improvements, such as satellite positioning data and increased security, the new devices are designed to foster greater compliance with the drivers’ hours rules by making it more difficult to tamper with the devices; they may also reduce administrative processes.
The most important new feature is the introduction of satellite positioning data. The new devices will take a GPS reading at the start and end of duty and every three hours of accumulated driving.
This will expand the enforcement role of tachographs to establishment rules, such as cabotage, in addition monitoring compliance with the drivers’ hours rules. Other security features include a new Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) interface; sealing requirements; and Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC).
To facilitate targeted roadside checks, the DSRC will enable authorities to access tachograph data while the vehicle is in motion. This will be used for targeting processes and to address only most the severe infringements.
It cannot be used for automated fines and if no issues are detected, the authorities must delete the data within three hours. The regulation does not require enforcement agencies to have the equipment required to read the signal until 2034; and as far as the FTA is aware, the DVSA does not see this capability as a priority.
It may be a different story in mainland Europe - other member states may wish to instil this capability as soon as possible. As smart tachographs will be mandatory in new vehicles alone, it is down to dealerships to ensure they are fitted at the point of sale; there is no retrofit requirement for domestic operators.
Any vehicles crossing international borders must have a smart tachograph retrofitted by June 2034, but it is unlikely many vehicles in current circulation would remain active by this time. That said, several MEPs have realised they have allowed a rather long lead time and are looking to bring any retrofit date forward by at least 10 years.
The DVLA has confirmed all new driver and company cards issued from early 2019 will be fully compatible and able to hold the new fields of data collected by the devices. These cards will still work with the older tachographs; current cards will also be compatible with the smart tachographs.
But it’s not so simple with workshop cards; for calibration purposes, tachograph centres must a hold a smart-compatible card. All workshop cards in Great Britain are re-issued 1 April 2019 and are valid for one year.
While the statutory introduction date for the new devices is 15 June 2019, tachograph manufacturers expect to have them in vehicles in Q1 2019, so workshops will need to have been issued their new cards in time for this. FTA is currently in talks with the DVLA to ensure they are taking appropriate steps to address this.
By James Firth, FTA’s head of road freight regulation policy.