Tachograph Analysis


Digital tachographs became mandatory in trucks first registered on or after 1 May 2006, sweeping away 25 years of analogue tachographs and paper charts. What has not changed, however, is the need to analyse tachograph data to ensure that drivers comply with the EU Drivers Hours rules and do not jeopardise their employer’s O-licence.

Analogue tachographs are not yet museum pieces and we are still in the transition phase where many fleets face the additional challenge of managing data from both digital and analogue instruments.



The DigiDL box enables remote downloading of tachograph data, either via GPRS or on a local wi-fi network.

One of the key differences between the two types of instruments is that a digital tachograph stores data in two places: the instrument itself (often referred to as the vehicle unit) and the driver’s card. This means there are two download procedures. The vehicle unit holds 365 days of data but the law demands that operators must download it at least every 56 days.

The vehicle unit records all the vehicle activity, including technical faults with the tachograph and any periods when the truck was being driven without a driver’s card in the correct slot. The driver’s card holds 28 days of data and must be downloaded before that limit is reached. The driver’s card records only the activity relating to that particular driver. Downloading from either source copies the data but does not delete it, so the data remains on both the vehicle unit and the card until their memories are full and the oldest data is overwritten.

It is the operator’s responsibility to download the data from both sources: it is the driver’s responsibility for making the driver’s card available for downloading.

There is an argument in favour of more frequent downloading – every 14 or 28 days for the vehicle unit, say, and even daily for the driver’s card if possible – because the sooner data is captured and checked, the sooner any problems can be identified and addressed. Vehicle unit and card data certainly should be downloaded as soon as possible after an accident: the most detailed speed data is retained in the vehicle unit’s memory for just 24 hours before it is overwritten. Cards held by agency drivers should be downloaded before they start to work for you to ensure they have sufficient hours available to complete their shift.




Digital drivers’ hours data has to be retained (in its raw binary form, not post-analysis) for at least a year, just the same as analogue charts. It makes sense to keep analysis of the data for at least a year too in case the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) pays a visit and raises queries. In fact it makes sense to keep all data and analysis for at least two years. That is period for which working time records must be kept to satisfy the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005. Although the two sets of rules are entirely different, driver’s hours analysis software usually checks for compliance of working time regulations too, so keeping everything for two years satisfies both requirements.

If a driver is employed by an agency then it is the agency that is responsible for working time compliance. However the operator the driver works for is responsible for driver’s hours compliance and should ensure the cards of all agency drivers are downloaded once they have finished their placement.



Drivers’ cards hold up to 28 days of data but weekly downloads are common and some operators choose to download cards each day..

The tachograph legislation does not lay down a specific figure. The Department for Transport’s guidance on the issue is also vague, simply stating that operators must “make regular checks of charts and digital data to ensure compliance” and “take all reasonable steps to prevent breaches of the rules.”

We turned to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) for advice. In the analogue tachograph era the FTA recommended analysing at least a fortnight’s charts for each driver every three months, ie.15 per cent. In theory, the transition to digital tachographs does not change that. However, given the ease and low cost of analysing digital data from drivers’ cards there is a strong case for analysing a far higher proportion. It would be difficult to look a Traffic Commissioner in the eye and say that you are taking “all reasonable steps to prevent breaches of rules” if analysis is anything less than 100%. Spending no more than £60/year for each driver to analyse all data is such a tiny figure that to do anything less is impossible to justify and a false economy. The management information derived from the data is valuable. Breaches of hours rules also have implications for the operator’s Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS). The worse your OCRS score, the more likely it is that your vehicles will be stopped and checked.



Actia’s D-Box2 can download data from the vehicle unit and the driver’s card, storing the information on a removable SD memory card.

The simplest devices are drivers’ card readers designed to help drivers stay on the right side of the hours rules. The most basic, such as the ubiquitous Digifob, costing around £25, do not actually transfer the data – they merely summarise and display the important drive/work/rest periods thus far. More elaborate card readers, costing up to £50, download and store the data for transfer to a computer for analysis.

Any device that downloads data from the vehicle unit (as opposed to drivers’ cards) needs to be used in conjunction with the company card. This card, often described as an “electronic key,” unlocks the tachograph’s security, allowing data to be retrieved.

Downloading devices designed to download data from both the driver’s card and the vehicle unit need an integral card reader and a standard six-pin connector that fits the socket hidden behind a flap on the front of digital tachographs. For example, Tachodisc offers the Digidownplus, costing around £200. It downloads the data onto an SD memory card. Actia’s D-Box2 (around £185) does a similar job. VDO’s Download Key II (£195) has a built-in memory rather than an SD card. It handles only vehicle unit data and needs to be used with a separate card reader to pick up the driver card data.

Once the data is on the download device it can then be moved to a PC, normally by plugging the device into the computer’s USB connection port. The data can then be analysed, either by software running on the PC or accessed via the internet. Alternatively, the data can be emailed from the computer for analysis by a bureau service.

More recent developments include a variety of remote download methods, allowing data to be retrieved from the vehicle unit or driver’s card and made available for analysis without any physical link. The obvious advantage is that data automatically can be downloaded at fixed intervals without having to wait for vehicles to return to base. It is ideal for out-based vehicles of multi-depot operations with centralised tachograph analysis. The company card needed to download the vehicle unit still has to be available, but only in a card-reader connected to the computer that is receiving the remote download. This may be at the operator’s base or it may be the analysis company’s server.

New versions of VDO’s DTCO 1381 tachograph allow remote data downloading when used with a GPRS transmitter, making it easy to retrieve information from out-based vehicles.

Recent versions of VDO’s DTCO 1381 tachograph and Stoneridge’s SE5000 allow this remote downloading because they incorporate a telematics interface that connects to an industry standard FMS (Fleet Management System) telematics system in the truck. This transmits the tachograph data back to base, along with the rest of the telemetry, via the mobile phone data network (GPRS). If the vehicles are not equipped with telematics, all is not lost. VDO can supply a DLD box that connects wirelessly to the tachograph and relays the data via GPRS much like a telematics system. Tachodisc and Stoneridge supply a DigiDL unit (made by big tachograph equipment supplier Tachosys) that does a similar job and connects to either the aforementioned VDO tachograph or a Stoneridge SE5000 Rev 7.0 (or later.) It costs around £300.

Other remote download techniques include a short-range download system that use a wi-fi network to connect to the truck once it returns to base, and a Bluetooth box that allows a tachograph to send data via a mobile telephone to either an office computer or analysis bureau.

The ability to download tachograph data remotely via GPRS naturally moves analysis into the telematics arena, so an increasing number of telematics systems now include a tachograph analysis option.



Analysis software systems slice up tachograph data in every way possible, presenting a wealth of management information

Digital data is far easier to manipulate than a trace on a paper chart, making analysis much cheaper than it used to be. Operators can opt either to carry out analysis in-house or employ an external bureau.

The availability of good analysis software makes the in-house approach highly attractive. When you purchase the software you are usually buying an annual licence or subscription, which has to be renewed, so consider the on-going costs as well as the initial purchase price.

A good example of the sort of system available is OPTAC3 software from tachograph maker Stoneridge. It is a flexible system that can be configured in a number of ways to suit big or small fleets. An OPTAC3 software system aimed at fleets of up to 10 trucks costs around £250. The software sits on the operator’s own computer or server and the cost includes a software key that buys 80 vehicle downloads and 520 driver card downloads in the first year. It also allows 2,500 analogue charts to downloaded (if you have the necessary scanner), if the fleet has a mix of digital and analogue tachographs. Once the software key expires at the end of the year you need to renew the software key licence to buy another year’s worth of download capacity. That costs £195 but the price drops if you take out a contract to renew for the next few years.

OPTAC3 can also be run via the web, so instead of having the analysis software on your own computer or server, it is accessed via the internet. Purchasing an account to do this costs £75. Then you must buy the download capacity. That costs £180 for 10 ‘blocks.’ One block is designed to be sufficient for one driver for one year and includes 8 vehicle downloads (one every six weeks) and 17 driver card downloads (one every three weeks). The biggest OPTAC3 system costs around £3,300. That is suitable for fleets of up to 100 vehicles and includes all the software and hardware (digital download tool and analogue chart scanner).

VDO’s Downloadkey ll (for vehicle unit data) and mobile card reader (for driver card data) can be bought as a pair for £295.

We use Stoneridge’s OPTAC3 as an example of the sort of analysis software systems available from the likes of Tachodisc, VDO, TruTac, Exentra,  Novadata, Tachograph Analysis Consultants, Road Tech and trade associations, the FTA and RHA. Some, such as Exentra,  Road Tech’s Tachomaster and the RHA’s Smartanalysis, favour very simple pay-as-you-go pricing. Both are web-based systems with free software and no annual licence fee or subscription. The costs are covered by the analysis fee – weekly for Road Tech, per record for the RHA. Web-based analysis appears to be gaining in popularity over PC-based systems, perhaps because managers can access their data from anywhere with internet access and the fact that back-ups are automatic, so data is safe.

Choosing between the various systems can be difficult, even after comparing purchase price and subscription rates. Free 28-day trials are common and may help you decide. Much will depend on the style of the management reports. Other points to check include whether software upgrades are supplied free of charge, and the availability of free telephone support (as opposed to premium rate call charges) to iron out queries.

Several of the companies mentioned earlier also offer a bureau analysis service, accepting analogue charts either posted or, these days, data sent in digital form via email. Bureau services are usually more expensive than PC or web-based analysis. Charges may be made per chart/digital record or per driver per month. A 40p charge per chart/25p charge per digital record would not be atypical; nor would a £5.00 to £6.00 charge per driver/per month.

The FTA offers an on-site service, with a tachograph adviser carrying the analysis at the operator’s premises and available to help interpret the reports and advise on courses of action.

For really detailed analysis of particular issues several software suppliers also offer “forensic analysis”. Their experts will provide an in-depth analysis that is useful for investigating accidents, driver fraud or routing issues.


Management reports


The downside of analysing 100% of your drivers’ cards is that it produces a large volume of information to read and process. This is where the presentation and structure of the analysis reports really makes a difference, focusing management attention on the key issues and individuals.

The range of reports that can be compiled from tachograph data is huge, particularly if data from vehicle units also is analysed. For example, Stoneridge says its OPTAC3 offers 29 reports, the FTA has over 40 reports and Novadata boasts of over 60. Basic reports summarising individual driver hours are only the tip of the iceberg. It is normal to get a Working Time Directive report too, to ensure compliance with this parallel legislation.

Other reports available include:

  • management summary reports showing the big picture
  • historic reports showing infringement trends
  • hours summary for wage calculations
  • vehicle utilisation
  • infringement analysis
  • driver infringement league table
  • depot-by-depot compliance report
  • incidents of harsh braking, attributed to individual drivers

One of the key features to check is that any of these reports blend data from digital and analogue tachographs into a cohesive overall picture. Graphics such as colour-coded bands showing activity through the day may be easier to grasp than rows of times. Similarly, a dashboard-type display showing key parameters in the form of dials makes it easy to assimilate a management summary report.

The FTA and Tachodisc are among those that also offer a tachograph systems audit to check that compliance is up to scratch and that a company’s tachograph management is watertight.


Analysis Complete - now what?


Analysis is merely the means to an end. The objective is making use of the information. Only this will persuade VOSA traffic examiners and ultimately maybe the Traffic Commissioners that an operator has "taken all reasonable steps to prevent breaches of the rules."

First, managers must inform drivers of their infringements. Drivers’ infringement letters are built into analysis software so that is easily accomplished. Driver should sign acknowledgements that they have received these letters; the acknowledgements should be kept on file.

Second, managers need to demonstrate that issuing infringement letters is not their only compliance effort. They are expected to use the management reports to identify the causes of infringements and then manage them down. This is likely to entail driver debriefing, more driver training on hours and tachograph rules, route analysis and re-evaluation of delivery schedules, disciplinary measures….. Whatever the course of action, there must be evidence that tachograph data is being used to achieve a high level of compliance.

The data is also a rich seam of management information about the operation as a whole, so it is worth devoting time to study it to spot trends and opportunities for improvement.



Stoneridge’s SE5000 Exakt tachograph conforms to the new one-minute rule, potentially releasing significant amounts of extra driving time each day.

EU regulation 1266/2009, better known as the ‘one-minute’ rule, took effect on 1 October 2011. Before that date, any driving that occurs within a ‘calendar minute’ means that the whole minute must be interpreted by the tachograph as driving, even it was actually just one second. The new ruling changes that interpretation so that the tachograph records the whole minute as whatever was the dominant activity during the minute. Thus, even 29 seconds of driving is no longer recorded as driving – it would be recorded as work if that was the mode for the remaining 31 seconds. This small change can generate a significant amount of extra driving time on multi-drop routes. Stoneridge has an on-line comparison tool to show how much time can be saved (www.SE5000.com).

The impact of the new rule falls on the tachograph itself, not the download equipment or the analysis software. It is not possible to upgrade existing tachographs to suit the revised interpretation, so any operators determined to take advantage of the extra driving time potential must re-equip existing vehicles with one of the two latest tachographs built to comply with the new rule. These are Stoneridge’s SE5000 Exakt and VDO’s DTCO 1381 (Release 1.4). The third of the big three tachograph makers, Actia, does not yet have a solution. VDO says the cost of the change, by means of a service exchange of the old tachograph, is around £675.

Analysis software is unaffected by the one-minute rule and can handle data from either type of tachograph.

The next generation of tachographs

Proposals published by the European Commission in Brussels in July 2011 sketch out the shape of the next generation of digital tachograph. It will be more secure because it will have an integrated GNSS (global navigation satellite system) akin to GPS so that the vehicle’s exact start and finish location for each driver’s shift will be recorded automatically. Enforcement authorities (VOSA in the UK) will be able to communicate directly with the tachograph while the vehicle is on the move, using the information to target roadside checks.

VOSA will not see information about the driver’s identity or speed but it will get a signal when the tachograph detects fraudulent use or “non-compliance with social legislation” – infringements of driving hours rules or the working time directive. This signal will make it easy to target roadside checks and will be accompanied by a tell-tale light on the tachograph, making roadside checks far quicker. These developments will underscore the criticality of thorough tachograph analysis and swift management action to address infringements: VOSA will find it far easier to spot offenders.

All the new tachographs will have an industry standard FMS (fleet management system) interface, so tachographs and telematics are set to become closely entwined.

Other changes in the new proposals include better quality seals on tachograph heads and vehicle motion sensors, and incorporating the tachograph driver’s card into the driving licence photocard.

The European Parliament and Council are expected to adopt the proposals this year, with technical specifications developed during 2013 and 2014. Commercial development of the new tachograph would occur in 2015 and 2016, ready for installation in new vehicles from 2017 onwards.

Stoneridge SE5000 Exakt digital tachograph

Supplier Links

Useful Downloads

Case studies

·         Woodland Logisitcs

·         Coca Cola Sverige


Woodland Logisitcs goes remote

Chelmsford-based Woodland Logistics has equipped 43 new trucks with Tachosys’s digiDL equipment to download both driver card and vehicle unit data remotely via GPRS. Woodland sourced the equipment from Tachodisc and is the first British operator to use it.

Woodland opted for remote downloading because the vehicles concerned are employed on a contract spread across five sites. “We wanted something that would allow us better to manage and control data from a variety of different locations,” says safety and quality officer, Lesley Thomson.


The digiDLs have been programmed to download driver cards automatically once a week and the vehicle units once a month. The information is transmitted to Tachodisc’s server for analysis.

"It is saving us a lot of time, ensures we are complying with legislation and protects our O licence,” says Thomson. “It has removed the headache of downloading cards and units that are scattered all over the country."

Woodland now plans to fit digiDL to half its fleet.


Minutes matter for Coca Cola Sverige


One operator that stands to benefit from last October’s change to the one-minute rule is Coca-Cola Sverige. Its trucks deliver across Sweden, making around 10-20 drops a day.

Early in 2011 it carried out a trial involving four of its Scanias, comparing data generated by Stoneridge’s SE5000 Exakt tachograph (which operates in line with the new interpretation) and the standard SE5000 in trucks covering the same routes. Driving time savings of up to 48 minutes per truck per day were realised by those using the Exakt. Even drivers on long-haul trips, where the benefit was likely to be smaller, were benefiting to the tune of 16 minutes.

It could easily give us over 100 hours of extra driving time per driver per year,” says Coca-Cola Sverige fleet manager, Torbjorn Karlsson.


Operator Comments


DW Cook Transport- Shirley Bowley of DW Cook Transport:


We have a small fleet all using the analogue system. As we have a small number of vehicles we use a standard analogue multi-wheel to check all of our charts to ensure we are compliant. It would not be necessary to sub this work out to an analyzer due to the small volume of charts that we actually use.


DJB Haulage- Martin Hammet of Willmots/DJB Haulage:


We run a medium-sized fleet with vehicles using both analogue and digital tachograph systems. As we are running two different formats of recording we find it is much easier to sub the work out to a dedicated tachograph analyzer. If we were on one system I think we would most likely keep it in-house.


S&J European - Mark Turner of S&J European:


We operate around 40 vehicles and as tachograph recording goes, most vehicles are still analogue but we do now have digital recording equipment as well. We used to have all tachographs analyzed by an outside company but we have recently brought it all in-house as this is more cost-effective and productive. For example, if I have a new driver I want to make sure that he or she is compliant, by keeping analysis in-house I can check up within 24 hours. If I send the card away it could be up to six weeks before I see it.


Lambert Brothers- Clive Watkins, MD of Lambert Brothers:


We tend to keep our vehicles for around 10 years, providing they are economically viable, hence we now have vehicles with analogue and digital recording devices. While both formats are in operation analyzing is quite difficult. We send analogue charts away for analysis while digital cards are downloaded and checked in-house. Sending cards away is a little out of date now so I intend to bring all tachograph analysis in-house as soon as possible as I think it’s more practical and cost-efficient to do so.