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Smart Tacho Advice to Dispel the Myths
The next generation of digital tachograph arrived on 15th June, and as with all new compliance-led technologies, suspicions have been aroused and assumptions have been made. In fairness, prior to its launch, information on what technologies were being embedded into the new tachograph (or rather what they actually mean for an operator / driver) has been unclear and this, combined with headlines regarding roadside enforcement, has naturally led to misconceptions being formed and spread via the Chinese whisper effect.
So following the production of our White Paper earlier in the year and our subsequent webinar with Commercial Motor, we’ve gathered all your feedback to dispel the 8 most common myths surrounding the new Smart Tacho, which for this article we will refer to as the Gen 2 Tacho.
As a preface, the good news from the operator and driver’s point of view is that little has really changed and, if you are a law-abiding operator, there is absolutely nothing to fear from the Gen 2 Tacho.
MYTH 1: Enforcement officers can download data from the vehicle from the roadside.
The new Gen 2 Tacho incorporates a digital short-range communication system (DSRC) for use by the authorities at the roadside. However, enforcement officers CANNOT download any information on the driver or vehicle from the roadside. The misconception comes from the word ‘download’ – the correct terminology is that enforcement officers can “remotely interrogate” or scan a vehicle using the DSRC against 18 key points to determine if they want to stop a vehicle or not.
- Vehicle registration plate
- Speeding Event
- Driving Without Valid Card
- Valid Driver Card
- Card Insertion while Driving
- Motion Data Error
- Vehicle Motion Conflict
- 2nd Driver Card
- Current Activity
- Last Session Closed
- Power Supply Interruption
- Sensor Fault
- Time Adjustment
- Security Breach Attempt
- Last Calibration
- Previous Calibration
- Current Speed
This scanned information cannot be used to issues penalties or as evidence of prosecution – however, it can be used to decide whether or that vehicle should be subject to a roadside enforcement check. Only if an enforcement officer chooses to stop and physically check the vehicle in the conventional way can any further action be taken (as per the status quo).
In essence, with depleting government budgets but more vehicles on the road to ensure are safe, the technology is being employed to bridge this gap and help enforcement officers spot potential rogue operators more easily and effectively - a new tool to help them with their job.
MYTH 2: Drivers who operate multi-vehicles (with Gen 1 and Gen 2 tachographs) will need new Gen 2 Driver Cards.
NO. Current Gen 1 Driver Cards will work in a Gen 2 Tacho, so there is no requirement to purchase a new one. Equally, if you are due to renew or need to replace your Gen 1 Driver Card, you will be automatically sent a ‘Gen 2’ Driver Card, but this will also work in a Gen 1 Tacho – they have inter-operability.
The same rule applies for Company Cards; an operator is able to use a Gen 1 Company Card to “lock in” a vehicle installed with a Gen 2 Tacho and can also use their existing card to initiate a download.
MYTH 3: Smart Tachos will affect Earned Recognition.
As we’ve mentioned, the introduction of the smart tacho is focussed on enforcement, to stop companies who are operating outside of the law. The very principle of Earned Recognition is to recognise good operators and this will continue as normal. The two are not connected.
MYTH 4: Due to short-comings reported on the supply of Gen 2 Tacho heads and gear-box sender units, from 15th June some new vehicles may still be fitted with Gen 1 tachographs making them non-compliant so operators cannot use to use them commercially.
Continental (Siemens VDO) has confirmed they do have supply issues which will not be resolved until August. Not only that, because VDO also supply the gear-box-sender to the other main tacho head manufacturer, Stoneridge, this has created a major stumbling block for the introduction of the new Gen 2 Tacho.
There are 3 very important points here:
- In response to this shortfall in supply, the DVSA has released a statement to confirm that until the supply issue is resolved, new vehicles from 15th June can be fitted with a Gen 1 Tacho so can continue operating as normal.
- However, this response from DVSA only applies to vehicles operating in the UK therefore operators need to be mindful of this fact and seek advice if they have vehicles operating outside of the UK.
- For operators who have taken delivery of a new vehicle since June 15th, it is advised that they check what tacho head has been fitted, and if it is a Gen 1 Tacho, arrangements will need to be made with your dealer to have a Gen 2 Tacho retro-fitted once the supply issues have been resolved. Although this gives the operator a bit of flexibility from an enforcement point of view, it’s not clear at this stage who will bear the cost for this retro-fit.
MYTH 5: The new GNSS transponder is a tool for enforcement bodies to spy on a vehicle’s movement.
The GNSS (global navigation satellite system) is a significant development for the new Gen 2 Tacho, which will take a GPS reading of a vehicle’s position at the start and end of duty to an accuracy of 200 metres, and again after every three hours of accumulated driving. If the satellite is obscured, then this will also be recorded by the tachograph. The enforcement bodies will have no remote access to this information, but if a vehicle is stopped the information can be accessed as part of a routine check.
External fleet management systems, used by the operator, will be able to access the live information, but drivers will have to give consent under GDPR rules.
MYTH 6: Downloading equipment will need to be replaced.
Although there are no significant changes to the way the new digital tachograph unit functions from the driver’s or operator’s point of view, there are some changes to the structure and the format to how the data is generated. This means existing downloading devices may not work with the new Gen 2 Tacho or may not download all the additional data from the new tachograph. There is no hard and fast rule, but in some cases the download units might need to be replaced, or if they have been manufactured in the last few years they might simply require a software upgrade. The best advice here is to contact your supplier.
MYTH 7: The smart tachograph will cost more.
Judging by conversations that we have had so far, the operator should not notice any marked increase in cost at the point at which they buy a brand new vehicle and any initial maintenance issues involving the tachograph should be covered by the vehicle’s warranty.
However, potential maintenance issues in the future may well end up being more costly for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is more hardware to maintain as the Gen 2 Tacho is linked to the DSRC transmitter which is usually mounted on the windscreen so there may be additional costs involved with regards to labour and replacement parts. Secondly, the Gen 2 Tacho is paired to the sender unit at point of installation with a crucial difference when compared with the Gen 1 - the sender can only be paired once. This means that if there is an issue with the tachograph and it needs to be replaced, a new sender unit will also need to be installed. Likewise, if there is an issue with the sender unit, the tachograph itself will need to be changed.
In summary, although there may be no initial increase in cost, the operator may well end up paying more for ongoing maintenance once the vehicle’s original warranty has expired.
MYTH 8: If an existing vehicle with a Gen 1 Tacho has to be replaced, it will need to be fitted with a Gen 2 Tacho.
No, any version of Tacho must be replaced like for like, unless you choose to upgrade. There is therefore no requirement to retrofit existing vehicles with Gen 2 Tachos at this stage.
The next few months will be interesting as we see the new Gen 2 Tacho rolled out, but what is clear, the whole premise behind the Gen 2 Tacho is to assist in stopping fraudulent activity and to help enforcement authorities more easily identify operators that are not complying with the law (which can only be a good thing), to aid road safety (the sole purpose for tachographs being introduced back in the 1980s) and to help create a commercial level playing field.