Experts from Aquarius answer your questions about next-generation tachographs


Last month Commercial Motor hosted a webinar about the introduction of the smart tachograph that came into force on 15 June. Experts from Aquarius were on hand to explain the implications of the introduction of Annex 1C (EU 2016/799), which essentially makes next-generation (or smart, or digital, or Gen 2... depending on which term you wish to use!) tachographs mandatory on all commercial vehicles above 3.5-tonne GVW, registered on or after 15 June.

Here’s an excerpt of Commercial Motor readers’ questions – answered by Aquarius commercial director Guy Reynolds and national account manager Marc Caplin.

If you have to fit a new tacho head due to a fault will it need to be a smart tacho?

Reynolds: “Under the regulation with an existing Gen 1 tacho, you are well within your rights to fit a Gen 1 tacho head. There is no requirement to retrofit a Gen 2.”

Will operators with old-style Gen 1 company cards need to apply for a Gen 2 company card if they have a Gen 2 tachograph?

Caplin: “It will be possible to lock in/out and download a Gen 2 tacho using a Gen 1 company card.”

With enforcement authorities able to scan vehicles at the roadside, what will happen?

Reynolds: “It is really a tool to do their job. The enforcement officer can choose when to stop a vehicle. It is entirely down to the officer as to what he or she does with that information. They have to discard it after one or two hours as they have no legal right to retain it. They will use the data todecide whether that vehicle should be pulled over for inspection further down the road.”

Will the enforcement officer be able to see the geographical location through scanning a Gen 2 tacho head?

Reynolds: “No, not at the scan when the vehicle is moving. But when it has stopped, they can put an enforcement card or download tool in and they will be able to determine the geographic location in terms of longitude and latitude. They will need to use a tool/software to understand that, such as Google Maps.”

Can we use remote download and analysis through Clockwatcher?

Reynolds: “Yes you can. We have been doing remote downloading for many years. We use what we believe are the best-of-breed remote downloading tools in the marketplace, but we will use anybody’s.”

What will be the extra cost to the operator? It appears to be an extra benefit to the DVSA and not the operator.

Reynolds: “I don’t see any physical cost to the operator unless they need a new download tool and they would have to be using relatively old equipment for that to be the case.”

Caplin: “With vehicle replacement cycles, new vehicles should be fitted with a Gen 2 tacho anyway. In terms of driver cards, a Gen 2 driver and company card is the same cost as a Gen 1. A driver can use a Gen 1 card in a Gen 2 head, so a driver does not have to replace their card if they get in a new vehicle. In terms of the cost to the operator, unless there is a necessity to buy in a new download tool there should not be any.”

What is the actual cost of a new smart tachograph?

Reynolds: “There is no uplift in the cost. Yes, if you have a new vehicle it will be included in that price, but I am not aware of any increase in cost. The distribution price should not be any different.”

Do I need a Gen 2 company card, or will the old generation card suffice?

Reynolds: “When you get a new vehicle and you lock it into your company, do you need a Gen 2 card to lock it all in? In terms of downloading the truck you can use a Gen 1 card in a Gen 2 tacho and it will download it for you.”

Where can we find the signals that all the enforcement officers are able to see?

Reynolds: “I was asked a similar question by an operator recently: ‘Is there any equipment to test if the signal is being transmitted correctly, so a compliant company can include this in the walk-around check and avoid giving the DVSA a reason to stop the vehicle?’ At the moment there is no equipment available commercially to an operator or driver to see if that signal is being sent correctly.”

When will the tachograph become more user-friendly, specifically regarding manual entries for multiple 24-hour periods?

Reynolds: “I am a technology person and have been for the whole of my career but that small screen and the fiddly buttons are not very helpful from a driver’s point of view; it is not a friendly piece of equipment. I have levelled that at the EU on several occasions, but the package for the next version is on the table and it is not going to significantly change in the next couple of years.”

Can the Gen 2 tacho head be downloaded remotely?

Reynolds: “Yes, in exactly the same way as the Gen 1 tacho. If by ‘remote downloading’ you are referring to having a black box in the vehicle, with remote authentication of your company card and your data being sent to your analysis software then yes, most definitely. However, it requires an update to the black box in the vehicle.”

Our current downloading equipment shows a message saying: “This equipment is not yet compatible”. Does this mean we need new downloaders?

Reynolds: “It will depend on your device, your supplier and how old it is. Talking to the different suppliers anything that is three to four years old should be updatable. If it is older than that it becomes questionable. So speak to your distributor or reseller about that.”

Are smart tachography compatible with digi DL?

Reynolds: “Yes they should be compatible with all DLs and that update can be downloaded remotely but check with your distributor or reseller.”

I’m set to take delivery of a new vehicle shortly. If the vehicle is not fitted with a smart tachograph due to supply issues, who is liable to pay for the retrofit of the smart tachograph?

Reynolds: “We were lucky enough to be party to some discussions about that [earlier this month]. If you have bought a new vehicle and the vendor has not supplied it in a legal state, then I don’t believe that the cost should sit with the operator: it should be with the supplier of that vehicle. It is down to you to ensure it is compliant on a long-term basis and make sure it is retrofitted.”

  • This Q&A was part of an hour long CM Special webinar on the new digital tachograph legislation. This CM Special is available to download free of charge to all registered users of - and registration is free too. Simply click here to go to the download page.

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