Tachograph rules and exemptions

One of the most confusing areas of transport law, particularly for “casual” commercial vehicle users, is whether the laws regarding tachographs apply to their operation.

What is a tachograph?

The original analogue tachograph looked like a large clock and relied on a wax covered round paper chart and needle behind the clock face to record the distance, time, mileage etc. In May 2006, the law changed making it compulsory for all commercial vehicles first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must be fitted with a digital version. These look like a CD/DVD player and fit in a single DIN slot, they have a slot for the Drivers card ( and second driver if appropriate) and this digitally records the same basic data to record the drivers hours and rest periods, allowing the authorities to check via a handheld card reader on their adherence to the EU law.

Tachograph rules: do I need one?

Let’s get down to the basics, the tachograph is there to ensure a “professional driver or operator” of a commercial vehicle weighing over 3.5 tonne gross vehicle or combination weight adhere’s to the EU’s drivers hours and rest period legislations.

It is intended for operators who are engaged in the commercial carriage of goods or “hire and reward” where the drivers job is viewed as his/her sole purpose and therefore a tachograph is a means of monitoring the drivers hours at work i.e. driving and ensuring they stay within the EU’s drivers hours and rest periods. Although it has to be said, it doesn’t stop them exceeding the hours but just records the event.

Other than the “commercial carriage of goods” exemption, perhaps the second most frequently used exemption is the law regarding travel within 100km’s of the operators base. If the vehicles gross combination ( train) weight is under 7.5tonne and carrying equipment and material only for the drivers own use and within 100kms of their base then, again, there’s no need for a tachograph.

Are there any exemptions to the tachograph rules?

There are numerous exemptions to the requirement to install a tachograph, some have already been mentioned above but below are a few more – a full list is available from the gov.uk website.

  • vehicles that can’t go faster than 40 kph, including vehicles restricted by a set speed limiter
  • emergency aid vehicles
  • breakdown vehicles – specialised breakdown vehicles working within a 100km of their base
  • vehicles undergoing road tests for technical development, repair or maintenance purposes, and new or rebuilt vehicles which have not yet been put into service
  • non-commercial vehicles under 7.5 tonnes – for example a person moving house or goods carried by a non-profit making group or registered charity
  • vehicles with between 10 to 17 seats used exclusively for non-commercial passengers
  • vehicles that are used to carry live animals between a farm and a market, or from a market to a slaughterhouse where the distance is less than 50km
  • vehicles or combinations of vehicles with a maximum permissible weight of 7.5 tonnes or less that are used for carrying work equipment for the driver
  • vehicles with a maximum weight of 7.5 tonnes which use natural or liquefied gas or electricity as fuel and carry goods within 50km from their base
  • driving instruction or exams includes instruction for renewal of Driver CPC

This is an overview of the legislation and is intended as a guide only, you should consult the appropriate authorities or seek legal advice on this subject as our comments should not be relied in a legal context. Ultimately it is the courts that will decide the legislation.