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Smart Tachographs: What Transport Managers Need to Know

Version 1.0

The smart, or Generation 2, tachograph, is an innovation introduced in 2019 to enable more accurate, regular, and smoother data capture and transmission.

As of 15th June 2019, all newly registered heavy goods vehicles are required to be fitted with a smart tachograph (version 1). Like the original digital tachographs, which were introduced en masse in 2005, they record speed, mileage and working hours; the new crop differs from its predecessors, however, in its enhanced security features, open interface and short-range communication system.

The development of the smart tachograph coincided with the adoption of three acts by the European Parliament in April 2020. These acts, known collectively as Mobility Package 1, were designed to improve working conditions and promote fair competition in the European supply chain. The substance of the package is as follows:

  • Drivers are no longer allowed to take their 45-hour rest in the vehicle cab. If the driver is working away from base, their employer must pay for overnight accommodation.
  • The tachograph will register border crossings; and those engaging in cabotage operations will be subject to a mandatory cooling-off period of four days. 
  • Drivers will receive equal pay, as opposed to national minimum wage (NMW).

As the Gen2 was rolled out, it became apparent that several types of downloader were not compatible with the units; some manufacturers, including Lisle Design, developed software that would upgrade eligible devices to ensure compatibility; some devices, however, have proved to be too old for the upgrade, and have had to be replaced.

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Version 2.0

From August 2023, all new heavy goods vehicles will be fitted with version 2 of the smart tachograph. Among the advantages of the new model are increased storage capacity: unlike version 1, version 2 stores driver-related data for 56 days, double that of its predecessor. Further, it records the times of loading and unloading: a unique development, and one we suspect will be invaluable to fleet managers and route planners going forward.

Operators will also benefit from the new model’s automatic location recording. Aided by GPS, the tachograph logs the start and end times of the driver’s daily working period, and every three hours of accumulated driving time.

Another major advantage of the new technology is the open interface, which enables integration with a number of systems – from telematics to analysis – to a far greater degree than any previous model. 

It’s crucial to be aware, however, that due to the unit’s superior data-sharing capabilities, the machine can be scanned while the vehicle is in motion. This will have the consequence of enforcement officers being enabled to survey the tachograph data remotely, which will reveal any drivers’ hours or working time infringements even before the vehicle is pulled over.

However, while this remote detection technology is currently available, enforcement authorities are not required to deploy it until 2034. The DVSA has made it clear it is unwilling to invest in the upgrade until the smart tachograph is more widespread.

While certain manual downloading devices have had to be upgraded or replaced to accommodate the Gen2 technologies, another option, ready-made for use with the smart tachographs, is the remote downloader (RDL). This is a small device fitted to the rear of the tachograph; it transmits the driver and vehicle data via cloud to a designated online platform. 

The frequency of downloads is customisable in line with operational interests. Fortnightly, weekly, and daily downloads are possible. Most fleets regardless of size opt for daily downloads: this means every time the ignition is switched on, vehicle data is sent, and each time the driver card inserted, driver data.. 

This allows for practically real-time access to your data, which has obvious and significant advantages for transport managers, and allows the company to demonstrate a proactive and transparent approach to compliance, in accordance with the high expectations of the DVSA. 

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