Under UK law, drivers of goods vehicles are obliged to keep the last 28 days’ worth of tachograph records on their person. These records include manual entries, digital driver’s cards, holiday records, charts, and so on. Records beyond this immediate 28-day period must be handed over to the fleet operator at the earliest opportunity.
Fleet operators must use tachographs if the vehicles used come under EU or AETR rules, and must be able to download digital tachograph data from driver cards whenever it is requested. This data must then be download from driver cards at least every 28 calendar days and from vehicle units at least every 90 calendar days. Failure to install, keep or hand over tachograph records can result in a fine of up to £5,000.
There are 2 types of tachograph - analogue and digital - and fleet operators are obliged to retain both records for a period of at least one year where used for compliance with European Drivers’ Hours and Tachograph Regulations, rising to two years for Working Time Directive compliance. That said, all commercial vehicles first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must be fitted with digital tachographs. Otherwise, an operator can use an analogue tachograph.
Q: Why do tachograph records need to be retained for that length of time?
A: Both drivers and employers are under a legal obligation to retain tachograph records. These must provide an accurate reflection of activity on the job, including hours driven, breaks and rest periods, distance travelled and speed – for a certain period of time. This is so that the relevant authorities (in particular, DVSA) have a reliable and detailed record, over a reasonable period of time, of the fleet operator’s compliance with regulations regarding drivers’ hours as well as those drivers’ conduct behind the wheel.
It is worth noting that fleet operators are also prohibited from allowing drivers to simply schedule their own work – this is the responsibility of the operator itself. The authorities should then be able to deduce from tachograph records whether the systems in place for scheduling work and training drivers are adequate to their respective tasks (and legally compliant). In order to do so, the DVLA needs to be able to access tachograph records which will provide a longer-term perspective.
Q: What are the implications of not retaining tachograph records for that period of time?
A: Drivers and fleet operators who fail to retain tachograph records for the time stipulated by law can be subject to a range of sanctions and penalties. Tachograph-related offences include failure to install a tachograph, failure to observe time accurately, failure to keep tachograph records, and falsifying records. The maximum punishment for falsifying tachograph records is two years’ imprisonment. Failure to install or tachographs, and to fail to make, keep or hand over tachograph records upon request, can result in a fine of between £2,500 to £5,000.
VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) also ultimately have the power to inspect vehicles if required, prohibit and direct vehicles, or conduct and appear in proceedings at court. An operator must abide by their request if VOSA ask to carry out any of these.
The most minor infringements can be dealt with by a simple verbal warning, including a clarification of the infringement and an explanation the future consequences in the event of repeat offences. Other incidents may result in the issuing of an offence rectification notice, which gives the parties concerned 21 days to rectify the shortcoming.
Some tachograph infringements may result in a prohibition. As the name suggests, this means that driving of a particular vehicle is prohibited for a particular period. The DVLA stresses that this is not technically a sanction but is rather a method of removing an immediate threat to road safety. Vehicles affected may also be immobilised to prevent their use while subject to a prohibition. Prohibitions may be issued for specified or unspecified periods. Where a prohibition has been issued, the matter will also be considered for prosecution.
Drivers may also be issued with fixed penalties for tachograph breaches, to which they have 28 days to respond. There is a sliding scale of fixed penalties depending on the seriousness of the offence. Where this is considered to be in the public interest, the most serious infringements can result in the prosecution of drivers, fleet operators, other parties or all of them together. In addition, drivers and operators can be referred to the Traffic Commissioner for consideration of whether further action should be taken with respect to their licences.
What's more, falsifying or altering records with the intent to deceive ,is a crime and could result in two years’ imprisonment. This punishment is also applied to any alterations, or forgery, or signs of tampering made to the seal of the tachograph.
Q: How can tachograph record keeping be made easier?
A: Tachograph and driver hours record keeping and the associated compliance issues have been greatly simplified by technology in recent years. Previously, this could all be something of a minefield for both fleet operators and drivers alike. However, modern digital tachograph systems have made it dramatically easier to obtain tachograph data, including remote downloading and real-time monitoring of driver status. Scheduled reporting, meanwhile, ensures that this data is automatically sent directly to managers, which again helps to simplify the process, saving effort and valuable time. In addition, the easy availability of accurate real-time driver working hours information makes it much simpler to keep track of workforce availability and allocate drivers to particular jobs while staying safely within the boundaries of the Working Time Directive.
* Disclaimer – the information offered in this article is a representation of driver hours laws at the time of publishing, you should seek independent advice or reference the governments website https://www.gov.uk/tachographs prior to implementing any processes.