The writing on the road

Tachographs have been a familiar sight in the cab of European commercial vehicles for over twenty years, or over forty if you are driving a German vehicle. Now, the IRTE launches a guide to tachograph compliance

Within the last couple of years digital tachographs have been fitted to all new vehicles, requiring drivers and operators to get used to a new way of using the tachograph and analysing its data. Yet even though tachographs are not new, there are still too many operators being investigated by Traffic Commissioners for offences relating to tachographs and drivers’ hours.

Tachograph legislation is complex and the European drivers’ hours rules can be daunting at first sight. It is not surprising there are often articles in the press about how the Traffic Commissioner has penalised operators who have broken the rules. Ignorance of the law is not a defence, yet Transport Managers will often inadvertently break the law due to failings in their management systems.
The onus is on the operator to make sure they are compliant and that their drivers are working within the rules. Offences committed by drivers reflect on the Operators Licence and if the systems associated with tachograph training and management are weak, then it will be the operator just as much as the driver who will be held liable for an offence.
Tachograph system best practice is not just about making sure you have working tachographs and are collecting the charts. It encompasses good driver training, suitable scheduling systems, processes for compliance monitoring and taking action when problems occur.
Although this may seem like a lot of work, if approached in the correct way, using tachograph records correctly can help make your business work better. For example, if a driver is consistently breaking the rules it is likely that the infringement will keep occurring, unless proper retraining and disciplinary systems are in operation. If this affects safety, not only do you risk prosecution but, if the driver is involved in a traffic collision, then there is the potential for death or serious injury. If adherence to the rules would have prevented a driver becoming tired and fatigued then this potential collision could have been avoided.

The responsibility for compliance with legislation is shared between the operator and the driver, and whilst the driver is on the road, it is their responsibility to make sure they comply with the drivers’ hours rules. However, it is their employer’s duty to make sure that the drivers have the appropriate knowledge and understanding of the rules in the first place. It is not simply good enough to train drivers. Records of that training should be kept and all assessments drivers undergo should be logged.
Tachograph charts need to be issued and collected or, in the case of digital data, downloaded. Once this information is available, it should be analysed and if that analysis show there have been infringements of the driver’s hours rules, then a procedure needs to be put in place to ensure this will not reoccur. This procedure needs to identify why the infringement occurred. Was it poor scheduling? Or a lack of understanding on the part of the driver? Once the cause of the infringement has been identified then appropriate retraining or disciplinary procedures need to be enforced.

It is also important to make sure the analysis of charts or data is rigorous. It is not good enough for an operator to contract out its chart and data analysis to an external firm and then use this as a defence if they are investigated by the traffic commissioner. It is the operator’s responsibility to make sure that the analysis process used for their charts and data is adequate.
If any of these issues affect you or your company then you may be interested in the new IRTE Best Practice Guide towards Tachograph Systems Compliance. The guide is aimed at those who are involved in all aspects of driver scheduling management and training. It gives advice on best practice for managers and supervisors, office staff and drivers.
Gordon Humphreys, a senior tachograph consultant at Foster Tachographs, wrote the guide to help users of tachograph systems comply with the law.
The guide, kindly sponsored by Stoneridge Electronics, is free and available to download from . Hard copies are also available by contacting 020 7630 1111 or emailing .

IRTE (Institute of Road Transport Engineers) is a Professional Sector of SOE (Society of Operations Engineers)

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