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The digital tachograph is a "digital" version of the waxed-paper based "analogue" tachograph instrument, the origins of which can be traced back to the early 1900s.

It electronically records driver and vehicle activities. It also holds information relating to faults, over speeding, calibration details and attempts to tamper with the system.

Information is stored in the digital tachographs own memory and on the driver smart cards.

The digital tachograph is continually being updated. Whilst the outer style remains largely unchanged, software changes, menuing options and functionality are continually being developed.

"Type approval" (official permission) has been granted. As a result, digital tachographs (rather than analogue tachographs) are now fitted as standard in nearly all new commercial goods and passenger vehicles.

The digital tachograph consists of a vehicle unit, motion sensor and smart card.

Vehicle Unit : The vehicle unit is the main part of the system. It consists of a printer, display, user interface buttons and 2 smart card slots. It holds the driver data (driving that vehicle), driving and duty periods over the last 365 days, faults data, calibration details and over speed and excessive drive times.

Motion Sensor : The motion sensor provides a signal representation of vehicle speed and/or distance travelled to the vehicle unit in an encrypted form.

Smart Card : The smart card is a white plastic card similar to a credit card in size and shape. It has a microchip on it and records activity and other details, similar to those now recorded on a conventional tachograph chart.

Domestic and European governments are committed to improving the transport sector. Tachographs are the tool that records driver and vehicle activity, so closely monitoring this sector.

Digital tachographs help offer greater security and higher intergity of the details recorded. This, in-turn, helps reduce fraudlent activity, so promoting direct benefits including :

  • safer working conditions for employees;
  • enhanced profitability for companies;
  • a safer, more environmentally friendly road transport sector.

There are four types of smart cards in total :

  • Driver Card
  • Company Card
  • Workshop Card
  • Control Card

At any one time the driver card holds typically 28 days of information about driver activities (the average activity of a driver is defined as 93 activity changes per day).

The digital tachograph vehicle unit is designed to hold data for 365 days with average use. It will also hold detailed speed data for the last 24 hours of actual driving time.

The vehicle unit will provide six different types of printouts via the menu, as follows:

Given below is what a sample print out will look like: 

The menu has Up/Down, OK and Cancel buttons.

  • The Up/Down buttons are used to scroll through various menu options or to increase, decrease displayed values e.g. hours.
  • The OK button is used to enter and/or confirm options displayed on the menu and manual duty entry screens.
  • The Cancel button is used for returning to the main menu.

Regulation (EC) No. 1360/2002 defines downloading as:

"Copy of a part or of a complete set of data stored in the data memory of the vehicle or in the memory of the driver card. Downloading may not alter or delete any stored data. Downloaded data are protected in such a way as to make attempts to data manipulation detectable; origin of downloaded data must be authenticable. Downloaded data are kept in a format that can be used by any authorised person".

Data download can only be authorised by a company or control card. Data may be downloaded to an ESM (e.g. PC or laptop) in one of the following ways:

  • From a tachograph card using a smart card reader.
  • From a vehicle unit by connecting an IDE (Intelligent Dedicated Equipment). The equipment used to perform data downloading to the ESM.
  • From a tachograph card via a vehicle unit by an IDE.

In order to carry out data download on the vehicle unit, the operator must perform the following operations:

  • Insert a control card or a company card in the vehicle unit
  • Connect the IDE to the vehicle unit
  • Establish the connection between the vehicle unit and the IDE
  • Select on the IDE the data to download and send the request to the vehicle unit
  • Close the download session

Four choices are presented for the operator to select on the IDE :

  • Download driver activities between two dates typed by the operator
  • Download events and faults data
  • Download detailed speed over 24-hour data
  • Download technical data

The result of one download session is one physical file in the IDE. Once the chosen data has been downloaded, the operator may reselect another choice of data to download or close the download session.

Yes. The Digital Tachograph warns the driver if any event or fault is detected or when a power supply interruption has occurred. The equipment also warns the driver 15 minutes before the permitted continuous driving time of 4 hours and 30 minutes is exceeded. Warnings are visual and audible. The cause of the warning is displayed on the equipment display and will remain visible until it is acknowledged by the user.

This is an instrument cluster that can optionally be used as an external display connected to the digital tachograph. It displays the speed and distance using information passed from a vehicle unit. However, speed and distance are also available on the vehicle unit display.

The speed sensor takes information from the vehicle and the digital tachograph converts it to speed and distance information. Each sensor has a specific code that the digital tachograph is set up to communicate with. If the sensor is changed to a new one, and the new code is not entered in the digital tachograph, the digital tachograph will not communicate with the new sensor, helping to prevent tampering.

UTC is the time system used by vehicles using digital tachographs. It stands for "Universal Time Co-Ordinated". All information recorded by the vehicle unit and on the driver card is in UTC time. Also, all printouts are in UTC time. 

UTC time and “local time” can vary and both times are not always the same. In the UK, in the Winter, UTC time is the same as local time. In the UK, in the Summer, UTC time is local time (–1 hour) e.g. 10:00 am local time would be 9:00 am UTC time. Below is a conversion table from “local” time to "UTC" time.

Local Time

UTC Time

Local Time

UTC Time

12 Midnight

23:00

12 Noon

11:00

1 AM

24:00

1 PM

12:00

2 AM

01:00

2 PM

13:00

3 AM

02:00

3 PM

14:00

4 AM

03:00

4 PM

15:00

5 AM

04:00

5 PM

16:00

6 AM

05:00

6 PM

17:00

7 AM

06:00

7 PM

18:00

8 AM

07:00

8 PM

19:00

9 AM

08:00

9 PM

20:00

10 AM

09:00

10 PM

21:00

11 AM

10:00

11 PM

22:00

Summer

Time

12 Midnight

23:00

Conversion Table – Local Time To UTC Time

Yes, data can be checked on the screen, by downloading to an external storage medium (an authorisation card is necessary for access) or by printing out through the integral printer in the digital tachograph.

Siemens Downloadkey 11 –

  • Insert your company card in one of the card slots on the digital tachograph.
  • Insert the Downloadkey with the 6-pin download plug into the interface at the front of the tachograph.
  • Download LED starts flashing green which means data is being transferred.
  • When the light stays on it means that the download was successful.
  • If Download error LED illuminates red then the download has failed. Sometimes it flashes for a short time and then the Download LED then stays on. This means that the download has finished with errors.

Digidown –

All three LEDs flashing together indicate that there is a problem with the SD card.

  • Insert your company card in one of the card slots on the digital tachograph.
  • Connect the Digidown to the 6-pin download plug into the interface at the front of the tachograph.
  • On connection, the Digidown will check the presence and format of the SD card and then indicate that it is ready for operation by blinking briefly each of the LEDs in turn.
  • During download, the LED by the button pressed will flash repeatedly about twice each second.
  • Successful completion will be indicated by the LED blinking briefly about once every second.
  • Error  Conditions:

All three LEDs flashing together indicate that there is a problem with the SD card.

Single LED permanently on indicates download failure.

Optad Download Unit –

  • Insert your company card in one of the card slots on the digital tachograph.
  • Insert the Optac Unit with the 6-pin download plug into the interface at the front of the tachograph.
  • Press the Power button on the Optac unit on the extreme right.
  • When the green light comes on, press either the full vehicle download button or partial vehicle download button in the middle.
  • Green lights start flashing backwards and forwards indicating data transfer.
  • Download is successful when there is a beep noise and green light turns steady by the button pressed.
  • If the light is red then download was not successful.

NOTE: The download of data from a VU can take a considerable time, potentially in excess of 30 minutes.

An example:

If you started driving at 07:30 and finished at 21:15 with a total driving time of 09:23 hours, then started the next day, driving for an hour from 06:15 to 07:15, would that hour be added to the previous day’s total driving time after having 9 hours daily rest?

No, it would not be added to the previous days total because after a daily rest of 9 hours in a 24 hour period the driver’s total driving time is reset. The counter starts from zero.

In the new digital tachograph, the current paper chart is replaced with an electronic ‘smart card’. This smart card or ‘driver card’ is a white plastic card similar to a credit card in size and shape. It records activity and other details, similar to those now recorded on a conventional tachograph chart.

The driver card stores :

  • Card identification data such as card no., issuing member state, card validity information etc.
  • Card holder identification such as name of driver, date of birth etc.
  • Driver licence information such as driving licence no., issuing authority name etc.
  • Vehicles used data such as date and time vehicle used, vehicle registration number etc.
  • Driver activity data such as date, total distance, driver status (Crew, Single), activity (Driving, Availability, Work, Break) etc.
  • Places where daily work periods start / end such as date and time of entry, type of entry, country, region etc.
  • Events and faults data such as time overlap, power supply interruption, security breach attempts, card faults etc.
  • Control activity data such as date and time of control, control card no. etc.

Digital tachograph smart cards, driver cards, are now available. Application packs for driver cards can be ordered from DVLA by calling 0300 790 6109. They can also be obtained from local DVLA offices and VOSA testing stations.

There are two methods of ordering an application form, either by following the automated system which records your details, or by holding and speaking to a call centre operator.

From the day of ordering, the application form is currently being received within a few days. (This may increase, however, when the number of applications increases.)

For driver cards applications, for drivers with a current photo driving licence, the application is quite simple. Only a minimal amount of information is required – the form can be filled in, in a matter of minutes. Applications are currently being turned round in about seven days, though it can take up to 15 days.

For driver card applications, for drivers with non-photo driving licences, the application processes is a little more involved, as proof of identity is required. This “proof of identity” is in the form of a passport photograph which requires authentication, unless the applicant already possesses a digital UK passport. It is possible to apply for a photo driving licence at the same time by completing a driving licence application form D1.

Application packs for driver cards contain detailed information as to what is required, by whom, and how to complete the forms. (If there are any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact the help line at TACL on 01704 894 555).

Loss of a driver card is a serious issue. If you lose your driver card you must report it to the police and get a crime number. You have seven days to apply for a new card. You are allowed to drive without a card for 15 days but you must do a vehicle printout at the beginning and end of each day and sign and print your name on them. An application would have to be made to the Issuing Authority, who would provide the replacement driver card. Driver cards can only be obtained from a special "Issuing Authority" - in the UK, the DVLA.

To order an application form online please click on this link: http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/onlineservices/order_forms.aspx

Continue to work normally, though record activity details manually. To do this you need to take a vehicle printout and then sign and date them. Apply to the Issuing Authority (DVLA) for a new driver card.

To order an application form online please click on this link: http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/onlineservices/order_forms.aspx

Driver cards can be obtained from the DVLA. They are currently available and can be applied for now.

A photocard licence will not be needed to get a Driver Card. However, DVLA suggest the application process may be quicker if a photocard licence is used for the application.

To order an application form online please click on this link: http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/onlineservices/order_forms.aspx

Driver cards obtained from the DVLA cost £38. If a card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is £19.

The driver needs to keep the current day as well as the previous 28 days of analogue charts in the cab. When a vehicle with a digital tachograph is used, the driver needs to keep their driver card on them at all times.

The new system is electronic. There will be no need to complete centre field entries on a tachograph chart. If using a digital tachograph all the time, there will be no need to use tachograph charts whatsoever. The digital tachograph will also provide (by pressing buttons on the face of the instrument) details about driving, duty and break times etc.

At any one time the driver card holds typically 28 days of information about driver activities (the average activity of a driver is defined as 93 activity changes per day).

The driver card holds typically 28 days of information about driver activities. This a "rolling" 28 days of information: information about the activities on day 29 would be recorded over the activity information for day 1; activity information for day 30 would be recorded over activity information for day 2, and so on.

Earlier data is lost and hence should be backed up on an external storage media.

It takes approximately 28 days for the card to be overwritten depending upon the drivers daily operation.

If at the end of your shift you forget to switch to rest and leave the mode on duty you could take a print out of the day in question and may need a print out of the day after as well as a shift is in 24 hour blocks, part of which might be on one day up to midnight and part of it on the next. These print outs should then have your name, signature and date with an explanation as to what happened, for instance 'Wrong mode switch selected in error' or 'Forgot to change the mode switch' etc.

You can get print outs for previous days, so you will be able to get appropriate printouts even if the problem happened previously.

This card is a “key” that enables access to the company details stored in the digital tachograph itself. It will enable operators to download information from digital tachographs.

Company cards will be available from the DVLA and cost £38.

Company Smart Card Front:                                    

Company Smart Card Back:

Digital tachograph smart cards and company cards are now available. Application packs for company cards can be ordered from DVLA by calling 0300 790 6109. They can also be obtained from local DVLA offices and VOSA testing stations.

There are two methods of ordering an application form, either by following the automated system which records your details, or by holding and speaking to a call centre operator.

From the day of ordering, the application form is currently being received within a few days. (This may increase, however, when the number of applications increases.)

Applications are currently being turned round in about seven days, though it can take up to 15 days.

Application packs for company cards contain detailed information as to what is required, by whom, and how to complete the forms. (If there are any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact the help line at TACL on 01704 894 555).

The company card stores :

  • Card identification data such as card no., issuing member state, card validity information etc.
  • Card holder identification such as company name, company address.
  • Company activity data such as date and time of activity, type of activity, period downloaded, vehicle registration number etc.

Digital tachograph smart cards and company cards are now available. Application packs for company cards can be ordered from DVLA by calling 0300 790 6109. They can also be obtained from local DVLA offices and VOSA testing stations.

There are two methods of ordering an application form, either by following the automated system which records your details, or by holding and speaking to a call centre operator.

From the day of ordering, the application form is currently being received within a few days. (This may increase, however, when the number of applications increases.)

Applications are currently being turned round in about seven days, though it can take up to 15 days.

Application packs for company cards contain detailed information as to what is required, by whom, and how to complete the forms. (If there are any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact the help line at TACL on 01704 894 555).

Used by authorised workshops, this card allows calibration of the digital tachograph itself. It can also be used to undertake checking of the digital tachograph.

These cards will be free-of-charge.

Workshop Smart Card Front:                                   

Workshop Smart Card Back:

The workshop smart card stores security elements, card identification, card holder information such as workshop name, address etc., events and faults data, driver activity data, control activity data, calibration and time adjustment data.

Enforcement Authorities will use this card to access both company and workshop details stored in the digital tachograph.

These cards will be free-of-charge.

Control Smart Card Front:                                        

Control Smart Card Back:

This card holds the card identification data, card holder identification, control activity data such as date and time of the control, type of the control, period downloaded etc.

No. The new legislation does not require the automatic and mandatory replacement of a conventional tachograph with a digital tachograph.

This is dependent on the age of the vehicle:

  • If the vehicle was registered before 1st January 1996, the original conventional tachograph can be replaced with another conventional tachograph.
  • If the vehicle was registered on, or after 1st January 1996, a digital tachograph must be used to replace the original conventional tachograph.

As the system is totally electronic, details about the driver and the vehicle can be available virtually instantaneously. This can help driver and vehicle schedule planning on a daily basis in "real time". Over a period of time these details can be used for long term planning of driver workloads and vehicle utilisation.

Driver cards can be analysed using a special driver card reader. The Nemesis™ Driver Card reader can be obtained from TACL. Digital tachograph details can then be analysed with a personal computer using the specially designed Nemesis™ Digital Tachograph analysis software.

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