Your guide to Digital Tachographs
What is a digital tachograph?
Digital tachographs are fitted on goods and passenger vehicles that are subject
totachograph rules and have been brought into service since 1 May 2006. It is a
digital version of the analogue tachograph system. The digital system records
information on a range of vehicle and driver activities. Data is stored in the
vehicle unit memory and on driver cards.
The tachograph stores the following data.
Vehicle registration number
Vehicle speed (for previous 24 hours of driving)
Single or co-driver
Number of times a driver card is inserted each day
Distance travelled by the driver – it reads the vehicle odometer when the
card is inserted and removed
Driver activity – driving, rest, breaks, other work, periods of availability
Date and time of activity change
Events (for example driving without a driver card, overspeeding, fraud
attemptsetc) and faults
Details of tachograph calibrations
Tampering with the system
How does the digital tachograph system work?
Digital tachographs consist of the vehicle unit, motion sensor and smart cards
The vehicle unit (VU) is the brains of the system. It has a processor, a real-time
clock, two card slots (for driver and co-driver), a display, a printer, a download
connector and a facility for making manual entries. The VU is located in the
driver’s area of the cab.
The motion or speed sensor is located on the gearbox. It signals in an encrypted
form the vehicle speed and distance travelled by the vehicle for the VU to
record. The VU and the motion sensor are paired and the signals from the sensor
are fully encrypted. This means any attempt to interfere with them is detected
and recorded by the vehicle unit.
There are four types of smart card – driver card, control card, workshop card and
company card. The cards allow the VU to identify the cardholder and enable you
to transfer and store data.
How much data can the vehicle unit and driver card
A driver’s card can store up to 28 days worth of data. When it is full, the stored
data may be overwritten by new data. The vehicle unit stores data for the
previous 365 days before the oldest data is overwritten.
What should I do with the data from the digital
You have two responsibilities.
Download the data from the driver’s cards (at least every 21 days) and
vehicle units (at least every 3 months) and save these for one year. You
must make the downloaded information in its “raw” format available to
an enforcement officer if requested.
Monitor drivers’ records and print-outs. If there are breaches of drivers’
rules, you must address them and take steps to ensure they do not happen
Keeping digital data in an archive is relatively simple. The archived data mustagain.
retain its ‘digital signature’. This is used to confirm that the data is authentic
and hasn’t been tampered with.
As the data on a driver card will be overwritten after about 28 days, you will
need to copy this data before then.
As part of your monitoring responsibilities you must check and report on the
Non-compliance with the driver’s hours rules by the driver
Details of “missing mileage” – where a vehicle has been driven without a
Missing activities during shift-breaks, other work, etc
Missing start and end locations
What other duties does an operator have?
Supervisory: Instruct and train drivers on the proper operation of the
Ensure drivers are complying with your instructions by
checking compliance with the rules.
Follow drivers’ hours rules when planning routes.
Supply enough printer paper rolls in the vehicle for the
Operational: Ensure proper use of driver cards and the digital tachograph.
Arrange for the repair of recording equipment on the journey if
the trip takes longer than one week after a defect occurs.
Tests: Complete calibration checks within two years of the last
Have the equipment recalibrated if:
• the system is repaired,
• the time display is wrong by more than 20 minutes,
• the vehicle registration number has changed,
• the circumference of the tyres has changed, or
• the seals or installation plaques are damaged or missing.
Data handling: Using your company card, “lock-in” data on the vehicle unit
before first using the vehicle and “lock-out” data on the vehicle
unit when the vehicle leaves your fleet. For example, when
selling or disposing of the vehicle or when you are disposing of
the recording equipment.
Download data from the vehicle unit (VU) every 3 months and
download data from the driver cards at least every 21 days.
Save and store the downloaded data. A secure data storage
system will be needed which includes back-up and disaster
It is recommended that operators put in place a system for
tracking driver cards. This tracking system should record the
details of driver licence number (item 5a on the driver card)
driver card number (item 5b on the card)
expiry date (item 4b on the card) - this will alert you when
the card is due to expire
details of lost, stolen or malfunctioning cards and the action
alerts when downloads of individual cards are to be taken.
How do I view the data on a driver card?
You can view the data on the card:
on a computer, once you have downloaded the data with relevant
on a print-out from the vehicle unit, or
on the vehicle unit display.
How do I download the data on the vehicle unit and
To download data from your vehicle unit, you need a download device and your
company card. A driver card can be downloaded through the vehicle unit or can
be downloaded using a computer and the necessary software.
Most of the manufacturers of digital tachographs and other software suppliers
have download devices and software packages that can be used to download
and interpret digital tachograph information.
Using the driver card
How do I use the driver card in the tachograph unit?
You must hold a valid driver card to operate the tachograph unit. Your driver
card is personal to you (like your driving licence). The card identifies you to the
If you do not have a valid driver card, you must not drive a vehicle with a digital
tachograph. If your card is lost, stolen or faulty, you can drive without a driver
card for a maximum period of 15 calendar days subject to certain conditions. For
example you will need to produce print-outs at the start and end of your shift
and add personal information such as your name, signature and driving licence
number. You will need to prove that you have taken action to address the
problem and apply to the Road Safety Authority for a replacement card. You can
get more information about driver cards from the RSA website www.rsa.ie.
It is against the law to:
use another person’s card,
falsify a card, or
obtain a card by making a false statement or using a forged document.
Before driving, you must insert the card into slot 1 on the tachograph. The
vehicle unit will authenticate and validate the card. If your card is validated, the
tachograph displays a symbol with your name. If the card is not validated, the
display will show the message – ‘insertion of non-valid card’. Acknowledge the
warning, clear the message and remove the card, then try again.
How to log on ?
1. Switch on the vehicle’s ignition.
2. Insert your driver card in slot 1 with the SIM chip facing up and the arrow
pointing forward. The image of the driver will be facing down. Do not
3. If the vehicle is double manned, Driver 2 can insert their card in slot 2
after Driver 1’s card has been read.
4. Follow the instructions on the display, which will show the following:
• Greeting and driver’s name.
• Date and time the last card was removed.
• The question: ‘Is this insertion a continuation of the current daily
period?’ Enter your response – yes, no or cancel.
• An option to make a manual entry of any activities since the last time
your card was inserted. You can make entries using the manual
facility on the tachograph.
5. If you do need to make manual entries, select YES and you will be able to
enter your activities. Enter details of other work, periods of availability,
rest or breaks. You can only make manual entries when the vehicle is
stopped and your card is in the slot.
6. If you do not need to make manual entries select NO and then press OK.
7. Select country and press OK.
8. The card symbol appears when the unit has read all the data from your
card. The standard display for the vehicle unit will appear.
9. You are now logged on.
Why should I make manual entries?
You must keep a record of your activities. When your card is not inserted into
thetachograph, you need to record this. A digital tachograph allows a driver to
enter activities carried out by him/her away from their vehicle through the
manual input option offered by the instrument.
You must make manual entries if the following occurs:
an instrument malfunction;
the driver breaches the rules due to an unforeseen event (if, for example,
an exceptional deviation from the minimum rest and maximum daily
driving limits is required to find a suitable stopping place);
a record needs to be corrected.
If this happens, the driver should record his/her activities or reasons on the back
of the print roll.
The following is an example of a manual entry on the back of a print-out:
Manual entries made by the driver using the manual insert facility on the
tachograph are only stored on the driver’s card and not on the vehicle unit
- this is because the manual entry refers to the activity of a driver that is
Drivers do not need to enter activities recorded on analogue charts onto
the driver card.
What if I make a mistake?
If you make a mistake and confirm an incorrect manual entry, you should make
and sign a print-out for the relevant period with a note giving details of the error
and the reasons for it.
What should I do with my card at the end of my work
It is best to remove the driver card from the tachograph at the end of your shift.
You can take out the driver card from the card slot only when the vehicle is not
moving. Your card will not eject from the unit until all of the information has
been written to the card.
1. Turn off of the vehicle’s engine but leave the ignition on
2. Enter the activity, for example; at the end of the work shift enter “rest” if
you are going on a rest period
3. Press eject
4. Select ‘country’ at the end of the shift and ‘acknowledge’. If you need a
print-out select “Yes” and acknowledge. If you do not need a printout
select “No” and acknowledge.
Does the tachograph automatically record activity?
The vehicle unit will automatically record driving activity when the vehicle is
moving. The tachograph will store data under the following symbols:
The system will default to ‘other work’ when the vehicle stops moving. You must
use the mode switch on the tachograph unit to correctly record your activity –
other work, availability, breaks and rest. Scroll down the options and enter the
data for each activity.
Breaks or rest – this covers breaks in work and your daily or
weekly rest periods
‘Period of availability’ – covers waiting time if you know in
advance how long this will be
‘Other work’ – this covers all work other than driving vehicles
(such as working in the warehouse, loading vehicles)
‘Driving time’ – this is automatically recorded on tachographs
If you do not use the mode switch correctly you are breaking the law.
There are three tachograph manufacturers and the visual displays and menu
options on each system vary. You should be trained to use the tachograph
system in the vehicle(s) you drive.
How does the digital tachograph record driver activity if
my work period straddles two days?
The tachograph stores data in days – midnight to midnight. If you start at 21.00
hours (9 pm) and finish at 05.00 hours (5 am), the tachograph will record the
data for that period as two days’ activity – 21.00 to 23.59 hours and 00.00 hours
to 05.00 hours.
Does the digital tachograph give warnings?
The system warns you 15 minutes before you reach the legal continuous driving
time of 4.5 hours.
It also gives warnings of a fault in the system, a power supply problem or
abnormal operation detected by the equipment, which may come from a fraud
Warnings are visual (flashing light). Audible warnings may also be provided on
some systems. The display shows you the cause of the warning until you
Visual warnings are clearly visible by day and night.
What do the initials UTC mean?
All times are recorded by the tachograph in UTC. UTC means Universal Time Coordinated
– which is essentially Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). GMT is the time
zone in Ireland and Britain in winter. All vehicle units operate using UTC as the
reference time – all event times are stored, displayed or printed in UTC.
Enforcement will be conducted using UTC – drivers need to be careful when
making manual entries. Manual entries must be entered in the UTC.
The visual display may be set to the local time, but this will not affect the unit’s
internal time. Remember that the stored record will be an hour behind in
summer time – for example if you start at 0600 (6am), the record will show 0500
(5am). There will be no difference in winter as Irish time is back to GMT.
What should I do if I am driving different vehicles fitted
with analogue and digital tachographs?
If you drive a mix of vehicles fitted with analogue and digital tachographs, you
must be able to produce the following:
your driver card,
any daily print-outs or a manual record from the digital tachograph, and
tachograph charts from the analogue tachograph recording equipment.
The records must cover the current day and the previous 28 days, be stored
safely and made available to an enforcement officer on request.
What information is recorded on the print-out?
This is an example of a daily print-out from a driver card.
Printout Meanings - Driver Card
Type of print-out
(24 hour card print-out)
Date and time of
print-out in UTC
Controllers Name, issuing
country for the card and
Total daily driver
Date of activity and number
of days card has been used
Most recent calibration
Centre, calibration card
details and date
Vehicle ID, country of
Cardholder (driver) details
Name, issuing country and
Most recent control
card number, time and
date of check
Activities while driver’s
card was in slot one
Printout Meanings - Vehicle Unit
Date and time in UTC
Type of print-out (24
hour vehicle unit print-
Cardholder (driver) out)
details, issuing country
and card number
name, issuing country
Vehicle ID, country of
Most recent calibration and model
including name of
Card identification and
date of calibration Most recent Control
Check including date and
time of control and type
Date of activities shown (i.e. printing)
and odometer readings
start and end
Activities of the vehicle
Time period that the
card was not inserted
and manual entries
Summary activities for
Total Daily activities
Do I need a company card if I am an owner-driver?
Yes, the company card allows you to access the data stored in the digital
tachograph. You will need it to protect your data in the vehicle unit if you hire in
or sell a vehicle. You also need to download the data to comply with legal
requirements for data storage. To download data from the vehicle unit, you will
need a download device and the company card.
Your fleet may not have vehicles fitted with digital tachographs, but if you loan
or hire a vehicle fitted with a digital tachograph, you will need to be able to
download and lock in the data on the system.
A company card cannot be used for driving.
The company card should be used to lock-in data before you start using the
vehicle in order to protect data that will be subsequently recorded on the
tachograph. It is not possible to protect data retrospectively and any
unprotected data will be open to all to download. Using a company card will
prevent unauthorized access to data and ensure that you comply with Data
Protection law. It will also ensure that competitors do not get access to your
data on the tachograph.
What type of information does the company card hold?
Company cards hold the following general information:
company name and address,
issuing State, authority and issue date, and
card start date and expiry date.
Each time the card is used, it stores the:
date and time,
task undertaken, such as downloads, display, locking/unlocking data on
length of time to download data,
the vehicle registration number,
the card number and the State that issued the driver card being inspected
A company card does not store Driver Card or Vehicle Unit data.
Some key rules for drivers
When driving a vehicle with a digital tachograph, you
use the driver card every day you drive, starting from the moment you
take over the vehicle;
set the mode switch to the correct activity and make sure to use it
throughout your working period to record other work, periods of
availability, rests and breaks;
remove your driving card when the vehicle is taken over by another driver,
or when the vehicle is not under your custody or if another driver could
protect your card, keep it clean and do not bend it;
record the country in which you begin and end your daily work period
(always doing this at the start and end of the period);
manually enter your activities if any – other work, breaks, rest and periods
of availability – since you last removed your driver card from a tachograph.
From 1 January 2008, you must be able to produce, whenever an enforcement
officers requests them:
i) your driver card;
ii) any manual record and printout made during the current day and the
previous 28 days and;
iii) analogue charts for any vehicle fitted with an analogue tachograph
driven by the driver in the current day and the previous 28 days.
Disclaimer: Operators and drivers should consult the digital tachograph manual
for information on operating a digital tachograph. This guide is only intended to
provide an overview of digital tachograph and is not an interpretation of the law.