Tachograph rules and exemptions

Tachograph laws

The laws around tachographs can be confusing. We’re here to help clear things up …

What is a tachograph?

A tachograph records information about how long, how far and how fast you’ve driven, to make sure drivers and employers follow the law on drivers’ hours. The law requires you not to spend too many hours behind the wheel and to take proper breaks.

There are two types of tachographs: analogue and digital. Analogue tachographs are made of a round paper chart, like a clock, and a needle that records the data. Since2006, all new commercial vehicles have to be fitted with a digital tachograph, which looks like a car stereo and fits into a car stereo slot. The data is recorded on a card which the driver puts in.

Who needs a tachograph?

If your vehicle’s gross weight is more than 3.5 tonnes (3,500kg), you may well need a tachograph. Gross weight is the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load it can carry. If you passed your driving test in 1997 or later, you can’t drive a van larger than this anyway without a special licence.

Generally, if your van is under this limit, you’re fine – but the limit includes not just anything you’re carrying in the van, but anything you’re towing too. So if your van plus its load weighs 3,400kg, but you’re towing another 1,000kg, you’re over the 3.5-tonne limit and will need a tachograph.

It’s important to be sure, because as tachograph manufacturers Stoneridge Electronics explain: “Legislative requirements for light commercial vehicles are easily misunderstood by drivers. If a tachograph is required but not fitted, you can easily be in breach of legislation without knowing it, and may face legal penalties.”

Who is exempt from needing a tachograph?

The following vehicles are exempt from needing a tachograph – though in many of these cases, the exemption only applies if the vehicle stays within 62 miles of its base.

  • Vehicles that are carrying equipment just for the driver’s work – for example, an electrician or plumber carrying the tools they need. The vehicle must weigh less than 7.5 tonnes, and driving the vehicle mustn’t be your main job.
  • Vehicles that aren’t carrying commercial goods – for example, goods carried by a charity, or a van driven by someone who’s moving house, or carrying equipment for a hobby.
  • Vehicles that can’t go faster than 25mph
  • Armed forces, emergency, breakdown, medical and rescue vehicles
  • Classic vehicles – vehicles more than 25 years old
  • Minibuses with between 10 and 17 seats that aren’t carrying paying passengers
  • Vehicles carrying live animals to market or to a slaughterhouse over a distance of less than 62 miles
  • Vehicles that run on natural gas, LPG or electricity and weigh less than 7.5 tonnes
  • Vehicles used for driving lessons or tests
  • Agricultural, horticultural, forestry or fishery vehicles
  • Mobile libraries

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