How to use a digital tachograph machine

The purpose of a digital tachograph, or tacho, machine is to record the data from an HGV driver’s working shift. Compulsory use of tachograph machines has been in place in the EU as far back as 1975. From 2006, new vehicle registrations had to have a digital, rather than analogue, machine. By the end of 2024, all international road transport vehicles weighing 3.5 tonnes or more must switch to the latest smart tachograph version 2 technology. Practically speaking, this means that you’re most likely now to encounter a digital machine. 

What data is measured?

It’s useful to understand the data that HGV tacho machines record and why. Tacho data includes information such as hours worked, driving speed, distance covered, and rest periods taken. In newly registered vehicles, tacho machines must have second generation smart technology by 31st August 2023. This makes data recording more accurate and easier to operate. 

Hours Worked

Tachograph machines are essentially installed to limit the number of hours worked by drivers. This ensures that drivers do not operate their vehicle while tired. This improved road safety both for the driver and other road users.

Rest Periods

It’s important to take proper rest in between periods of driving. This is why rest is actively logged by digital tachograph machines, which protects the rights and wellbeing of HGV drivers.


As you know, drivers must comply with the specific HGV speed limits of the country in which they are working. Although this data is recorded, a tachograph reading cannot be used as a primary source of a speeding prosecution. 


As technology improves, the data that digital or smart tachographs record becomes more detailed. An operator can analyse this and use it to make improvements. This might mean further training, considering fuel economy and finding patterns in service levels. 

What regulations is tacho data used for?

The main purpose of digital tachograph machines is to monitor driving hours. EU regulations for driver working hours remain in place since the UK left the EU. Drivers must work according to the following guidelines:

  • The maximum daily drive limit is 9 hours, which can be increased to 10 hours twice a week.
  • The maximum weekly driving limit is 56 hours.
  • The maximum number of driving hours over any 2 consecutive weeks is 90 hours.
  • Every 4.5 hours, drivers must take a break of at least 45 minutes.
  • The minimum time at rest each day is 11 hours, which can be reduced to 9 hours 3 times between any 2 week periods
  • There should be an unbroken rest period of 45 hours every week, which can be reduced to 24 hours every other week

Taking Printouts

Of course, with digital and smart technology, software now enables more reliable, frequent and accessible data at the touch of a button. However, you should still be able to provide, on demand on the roadside, records for the current day and the previous 28 days. This would often be in the form of a printout. It’s also vital that, should anything out of the ordinary occur, you take a printout from your tacho machine and note down the incident on the back. You might go over your driver hours due to a traffic jam caused by a traffic accident. With such a variety of experiences every day, it can be easy to lose track of what has happened when. So taking printouts are a low tech but reliable way to back up your data.

Key Tachograph symbols

Although machines differ depending on the model and manufacturer, there are four key symbols that you will encounter when using your tacho machine

Work / Driving: If you are at the wheel and the engine is running, your activity will be logged as driving. On most machines this is an automatic selection. 

Other Work: This might be loading or unloading, or another activity for your operator. Alternatively, you may have non-driving work for another employer. 

Available: This symbol tends to indicate wait time. It signals that you are available for the call to start or resume driving. 

Break / Rest: To be used to show full rest periods (rather than wait times). This symbol is used for both shorter breaks during a working day and also for longer rest periods on a daily or weekly basis.

Other Symbols: As technology improves, tacho machines are able to request more sophisticated data. This can be used to report incidents, or faults with the machine. 

Who has what responsibilities?

It sounds like there is a lot of regulation that covers tachograph use. So, where does the responsibility lie for all of this? You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not all with you! 


As a driver, you’re mainly responsible for logging your own activity and keeping your driver card safe and up to date. This is as important to protect yourself as it is to comply with regulation. These things are the responsibility of the driver, and are mainly about the use of your driver card:

  • To use your driver card to record all work and driving
  • To carry your card at all times when working: you must provide your card for DVSA officers or the police if requested
  • Ensuring your card and tachograph are working correctly
  • You must only hold one card (except when the card is renewed, when two cards can be held within one month of the expiry date)
  • You must provide your card to your employer to download driver data
  • You should apply within 7 days for a replacement card if it is lost, stolen or damaged.
  • If waiting for a new card, you must take print-outs at the start and end of each working day
  • You must not use anyone else’s card or be in possession of a forged or altered card
  • You must not record false data or remove any data from the card

Transport Operator 

There are a number of requirements that your employer or the transport operator must comply with. Once your data is recorded, they are responsible for managing that data in the correct way so that it can be provided as required. They must also make sure that all tacho equipment is fit for purpose. This includes servicing and calibrating the equipment. Your operator or employer must:

  • Ensure all drivers are briefed on their responsibilities regarding logging their driver data 
  • Possess a company card to download all recorded tachograph data
  • Download driver data at least every 28 days
  • Download vehicle data from the tachograph machine at least every 90 days
  • Analyse the tachograph data to ensure that no rules have been breached
  • Make sure the tachograph is equipment is working correctly
  • Arrange for the tachograph machine to be calibrated every 2 years
  • Either repair or replace any defective tachograph device without delay

As digital machines become more and more smart and intuitive, it’s important to remember that they’re there for your protection as much as anything else. Leaving you to enjoy the perks of driver life! Contact us to discover, or to refresh, your training.