Drivers’ hours and tachographs: goods vehicles

4. Tachograph rules

The rules about the tachograph that must be used by drivers to record EU or AETR drivers' hours.


An approved tachograph must be used when driving under EU or AETR drivers’ hours rules. The only exception is driving a vehicle collecting sea coal. Such drivers still have to follow the EU drivers’ hours rules, but don’t need a tachograph.

The tachograph is a device that records:

  • driving time
  • breaks and rest periods
  • other work and periods of availability
  • the vehicle’s speed
  • the distance the vehicle has travelled

The resulting record is to be used to monitor compliance with rules and drivers’ hours.

There are three types of tachograph:

  • analogue
  • digital (fitted in vehicles registered from 1 May 2006)
  • smart (fitted in vehicles registered from 15 June 2019)

The rules on using the tachograph are contained in Regulation (EU) 165/2014 and will depend on which of these types is fitted. These rules must be observed by both drivers and operators of vehicles that fall within the scope of Regulation (EC) 561/2006 or the AETR rules.

Not in scope? Drivers of vehicles that are exempt from or not in scope of the EU and AETR rules see Which rules apply? are not required to use a tachograph, even if it is fitted, unless the vehicle is operated by a universal service provider (USP). At the time of publication, the only USP is the Royal Mail.

4.1. Analogue tachographs

Analogue tachograph recordings are made by a stylus cutting traces into a wax-coated chart. Three separate styluses mark recordings of:

  • speed
  • distance travelled
  • the driver’s activity (known as the ‘mode’)

The inner part of the chart is used by the driver to write details of their name, location of start of journey, end location, date and odometer readings.

The reverse of a tachograph chart normally contains an area for recording manual entries and details of other vehicles driven during the period covered.

Charts and records

Drivers are responsible for operating the tachograph correctly in order to record their activities accurately and fully. Specifically, drivers must:

  • verify, before using the tachograph, that it is correctly calibrated via the attached plaques and ensure that the time displayed is set to the official time of the country in which the vehicle is registered
  • ensure that the correct type of chart is being used for the specific model of tachograph in use
  • carry enough charts for the whole journey, including spare charts in case any become damaged or dirty
  • enter centrefield details at the first use of the chart, when changing vehicles and when completing the use of the chart (see ‘Centrefield entries’ section)
  • correctly operate the mode switch in order to record their activities accurately see Common rules
  • use a second chart if a chart is damaged while in use and attach this one to the first chart on completion - there are other occasions when use of a second chart in a 24-hour period is unavoidable, namely when a driver changes to a vehicle with an incompatible tachograph to the chart in use or they change vehicle so many times that all the details cannot be accommodated on one chart
  • make manual entries on the chart in respect of their activities away from the vehicle (see ‘Manual entries’ section), where the rules have been departed from for an unforeseen event, or to correct a recording
  • make manual entries when the equipment malfunctions and report any such malfunctions to the operator
  • not use a chart to cover a period longer than 24 hours
  • not remove the chart from the tachograph before the end of their duty period unless authorised to do so. The rules do not specify who can authorise removal of the chart, but cases where charts can be removed include:
    • a change of vehicle
    • swapping charts or cards on multi-manned journeys
    • to make manual entries in the event of an emergency, tachograph malfunction etc
  • return used charts to the operator within 42 days. This requirement must be complied with even when a driver changes employer
  • be able to produce at the roadside:
    • charts and any legally required manual records for the current day and the previous 28 calendar days
    • the driver’s card if they hold one see Digital tachographs
  • permit a DVSA examiner or police officer to examine the tachograph and inspect charts

Time tips Make sure the time is correct for am or pm – both times are displayed identically on an analogue tachograph’s 12-hour clock face. Analogue tachographs must continue to display the correct time – which for the UK includes adjustments for British Summer Time.

Activity record Most analogue tachographs in use are ‘automatic’. This means that they will automatically record activity as driving when the vehicle is moving however it defaults to the selected mode switch setting when the vehicle stops so drivers need to ensure it is set to the appropriate mode for the activity being carried out when the vehicle is stationary.

Driver cards Drivers who have been issued with a driver card are committing an offence if they are unable to produce this during a roadside inspection, even if they only drive analogue tachograph-equipped vehicles.

Centrefield entries

A driver is required to enter the following information on the centrefield of a tachograph chart that they are using to record their activities:

  • surname and first name (the law does not stipulate which order the names are put in – but employers may have a policy on this)
  • the date and place (nearest town or city is required) where the use of the chart begins and ends. The year may be written in full or abbreviated – so both ‘2020’ and ‘20’ are acceptable - if the start and finish places are the same, both must be written on the chart – ditto marks are not acceptable
  • the registration number(s) of vehicle(s) driven (which should be entered before departing on a new vehicle)
  • the time at which any change of vehicle takes place
  • the odometer readings:
    • at the start of the first journey
    • at the end of the last journey
    • at the time of any change of vehicle, recording the readings from both vehicles

Note that the ‘total km’ field does not have to be completed.

It is not acceptable for written entries to extend outside the centrefield area if they might interfere with chart recordings. If, for example, the driver’s name or a place name is so long it must be abbreviated in order to avoid any possible interference with the recordings, the full name should be noted on the reverse of the chart.

Tachograph charts are required to provide space on their reverse side for the driver to manually record the additional information that is required in connection with changes of vehicles (see example under ‘Manual entries’ below).

Manual entries

Drivers must produce a record of their whole daily working period. So when drivers are unable to operate the tachograph, have not been allocated a vehicle, or are working away from the vehicle and have had to remove their tachograph chart, they must manually record their activities on the chart.

Manual entries may also be needed at other times – for example, if the tachograph develops a fault, or in the event of an emergency see ‘Unforeseen events’. Employers may also ask drivers to indicate on a chart where their duty (or rest) begins and ends, so that they can ensure that a full record has been submitted.

Most analogue charts have a specified place to make manual entries (usually on the reverse) however, manual entries can be made anywhere on the chart provided that they are clear and do not obliterate other recordings.

The following are examples of manual records.

This is an example of manual entries made on the rear of a tachograph chart of a driver who started their day at 06.00 with an hour’s work doing other duties away from their vehicle. They also finished their day with an hour of other work away from their vehicle and has indicated both the end and the start of a daily rest period. Their activities while with the vehicle are recorded by the tachograph on the other side of the chart once it has been inserted.

This is an example of the manual entries made by a driver who changed vehicles at 12.00 in London and continued their duties before finishing in Bristol. All the details of their activities and their name are entered on the other side of the chart.

This is an example of manual entries made by a driver who discovered a tachograph fault at 12.00. They have used the pre-printed area to indicate their activities for the remainder of their duty until 18.30. They have also noted the reason for them keeping a manual record. All other details are provided on the other side of the chart.

4.2. Digital or smart tachographs

Digital and smart tachographs work by storing digital data on the driver and vehicle in their own memory and separately on a driver’s card. Smart tachographs also automatically record the location of the vehicle and allow for enforcement authorities to remotely interrogate the data. Strict rules are in place for the use of the data.

Operators must periodically download this data from digital and smart tachographs (known as the Vehicle Unit or VU) every 90 days and from driver cards every 28 days and analyse the information to ensure that the rules have been complied with.

When driving a vehicle fitted with a digital or smart tachograph on a journey that is not in scope of EU/ AETR rules it is recommended, but not legally required, to select ‘out-of-scope’ in the tachograph. Details of how to do this will be contained in the user manual for the model of tachograph.

Driver cards and records

It is a legal requirement for a driver to use a driver card when driving a vehicle that is in scope of EU/ AETR rules and which is equipped with a digital or smart tachograph.

If the vehicle is used without a driver card being inserted, the system will not prevent the vehicle from being driven, but the VU will record the fact that the vehicle has been used without a card.

A driver who has not been issued a driver card is not permitted to drive a vehicle equipped with a digital or smart tachograph.

Similarly, a driver who is not in possession of their issued driver card is not permitted to drive a vehicle equipped with a digital or smart tachograph unless the card has been lost or stolen, in which case the procedures for reporting this must be followed. See the information at Lost, stolen or malfunctioning driver cards below. It is not permitted to keep manual records if the driver card has been forgotten.

Drivers may only be in possession of one driver’s card and must never use anyone else’s card or allow another driver to use their card.

Drivers must inform the DVLA if their card bears incorrect details, for example after a change of name.

When driving a vehicle that is equipped with a digital or smart tachograph, drivers must:

  • ensure that the tachograph is calibrated by inspecting the calibration plaque or interrogating the tachograph
  • ensure that their driver card is inserted into the correct slot (driver in slot 1, second driver in slot 2 from the moment they take over the vehicle, and that it is ready for use, before the vehicle is moved
  • record the country in which they begin and end their daily work period. This must always be carried out at the time of the start or end of the period, even if the card is not to be withdrawn or inserted (for example if the card is left in overnight)
  • when using the derogation to interrupt rest on journeys involving a ferry or train, the ferry mode must be selected in addition to the rest mode (EU rules only)
  • carry sufficient supplies of type-approved print roll on board the vehicle so that a printout can be produced at an enforcement officer’s request
  • ensure that all duties conducted since the driver card was last removed from a tachograph are manually entered onto the card record, using the manual entry facility on the tachograph
  • ensure that the tachograph is working properly
  • ensure that through the daily working period the mode button is used correctly to record other work, periods of availability, and rest and breaks
  • take reasonable steps to protect their card from dirt and damage
  • use only their own personalised driver card to record driving and other activities they undertake
  • ensure that the card is not removed from the tachograph during the working day unless otherwise authorised. The rules are not specific on who can authorise removal of the card, but cases where cards can be removed include a change of vehicle, or where another driver will be using the vehicle during a break or rest period
  • on multi-manning operations ensure that their driver card is placed in the correct slot (slot 1 when they are acting as driver and slot 2 when co-driver on a double-manned journey) when they take over driving
  • make their cards available for downloading by their employer
  • be able to produce at the roadside:
    • charts and any legally required manual records for the current day and the previous 28 calendar days
    • the driver’s card if they hold one
  • sign a hard copy of data when required to do so by a DVSA examiner or a police officer

Mode switch default: Depending on the preferences entered into the digital/smart tachograph at the time of calibration the digital tachograph can default to recording either ‘rest’ for driver 1 and driver 2 or ‘other work’ for driver 1 and ‘availability’ for driver 2 when the vehicle stops. Drivers must use the mode switch correctly to ensure that rest and break periods are recorded correctly.

How to apply for driver cards

In England, Scotland and Wales

Apply for a digital tachograph driver card in England, Scotland or Wales.

DVLA will accept payment for up to 25 driver card applications on one company cheque.

Contact DVLA to get help applying.

Telephone: 0300 790 6109
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm
Find out about call charges

In Northern Ireland

Apply for a digital tachograph driver card in Northern Ireland.

Call the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) to get an application form or pick one up from a DVA test centre.

Telephone: 0300 200 7861
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm
Find out about call charges

Lost, stolen or malfunctioning driver cards

Driver cards have passed all relevant International Organization for Standardization (ISO) qualified tests and security certification requirements. They are designed to work reliably and securely for their period of validity but, like all cards, can be damaged by abuse. Drivers must take care of their driver card – treating it as if it were a credit card and not subjecting it to excessive force, bending or extremes of temperature.

Where it is impossible to use a driver card (that being when it has been lost, stolen or damaged or is malfunctioning) a driver may drive without the card for a maximum of 15 calendar days (or longer if this is necessary for the vehicle to be returned to its premises) provided that they produce 2 printouts – one at the start of the day and another at the end so long as there is no change of vehicle. Where there is a change of vehicle then a printout will need to be taken at the start and end of the use of vehicle 1 and then a printout at the start and end of vehicle 2 and so on. All printouts must be marked with:

  • the driver’s name or driver card or licence number, so the driver can be identified
  • any manual entries needed to show periods of other work, availability, and rest or break
  • the driver’s signature

The driver must report the problem to DVLA and apply for a new card within seven calendar days.

UTC – the time set on a digital or smart card tachograph

The internal clock of a digital or smart tachograph is set to Universal Time Co-ordinated (UTC). The time displayed on the clock face can be set by the driver either to local time or to UTC. However, all data will be recorded by the VU on the time set by the integral clock, which operates on UTC – this is the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Drivers will need to remember that UTC is one hour behind British Summer Time (BST). So, between 01.00 on the last Sunday in March and 01.00 on the last Sunday in October drivers must account for the difference when manually inputting activity details in the digital or smart tachograph.

For example, if drivers carried out other work for two hours between 06.00 and 08.00 in June before taking over the vehicle, they must enter this as between 05.00 and 07.00 in UTC time. As mentioned above, it is possible for drivers to set the display time on the VU to local BST, but this will not prevent the VU recording in UTC. Therefore, it is recommended that drivers leave the display time in UTC as a reminder of the difference.

Manual records

A digital or smart tachograph offers the ability for a driver to enter activities carried out by them away from their vehicle. This is by means of the manual input facility in the tachograph. There is however no requirement to make a manual record on a driver card where all the activity has already been captured on an analogue record sheet.

Analogue tachographs do not have a manual input facility so a manual record must be made on the reverse of the record sheet detailing the type of activity and the times started and finished. Further details are given in the section relating to analogue tachographs under the heading of ‘manual records’.

The only time a manual record or entry is legally required is when:

Reason Action
Activity takes place away from the vehicle and is not possible to use the tachograph. Manual record to be kept on analogue record sheet, on printout paper or by manual input on a digital or smart tachograph where possible.
The tachograph or card malfunctions. Manual record must be kept on an analogue record sheet or on printout paper.
The rules are breached due to an unforeseen event (see page 19). Record reasons on a printout or the reverse of a portion of print roll, at the latest on arrival at the suitable stopping place.
A record needs to be corrected because the incorrect mode has been recorded Amend record, including the reason, on a printout or the reverse of a portion of print roll as soon as possible.

Manual records must be kept and produced in the same way as any other record which has been produced using the tachograph.

4.3 Common rules

Operation of the mode switch or button

Drivers must ensure that the mode switch on an analogue tachograph or the mode button on a digital or smart tachograph is correctly set to record their activities.

Symbol Explanatory note
Driving symbol This is automatically recorded on most tachographs.
Other work Covers all activities defined as work other than driving in scope of EU/ AETR rules. Includes any work for the same or another employer, within or outside the transport sector
Availability Covers periods of waiting time, the duration of which is known about in advance. Examples of what might count as a period of availability (POA) are accompanying a vehicle on a ferry crossing or waiting while other workers load/unload the vehicle. For mobile workers driving in a team, a POA would also include time spent sitting next to the driver while the vehicle is in motion (unless taking a break or performing other work, ie navigation)
Break,rest, annual or sick leave Covers breaks in work and daily or weekly rest periods. Drivers may not carry out any driving or any other work. Break periods are to be used exclusively for recuperation. During a rest period a driver must be able to dispose freely of their time. Periods of annual or sick leave must also be recorded

If for any reason the tachograph does not make an accurate record of activities (eg if the driver inadvertently makes an incorrect manual entry in a digital or smart tachograph, or fails to correctly operate the mode button or switch), the driver must make a manual tachograph record to this effect. For digital or smart tachographs, the driver should make and sign a printout for the relevant period with a note giving details of the error and reason at the time the error is made. For analogue tachographs, the record should be made at the back of the chart.

Multi-manning – second driver record

Some tachographs will automatically record all time spent as a second driver when the vehicle is in motion as a period of availability and do not allow the mode to be changed to either ‘break’ or ‘other work’ . Provided the second driver is not required to carry out any work during this time, enforcement authorities will accept the first 45 minutes of this time as a break from driving. Any periods of other work, however, must be manually recorded on a printout or chart by the driver.

A ‘driver’ is anyone who drives a vehicle or is carried on the vehicle in order to be available for driving so where there are more than two drivers on board the vehicle, all drivers are required to keep a record of their activities. If there are more than two drivers, this must be done by making manual entries or records when there is not an available slot on the tachograph.

Travelling time

In cases where a vehicle that comes within the scope of EU/ AETR rules is at a separate location that is neither the driver’s home nor the employer’s operational centre where the driver is normally based, but is at a separate location, the time the driver spends travelling to or from that location to take charge of or relinquish that vehicle, regardless of the mode of transport, cannot be counted as a rest or break, unless the driver is in a ferry or train and has access to a sleeper cabin (if interrupting a regular weekly rest period), or a sleeper cabin, bunk or couchette (if interrupting a regular daily rest period or a reduced weekly rest period). Even if the driver is not paid or makes the decision themselves to travel to or from home/ base the travel time cannot be counted as rest or break. Travelling time must therefore be recorded as “other work” or “availability” in accordance with the above descriptions.

Mixed records – analogue and digital/smart tachographs

It is possible that a driver may, during the course of a day, drive two or more vehicles where both types of tachograph are used. Drivers in such a situation must use a driver card to record while driving a vehicle with a digital or smart tachograph and tachograph charts when driving a vehicle equipped with an analogue tachograph. Time away from the vehicle may be recorded on either type of tachograph, but there is no need to record it on both.

Note: A driver who is not in possession of a driver card cannot drive a vehicle equipped with a digital or smart tachograph when the vehicle is in scope of EC/ AETR rules.

Recording other work

Drivers must record as ‘other work’, all time spent undertaking activities described as ‘other work’ below and record as ‘availability’ all time spent undertaking activities described as ‘availability’ below.

Any work-related activity can impact on a driver’s fatigue levels so drivers are legally required, whether employed part-time or full-time, keep a full record of all work-related activity, whether that work is transport related or not. For example, a part time driver who has a second job working in a bar, must record the bar work as other work regardless of when that work takes place.

Reminder: ‘it is not permitted to undertake any work-related activity during legally required breaks or rest periods.

‘Other work’ means all activities which are defined as working time in Article 3(a) of Directive 2002/15/EC except ‘driving’, including any work for the same or another employer, within or outside of the transport sector.

‘Periods of availability’ (POAs) means:

  • periods when the mobile worker is not required to remain with the vehicle (but must be available to answer any calls to start or resume driving or to carry out other work). It includes periods accompanying a vehicle being transported by ferry or train, as well as periods of waiting at frontiers and those due to traffic prohibitions.
  • for multi-manned journeys, the time spent sitting next to the driver or on the couchette while the vehicle is in motion.

POAs, and their foreseeable duration, must be known in advance by the mobile worker (so before departure or just before the actual start of the period in question). POAs do not include break or rest periods

The record of other work must be either:

  • written manually on a chart
  • written manually on a printout from a digital or smart tachograph
  • made by using the manual input facility of a digital or smart tachograph or

Additionally, for days where a driver has been subject to the domestic drivers’ hours rules, a record may also be required under those rules. See Record keeping, recorded in a domestic log book

Information to be provided to operators

A driver who is at the disposal of more than one operator must provide each undertaking with sufficient information to allow them to make sure the rules are being met.

Rest and other days off

Drivers are required, in addition to breaks and rest periods, to record periods of annual or sick leave under the rest mode (bed symbol) by using the manual inputs on a digital/smart tachograph or by making a manual record on a chart or print out paper.

It is not acceptable to use attestation letters as an alternative for recording periods of annual or sick leave. Other countries may accept attestation letters from drivers on international journeys for other types of leave, but we are not aware if that is the case so such drivers should ensure that all periods of rest and leave are recorded as detailed the paragraph above. The UK will not accept attestation letters as an alternative to keeping records as detailed in the paragraph above.