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Drivers’ hours and tachographs rules: buses and coaches (PSV375)

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency
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4. Tachograph rules

The rules about the tachograph that you must use to record your EC/AETR drivers' hours in a passenger carrying vehicle.


An approved tachograph is the required instrument by which the activity of drivers subject to the EU or AETR drivers’ hours rules, and the vehicle’s speed, distance and the time, are recorded. There are two main types of tachograph – analogue and digital.

The resulting record is to be used to monitor compliance with rules on drivers’ hours. The rules on using the tachograph are contained in Regulation (EU) 165/2014 and depend on whether the vehicle is fitted with an analogue or digital tachograph. 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?

The driver of a vehicle that is exempt from or out of scope of the EU rules see Exemptions and derogations is not required to use the recording equipment, even if it is fitted.

Analogue or digital?

Vehicles first registered on or after 1 May 2006 must be fitted with a digital tachograph. Those vehicles registered before that date can be fitted with either analogue or digital equipment.

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 and the driver’s activity (known as the ‘mode’). The inner part of the chart is used by the driver to write their name, the location of the start and end of the journey, the 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 an instrument, 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 operation of the mode switch)
  • 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 opposite), where the rules have been departed from in an emergency, or to correct a recording
  • make manual entries when the equipment malfunctions and report any such malfunctions to the operator or employer
  • 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, equipment malfunction etc
  • return used charts to the operator or employer 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 digital smart card if they hold one see Digital tachographs
  • permit an Authorised 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 tachograph instruments in use are ‘automatic’. This means that the instrument will automatically record activity as driving when the vehicle is moving however it defaults to the 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 your employer 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 ‘2014’ and ‘14’ 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, since they may interfere with chart recordings. If, for example, the driver’s name or a place name is so long that it must be abbreviated in order to be accommodated in the space provided, 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 (under the EU rules 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 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 by 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 instrument on the other side of the chart once it has been inserted.

This is an example of 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 matrix 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 entered on the other side of the chart.

4.2 Digital tachographs

Digital tachographs work by storing digital data on the driver and vehicle in their own memory and separately on a driver’s smart card. Transport undertakings must periodically download this data from the digital tachograph (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 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 that model of tachograph.

Driver cards and records

It is a legal requirement for a digital tachograph-equipped vehicle driven in scope of EU rules that the driver must use a driver card.

If the vehicle is used without a 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.

Drivers may only be in possession of one driver’s smart 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 tachograph, drivers should:

  • ensure that the instrument is calibrated by inspecting the calibration plaque or interrogating the instrument
  • 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)
  • 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 switch 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 digital smart 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 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

You can get application forms and assistance from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by calling 0300 790 6109. Forms are available to order online at DVLA will accept payment for up to 25 driver card applications on one company cheque. In Northern Ireland, application forms are available from Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI) (call 028 7034 1589) and test centres of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA).

Lost, stolen or malfunctioning driver cards

Digital tachograph 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 smart cards, can be damaged by abuse. Take care of your driver card – treat it as if it were a credit card and do not subject it to excessive force, bending or extremes of temperature.

Where it is impossible to use a driver card (eg where 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 two printouts – one at the start of the journey 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 for 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 tachograph

The internal clock of a digital 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). You 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 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 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 offered by the instrument. 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 it is not possible to use the recording equipment Manual record to be kept on analogue record sheet, on printout paper or by manual input on a digital tachograph where possible
The equipment 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 Unforeseen events. 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 on a printout or the reverse of a portion of print roll as soon as possible.

Manual records must be retained and produced in the same way as any other record which has been produced using recording equipment.

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 tachograph is correctly set to record their activities.

Symbol Explanatory notes
Driving symbol This is automatically recorded on most tachographs
Other work Covers all activities defined as work other than driving in scope of the 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 preiod of availability (POA) are accompanying a vehicle on a ferry crossing or waiting while other workers load/unload your 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 or rest 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

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 tachograph, or fails to correctly operate the mode button or switch), it is strongly recommended that the driver makes a manual tachograph record to this effect. For digital equipment, 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 equipment, the record should be made at the back of the chart.

Multi-manning – second driver record

Some analogue equipment and all digital 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.

Travelling time

In cases where a vehicle that comes within the scope of EU 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 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 bunk or couchette. 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 equipment

It is possible that a driver may, during the course of a day, drive 2 or more vehicles where both types of recording equipment are used. Drivers in such a situation must use a driver card to record while driving a vehicle with a digital tachograph and a tachograph chart when driving a vehicle equipped with an analogue tachograph. Time away from the vehicle may be recorded on either recording equipment, 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 tachograph when the vehicle is in scope of EC rules.

Recording other work

During a week in which in-scope driving has taken place, any previous work (including out-of-scope driving) since the last daily or weekly rest period (taken in accordance with either the EU drivers’ hours or working time rules), would have to be recorded as ‘other work’ on a tachograph chart, printout or a manual entry using the manual input facility of a digital tachograph, or a legally required GB domestic record on a log book. ‘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.

The record must be either:

  • written manually on a chart
  • written manually on a printout from a digital tachograph
  • made by using the manual input facility of a digital tachograph
  • for days where a driver has been subject to the domestic drivers’ hours rules and a record is legally required see Record keeping, recorded in a domestic log book

Information to operators

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

Rest and other days off

The period of time unaccounted for between successive charts produced by a driver should normally be regarded as (unless there is evidence to the contrary) a rest period when drivers are able to dispose freely of their time. In the UK, drivers are not expected to account for this period, unless enforcement authorities have reason to believe that they were working. There is no legal requirement to produce an attestation letter but we are currently unaware how other EU Member States view this issue and some may currently require letters of attestation. We would therefore recommend, until the position becomes clear, that drivers carry letters of attestation from the employer for drivers travelling through other countries to cover any sick leave, annual leave and time spent driving a vehicle which is not in scope of EU/ AETR rules during the preceding 28 days. An EU approved attestation form can be downloaded from:

4.4 Responsibilities of operators

Operators of transport undertakings have legal responsibilities and liabilities for their own compliance with the regulations and that of the drivers under their control.

Transport undertakings must:

  • ensure that tachographs have been calibrated, inspected and recalibrated in line with the rules
  • supply sufficient quantity of type-approved charts and printer rolls to drivers
  • ensure the return of used tachograph charts from drivers. Note that this responsibility continues after a driver has left employment until all charts are returned
  • ensure drivers are properly trained and instructed drivers on the rules relating to drivers’ hours and the correct functioning and use of tachograph recording equipment
  • properly schedule work so the rules are met
  • not make payments to drivers related to distances travelled and/or the amount of goods carried if that would encourage breaches of the rules

Download data from the Vehicle Unit

You must download data from the vehicle unit:

  • at least every 90 calendar days
  • immediately before transferring control of the use of the vehicle to another person (for example, when the vehicle is sold or de-hired)
  • without delay upon permanently removing the unit from service in the vehicle
  • without delay upon becoming aware that the unit is malfunctioning, if it is possible to download data
  • without delay in any circumstances where it is reasonably foreseeable that data will be erased imminently and
  • in any case as often as necessary to ensure that no data is lost (the Vehicle Unit holds 365 days’ worth of average data, after which the memory is full and the oldest data is overwritten and lost)

Download data from driver cards

You must download data from the drivers card:

  • at least every 28 calendar days
  • immediately before the driver ceases to be employed by the undertaking (remember that this also applies to agency drivers)
  • without delay upon being aware that the card has been damaged or is malfunctioning, if it is possible to download data
  • without delay in any circumstances where it is reasonably foreseeable that data will be erased imminently
  • where it is only possible to download the card via a Vehicle Unit (for example, if the card is stuck), immediately before ceasing control of the use of the vehicle
  • in any case as often as necessary to ensure that no data is lost (the driver card holds 28 days of average data, after which the memory is full and the oldest data is overwritten and lost. An average day is deemed to be 93 activity changes. In certain operations where more than 93 activity changes are recorded in a day, a driver card may hold less than 28 days of data)

Provide copies

Provide copies of charts and digital data to drivers if requested to do so.

Regular checks

Make regular checks of charts and digital data to ensure compliance.

Produce records

Be able to produce records to enforcement officers for 12 months.

Prevent breaches

Take all reasonable steps to prevent breaches of the rules.

Tachograph calibration and inspection

All tachographs used for recording drivers’ hours, whether analogue or digital, must be properly installed, calibrated and sealed. This task must be performed by either a vehicle manufacturer or an approved tachograph calibration centre (call DVSA on 0300 123 9000 to find your nearest approved tachograph centres). An installation plaque must be fixed to or near the tachograph. Tachograph calibration centres will issue a certificate showing details of any inspection conducted.

Analogue tachographs must be inspected every 2 years and recalibrated every 6 years.

Digital tachographs must be recalibrated:

  • every 2 years
  • after any repair
  • if the vehicle registration number changes
  • if UTC is out by more than 20 minutes
  • after an alteration to the circumference of the tyres or characteristic coefficient

Inspection and recalibration dates are shown on the plaque and updated by calibration centres. Operators must ensure that these tachograph requirements are complied with before a new or used vehicle goes into service.

Breakdown of equipment

EU legislation requires that in the event of a breakdown or faulty operation of the equipment, it must be repaired as soon as possible. If the vehicle is unable to return to its base within a week the repair must be carried out en route.

GB legislation also provides that a driver or operator will not be liable to be convicted if they can prove to a court that the vehicle was on its way to a place where the recording equipment could be repaired, or that it was not immediately practicable for the equipment to be repaired and the driver was keeping a manual record. Additionally, they will not be liable where a seal is broken and the breaking of the seal was unavoidable and could not be immediately repaired, providing that all other aspects of the EU rules were being complied with.

For faults and breakdowns involving digital tachographs, operators should ask the repair centre to download any data held on the unit. If this is not possible the centre should issue the operator with a ‘certificate of undownloadability’ which must be kept for at least 12 months.

International journeys

Although this is the position under EU rules, it is not advisable to start or continue an international journey with a defective tachograph, even if manual records are kept. This is because many countries will not permit entry by such vehicles, since their own domestic laws require a fully functioning system.

Digital tachographs – company cards

Company cards are issued by DVLA in the company name. Company cards do not primarily hold data but act as an electronic key to protect and access data from the VU. A company can hold up to 2,232 cards, which will have identical card numbers – but different issue numbers at the end of the card number enable operators to tell them apart.

Company cards are needed to download data from the VU – they can be placed in either driver card slot. Company cards are not needed to access information from a driver card where it is being downloaded separately from the VU.

Operators may also use the company card to lock in (in other words, protect) their drivers’ details. Once an operator has locked in, all subsequent data is protected and the full details may only be downloaded by inserting a company card with the same number. Locking in is particularly recommended, as failure to do it could lead to an operator being unable to download its data if the data held in the VU has been protected by a previous operator locking in with its card.

The cards can also be used to lock out when an operator has finished with a vehicle – for example, if it has been sold or if the operator has been using a hired vehicle. Locking out will signify the end of the operator’s interest in the vehicle and its operations, although failing to do so will not prevent another company protecting its own data by locking in, as locking in will automatically lock out the previous protection.

Operators who use hired vehicles may need to train their drivers, and equip them with the means, to download VU data from vehicles at the point of de-hire where this occurs away from base.

Company cards

Operators can apply for company cards by calling DVLA at 0300 790 6109 to obtain an application form (form ST2A).

In Northern Ireland, application forms are available from DVA by either: