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Decoding the Digital vs Analogue Tachograph

If you’re someone who oversees a fleet of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), understanding tachographs is a crucial part of your job. These devices are vital for ensuring that your operation complies with driver hours and rest period regulations. The question is – which type should you opt for—digital or analogue? Let’s explore the facts.

What Exactly Is a Tachograph?

In simple terms, a tachograph is an instrument installed in large commercial vehicles that meticulously records the vehicle’s speed, and the distance covered. It also monitors driver activity, such as the periods when they’re working and resting. Compliance with tachograph regulations is a legal requirement, sure, but it’s also a cornerstone of road safety.

What Is a 1st and 2nd Generation Tachograph?

When doing your research into smart tachographs, you’ll encounter the terms first-generation and second-generation. What do those terms mean? Well, it relates to the software that they’re operating on.

A second-generation smart tachograph uses Galileo OSNMA (Open Service Navigation Message Authentication). A first generation smart tachograph doesn’t, but will need to be updated to do so in the near future.

Essentially, OSNMA software ensures that the location and time data from satellites are genuine and haven’t been tampered with. This inscreases the accuracy and security of driving records, helping to ensure that driver activity is reliably monitored.

The Traditional, But Outdated Choice: Analogue Tachographs

Up until around twenty years ago, analogue tachographs were the industry standard and they use wax-coated paper discs to capture driver activity in a mechanical format. Here’s a closer look at how they work:

  • Recording: Information is mechanically etched onto a paper disc and while this method is becoming increasingly dated, it is simple.
  • Data Retrieval: The paper disc needs to be manually removed and analysed, making the monitoring process a more hands-on and time-consuming one.
  • Cost: The initial setup and ongoing maintenance costs for analogue tachographs are typically lower when compared to digital systems.
  • Ease of Use: These devices offer a straightforward user experience, especially for drivers who have been in the industry for a long time.
  • Manipulation Risks: Due to its mechanical nature, it’s somewhat easier to tamper with the data, posing a risk of compliance breaches.
  • Data Analysis: Manual analysis can be painstaking and is often more prone to errors, especially when preparing for audits or regulatory checks.

All that said, analogue tachographs are becoming rarer and rarer by the day, particularly as all new commercial vehicles registered on or after 1 May 2006 have been required to be fitted with digital equipment. They still exist, but are slowly being phased out, meaning that they’re not really an option you’ll need to consider.

Digital Tachographs

Digital tachographs represent the new HGV industry standard, offering digital storage, and data management capabilities. Here are some of the advantages they offer:

  • Recording: Data is digitally stored on a smart card, resulting in more accurate and efficient logging of driver activities.
  • Data Retrieval: Being digital allows for quicker downloads, making the process more efficient and less susceptible to human error.
  • Cost: While initial setup costs might be higher, the ease of data management usually leads to cost savings over the longer term.
  • Ease of Use: The system does require some initial training, but its digital interface often makes ongoing use more streamlined.
  • Reduced Tampering Risks: Advanced encryption methods make digital tachographs more secure and less susceptible to fraudulent activities.
  • Data Analysis: Its digital format allows for quicker, more accurate analysis, which is invaluable for compliance management and during audits.

Making an Informed Choice

The decision between digital and analogue tachographs is an easy one, as analogue types are so rarely seen now. Digital tachographs are now the industry norm, so it’s the only real choice currently on the table.

Importance of Training

When using digital tachographs for the first time, proper training for both drivers and managerial staff is imperative. That’s because a well-trained team serves as your first line of defence in maintaining regulatory compliance and ensuring road safety.

About the author

Jonathan Gilder

Jonathan Gilder

Head of Training and Transport
Jonathan is a distinguished NRI HGV Instructor accredited by RTITB, with certifications in IOSH Managing Safely, RTITB Lift Truck Instruction, and ROSPA Assured PAT Testing. His expertise extends to EdI Level 3 NVQ Assessing, Btec Level 2 in Transportation of Goods by Road, and he is a skilled Trainer in Driver CPC and Incident Investigation from GH Safety.

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