Last reviewed 18 January 2012

Paul Clarke takes a look at proposed legislation to make tachograph fraud more difficult and to reduce the administrative burden on transport operators.

Proposed replacement for the Tachograph Regulation

Six million European trucks and buses are equipped with tachographs in order to enable the control of compliance of professional drivers and transport firms with EU legislation. Since 2006, it has been obligatory to install a digital tachograph in new vehicles having a mass of more than 3.5t (in goods transport) and carrying more than 9 persons including the driver (in passenger transport). Although the European Parliament has still to deliberate on the proposal, the Council of Ministers has made it clear that a replacement for the 1985 Tachograph Regulation (3821/85), rather than yet more amendments, is needed.

The aim of the proposed legislation, put forward last year, is to make fraud more difficult and to reduce the administrative burden on transport operators by making full use of new technologies. However, the Transport Ministers decided at this stage not to consider the issue of merging driving licences with the driver card, as this possibility will be discussed in the context of the proposed revision of the Driving Licences Directive (2006/126/EC).

The Council has agreed on what it described as a partial general approach to a new regulation setting out requirements for the construction, installation, use and testing of tachographs. It still has a number of issues to resolve, with various Member States having raised different possibilities. For example, one Member State wishes to extend the exemptions from the requirement to use the tachograph so as to increase the radius for exempted transport operations to 150km. Other delegations, arguing that any harmonisation of sanctions should be excluded, would prefer leaving out the requirement that penalties must be in compliance with the categories of infringements defined in the directive on social legislation relating to road transport activities.

Agreed so far

At the moment, the agreed text has a number of key elements in place. As regards the use of technology, the current manual recording of the location of the vehicle will be replaced by automated recording through satellite positioning. This is expected to save €349 million per year for road transport firms and will allow for better monitoring while providing important information for organising the logistics chain. Moreover, remote communication from the tachograph, providing basic information on compliance, will allow for early detection of possible manipulation or misuse, thereby enabling officers to target roadside checks better and avoid unnecessary checks.

As complying drivers will be stopped less frequently, the European Commission, in its first draft of the new regulation, suggested that a reduction of the administrative burden by €34.5 million per year can be achieved. However, there will be no obligation for Member States to ensure that their inspection authorities are equipped with the instruments required for remote early detection of this kind. In addition, the tachograph may be equipped with an interface facilitating its integration into Intelligent Transport Systems, subject to certain conditions.

The new measures will apply two years after the publication of the regulation in the EU's Official Journal, with the exception of the rules on the approval and control of workshops and the use of driver cards, which will be applicable one year earlier. The "smart tachograph", that is, the application of the new satellite-linked technology, will become mandatory 40 months after the establishment of the technical specifications for the new tachograph, which, given the adoption period, probably means in 2017 or 2018.

Further details are available here. MEPs are expected to give the proposal a first reading in June 2012 and the Commission has said it expects the final text to be agreed before the year is out so that manufacturers will have at least two years to develop the new equipment.