What is a Tachograph?

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A tachograph is a device that monitors and records driver activity. Having a tachograph installed is a legal requirement for commercial and public service vehicles that exceed a weight of 3.5 tonnes, or for those that fall under domestic UK, EU, or AETR (International Road Transport Agreement) laws. 

Quick tip!

If you’re unsure on whether the UK, EU, or AETR rules apply to your vehicle, you can always check on the tachograph section of the government website.

Specifically, tachographs record speed, distance, and time – the three points of the triangular equation that you may have got vaguely familiar with in your physics classes. 

Back in the day, tachographs used to record this data in analogue format. This usually allowed for a certain amount of tampering from drivers who didn’t want to stick to the restricted hours imposed by the UK, EU, and AETR. 

These days, tachographs collect information digitally, store it, and transfer the data to a unique driver card so it can be analysed by the fleet manager.

Thanks to this information, fleet managers gain insight into things like the number of hours a driver has been on the road and the distance they’ve covered.

Why do I need a tachograph?

The need to log driver activity was first introduced in 1969 for social and road safety reasons. These reasons haven’t changed. As the government’s famous THINK fatigue campaign states – tiredness kills. 

A tachograph enables businesses to analyse actual driver hours and distance travelled against the drivers’ hours rules put in place by UK, EU, and AETR. 

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency is hot on handing out penalties for any legal infringements, including not having a tachograph installed. So the biggest reason why you need a tachograph is simply – it’s the law!

How does a tachograph work?

Digital tachographs look similar to the old radio and CD players that fit into a vehicle dashboard (see below).


Before the start of any journey, the driver slots their unique card into the tachograph. The data collected by the tachograph is then stored on that card. A fleet manager uses a card reader to download data from the card onto their PC. They’ll then be able to work out driver rotas, and whether the company is adhering to driving laws. 

Of course, this technology all seems a bit outdated. And in the eyes of the EU, it is. There’s motion in place to upgrade digital tachographs with GPS technology, which means they’ll work a bit like a vehicle tracker – data is automatically sent via the internet to a software interface. 

How much does a tachograph cost?

Tachographs aren’t the cheapest devices going, so if you’re looking to expand your commercial fleet, make sure you take the cost of a tachograph into account. The latest tachographs can cost in the region of £545

We’ve provided you with the details of one of the best tachographs so you know what you’re getting for your money.


  • Advanced period of availability mode
  • Working Time Directive calculations
  • Real-time ferry and train support
  • Drive and rest time countdowns
Don’t forget!

On top of the cost of the tachograph is the cost of a driver card. You’ll need to apply for a card through the DVLA, and they cost £32 per card

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Can I integrate my vehicle tracking system with a tachograph?

Yes, you can. Vehicle tracking systems and tachographs actually go hand in hand. They both collect useful data that you can use to better manage your fleet. You can usually connect your tachograph to your vehicle tracking system via a data transfer port, such as a USB. 

Thanks to this joint system, you’ll be able to: 

  • Stay compliant with driver laws
  • Track journeys to make job allocation more efficient
  • Save money on fuel by cutting journey time
  • Monitor driver behaviour 

If you’re looking to invest in an integrated tachograph/vehicle tracker and want to know how much it’ll cost your business, you can use our quote-finding service to receive and compare quotes from a range of top vehicle tracking suppliers. 

Simply provide us with a few small details about your business and let us do the hard work!

Written by:
Julia Watts author headshot photo
Specialising in business software, Julia writes jargon-busting guides about VoIP, fleet management, dash cams, fuel cards, and more. Having spent almost a decade writing for entrepreneurs and reviewing business solutions, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.