Tachograph: What Is It and How Does It Work?

The tachograph is a device used by transporters in their daily work. It is used to know data about the vehicle and its operation and certain activities performed in it by the driver: kilometers traveled, speed, time, breaks, rests and periods of other work.

The improper use of this device leads to certain infractions that are marked according to EC Regulation 561/2006 marking the driving and resting times of a transporter.

It has been implemented in Spain for many years, previously in analog form, and now in digital form.

Digital Tachograph

The digital tachograph is a digitized system for monitoring drivers’ driving times and speeds. It’s one of the most reliable evolutions of the analog tachograph.

How does the digital tachograph work?

At the beginning of the workday, the driver must insert the card. Once the card is inserted into the tachograph, it displays the time at which it was last removed.

Manually, the driver must enter into the tachograph the activities performed from the time the card was removed until it is reinserted, as well as the country in which they are located.

Once the vehicle starts driving, the driving activity is automatically activated and, when the driver is at a standstill, he must enter the activity of other jobs. If you are going to take a break or be available, you must manually select this activity and, at the end of the working day, before extracting the card, you must enter the country where the working day ends or the autonomous community if it is within Spanish territory.

As a general rule, data must be transferred every 90 days. This can be done through the manufacturer’s software for the digital tachograph, which allows us to download the data to another device. If this option is not available, we can use the tachograph’s built-in printer.

Advantage of digital tachographs

One of the main advantages is control, as these can be very easily manipulated, but being digital makes it much more complicated.

This type allows for optimizing the routes taken by the drivers, which is a considerable help as it reduces driving time and fuel consumption on the routes, resulting in significant cost savings in the long run.

Another advantage is safety, since the drivers know at all times what condition the vehicle is in and whether all the breaks during transport are being properly complied with.

What vehicles must use a tachograph?

As of January 1, 2006, the tachograph was required for all vehicles over 3,500 kg or those carrying more than 9 persons, including the driver. Vehicles that already had an analog tachograph had to switch to a digital tachograph.

What happens if there is double driving with a tachograph?

In the event that there are two drivers in the same vehicle, both must carry their own driver card. The tachograph has two slots, and each driver should insert their card (driver and co-driver), changing the cards when appropriate.

The regulation that governs driving times for vehicles in road transport with a digital tachograph installed that transport goods is Regulation (EC) 561/2006.

What parts does a vehicle have that uses a tachograph?

A vehicle equipped with a tachograph has the following components:

  • Vehicle unit: Gathers all the information of the driver’s activity, disturbances that may occur, breaks, system manipulation…
  • Distance or speed sensor: A system that is installed in a gearbox and records the speed and kilometers traveled by a vehicle, which then sends this transport and safety data in coded form to the driver’s cab.
  • Tachograph cards: Cards that are inserted into the vehicle. There are four types of cards: company, driver, test and workshop cards.

Tachograph: Driving and rest times

The established driving and rest periods to be complied with by drivers for road transport.

Daily driving

Start with a weekly or daily break.

  • Maximum 9 hours per day.
  • A maximum of 10 hours per day can be reached twice in the same week.

Weekly driving

The total computation of driving hours in a week must be a maximum of 56 hours, with a biweekly driving of 90 hours.

A week is established between 00:00 on Monday and 24:00 on Sunday.

Mandatory breaks in daily driving

Every 4.5 hours of driving, the driver must take a break of 45 minutes without interruption.

  • 4:30 hours of driving: Break 45 minutes
  • 1:30 hours of driving: Break 15 minutes
  • 2:20 hours of driving: 30-minute break

Daily rest

Daily rest of at least 11 uninterrupted hours. Rest, on a fractional basis, may be taken with an uninterrupted rest of 9 hours if 3 hours of rest have been taken on the same day.

Weekly break

The minimum weekly rest period is 45 uninterrupted hours of rest.

A reduced weekly rest period may be taken in any rest period of at least 24 uninterrupted hours but less than 45 hours.

Biweekly rest

In two consecutive weeks, a carrier must have the following breaks:

  • 2 normal weekly breaks: one must be a minimum of 45 hours.
  • 1 normal and 1 reduced weekly rest: 45 hours + 24 hours.

Tachograph Penalties

In the event of violating any regulation by not complying with the established driving and resting times, the corresponding penalties will be imposed.

One of the following actions could carry a fine of 2,001 € to 4,000 €.

  • Not having the tachograph in the vehicle or any of its components
  • Not using the tachograph
  • Using a non-approved tachograph
  • Lacking a digital tachograph

Analogue tachograph

The analogue tachograph is a device used mainly in commercial vehicles, such as trucks and buses, to record data on drivers’ driving and working time. These records are crucial to ensure compliance with driving and rest time regulations and to improve road safety.

The analogue tachograph records information on a paper chart disc, commonly known as a “tachograph disc”.

Main Components

Recording Unit: Installed on the dashboard of the vehicle and contains a clockwork mechanism that rotates the paper disc.
Diagram Disc: A circular paper disc which rotates at a constant speed and on which data is recorded.
Stylographs: These are needles that record data on the paper disc. Generally, there are three stylographs: one for vehicle speed, one for driving and resting time, and one for distance travelled.


Simplicity: They are easy to use and do not require advanced technical training for basic operation.
Initial Cost: They are generally cheaper than digital tachographs in terms of initial cost.


Accuracy and Manipulation: They are less accurate than digital tachographs and can be easier to manipulate.
Storage and Analysis: They require physical storage of discs and manual analysis, which can be laborious and error-prone.

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