Source: Handy Shipping guide, 2019-08-16
The figures released recently by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a jump in new HGV registrations in both of the last two quarters, increases the SMMT ascribes to a piece of EU technology legislation regarding the mandatory fitting of "smart" tachographs to all new commercial vehicles.
The UK’s new heavy goods vehicle (HGV) market rose 46.3% in the second quarter of 2019, with 15,605 units registered putting year to date registrations up 34.3% against 2018 at 27,464. In Q2 rigid and artic truck registrations were up 51.9% and 38.1% respectively as road haulage outfits presumably opted for equipment without the new cab technology fitted as standard.
The SMMT says it liaised with other trade associations to lobby the DfT which resulted in some flexibility around enforcement of the new legislation. Despite this it says the industry was clearly rattled and pulled forward vehicle registrations. So what is a smart tachograph, and how does it differ from the, not so old, digital units now fitted to most commercial vehicles? As with the inception of the original analogue units, the old rumblings of a ‘spy in the cab’ have surfaced once again.
The current equipment comes by way of EU legislation dating to 2016 when the industry was given until June this year to make the compulsory change. Full specifications for the new equipment can be seen in the EU Regulation here. Installing, maintaining and administrating the 6 million or so units employed in EU vehicles is estimated to cost the industry over €2.5 billion annually. This new breed of technology does much more than any former incarnation and the EU says it will reduce the administrative burden on companies and regulators and help eliminate tampering with the devices.
The big ticket item is that the units include GPS technology, offering authorities remote offence capabilities and linking to telematics to allow companies to monitor driver behaviour. The units will record the start and finish points of the daily work undertaken, plus record positions en route. The information contained can be wirelessly scanned from the roadside by traffic officers who can use the real time information to decide whether a vehicle stop is in order.
Fortunately for those who transgress it seems, in the UK at least, the DVSA has not acquired the necessary roadside readers, believing they will not be worthwhile until many more trucks carry the smart equipment. The EU ruling has set a date 15 years hence for its member regulators to have the necessary equipment on hand. For new UK vehicles driving in the EU however drivers should not be too complacent as some states may well equip their monitors much sooner than this.
The information revealed by the units is varied, with all the details shown by previous models plus some extras. What they won’t apparently automatically reveal however are the usual offences such as failure to take mandatory breaks or excess driving hours, all information which can be ascertained during a normal stop, and also if the unit is linked to a fleet telematics programme.
With data protection issues arising there are built in safeguards, the data collected by an enforcement authority at a road side stop must be analysed and disposed of within three hours, unless the unit indicates signs of interference, misuse or attempts at data manipulation. There can be no prosecutions based solely on information collected remotely, a stop is essential for further investigation, only then can enforcement action be undertaken.
Because the data collected using telematics can be shared with other similar systems, prior permission from the driver is required, before a connection between the tachometer and telematics system can share data, including geo-positioning.
While the new regulation came into effect for vehicles registered after 15th June 2019, there are no immediate requirements for the equipment to be retrofitted to older vehicles, although this can easily be done. As we say, the new technology is not without its critics, the fact that ever more data is held publicly, with the potential for criminal elements having power over both driver and load, particularly when high value consignments on regular routes are involved, is of concern to many.