What Do Tachograph Symbols Mean?

Analogue and digital tachograph symbols are used to record the status of drivers. They explain when they’re driving, resting and carrying out other work tasks. 

Knowing the meaning of the different tacho symbols is a vital part of a fleet manager’s job. The purpose of tachos is to ensure that drivers don’t exceed their regulated work hours. Understanding the symbols and using tachograph analysis helps ensure this doesn’t happen. 

Find out what the different symbols are and learn whether you’re better off with a digital or analogue tachograph.

What is a tachograph?

A tachograph is a device installed to vehicles to record driving speed, distance, and time. 

This is to ensure that employers and their employees abide by the laws relating to drivers’ hours, specifically those regarding the rest period and driving times of drivers. 

The information is logged automatically and is stored in the unit memory of the vehicle and cards issued to the drivers. 

There are two types of tachograph: 

  • Digital: keeps a digital record of driving statuses  
  • Analogue: data is recorded on a stylus that cuts into a wax-coated analogue chart 

It’s a requirement under EU law to have a tachograph fitted to any professional vehicles that entered service from 1 May 2006. 

This makes tachographs an essential part of fleet management.

What are the key symbols on a tachograph?

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Digital tachographs use driving symbols to show the different driver statuses during working hours. This is to make sure that the drivers don’t infringe the laws around their drive and rest times. 

There are four legally recognised key symbols for tachograph devices.


Drive tachograph symbol

This records the time a driver is using a vehicle and the engine is running, including when they’re parked.

Other work

Other work tachograph symbol

This logs the time when a driver is still working but is doing work other than driving (the engine is off), such as moving goods from a stationary vehicle.


Available tachograph symbol

This accounts for the time when the engine of a vehicle isn’t on but the driver must be available to resume driving or take calls. This covers periods like when an international driver is on a ferry that’s in transit between countries.


Rest break tachograph symbol

This covers times when the driver is resting or taking a break, both during work hours and when they’re off shift.  

The purpose of these symbols is to make it easier for fleet managers, company owners and drivers to understand the tachographs data.

Digital tachographs vs. analogue tachographs

There are two types of tachograph — digital and analogue. 

Fleet managers and owners of transport companies need to be aware of both of these, as either could be used (depending on the type of vehicles being operated). 

The key difference between the two is how a driver’s data is recorded.

Drivers must manually enter their details onto an analogue tachograph. They do this by writing their work mode onto a sheet of wax paper. This must then be physically put into the device at the start of their shift.  

A digital tachograph records a driver’s information via a smart ID card. These driver’s cards show important information about the driver, including a photo of them, their date of birth and expiry date — not unlike their driving licence. 

The smart card is authorised before the drivers start their shift. Once they’ve been approved to begin working, the drivers put their cards into the tachographs card slots and the devices then automatically record and store their work statuses. 

Analogue tachographs are largely being replaced by digital devices. 

This is because the requirement to make manual entries increases the risk of errors significantly, something that could lead to a driver working longer than they should and breaching the drivers’ hours regulations for their drivers.

What tachograph responsibilities do fleet managers have?

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It’s a legal requirement for tachographs to be fitted in professional vehicles. Fleet managers and owners of transport companies are responsible for ensuring that is the case for their vehicles.

As a result, fleet managers and operators have various responsibilities, which include:

  • Downloading and storing information from vehicle units and drivers’ smart cards 
  • Managing the printouts and records of every driver under their employment 
  • Reporting discrepancies or cases of non-compliance concerning drivers’ hours 
  • Training drivers to operate their tachograph devices in accordance with UK law
  • Ensuring that every tachograph in their vehicles is kept in proper working order

Get your tachograph with a telematics device from iCompario

A man driving a car at dusk

Credit: AnyRgb

Every professional vehicle must have a tachograph fitted. Failure to do so will mean your company will be in breach of the laws concerning drivers’ hours. 

Tachograph devices are available on high-end telematics systems. 

Getting the two technologies together helps you to protect your vehicles and drivers, as telematics devices automatically record information about your employees’ driving behaviour. 

You can buy a device that combines these two systems from iCompario. 

Simply visit our telematics systems comparison page and make sure you include “tacho” among the features you select for your device.