Guide To Buying A Tachograph System – What You Need To Know

Having a tachograph system is a legal requirement for any business that uses professional drivers. It’s the obligation of the business owner and fleet manager to make sure all their vehicles are fitted with one — failure to do is a breach of the rules around driver’s hours.

Learn exactly what a tachograph system is, the two different types available and where your business can buy one.

What’s a tachograph system?

A tachograph is a vehicle monitoring device and software designed to make sure that all of the driving activity for your drivers is recorded. This is to ensure that they comply with the driver’s hours laws, which are regulations that govern the time a professional can spend driving and how long their rest periods must be. 


Tachograph systems use four main symbols to record a driver’s activity: 


  • Drive: when a driver uses a vehicle and the engine is running (park time is included)
  • Other work: a driver’s work activity when the engine is of (like unpacking goods) 
  • Available: when a driver is available to work but the engine isn’t on (e.g. ferry travel)
  • Rest/break: a driver’s non-working time (both when on breaks or rests and off-shift)


All professional vehicles are required by law to have a tachograph fitted. It’s the obligation of fleet owners and managers to ensure that their drivers use the tachograph system fitted and that the laws regarding driver’s hours are adhered to. 

If you’re unsure about whether you need to install and use one of these systems then you should read the UK Government’s rules for drivers and operators. It includes useful resources, including  the regulations for recovery vehicles, drive and rest/break times for drivers and any exemptions.

Analogue vs. digital tachograph

There are two different types of tachograph that businesses can have in their vehicles to meet legal obligations — analogue and digital. 

Analogue and digital tachographs each serve the same purpose, which is to record the activity of drivers. They also both use the same four tachograph symbols — drive, other work, available and rest/break — to show what drivers have been doing. 

Where the two differ is the way that they record data: 

Analogue tachograph sheet

Drivers manually enter their details by writing their activity status on a wax paper sheet. They put this into the tachograph at the beginning of their shift and their activities are recorded.

Digital tachograph card 

Drivers use a smart ID card to record their activity status. They put this into the tachograph, which then automatically records the data that shows what they’ve been doing. 

There’s no legal obligation regarding which type you use (just that you have one if you use professional drivers). However, analogue options are less used because divers have to physically go to their depot to enter the card, whereas digital tacho’s can be synchronised remotely.

What’s the best tachograph analysis software?

With analogue tachographs being more prone to human error than digital ones, it’s in the interest of business owners and managers to invest in software rather than take the risk of using manual systems. 

This is because it’s the obligation of these individuals to guarantee that the correct data is recorded about their drivers, failure to do so would result in a breach of the rules around driver’s hours.

There’s a wide range of tachograph analysis software available to fleet businesses. 

Tacho software usually comes as an integrated part of a telematics system. Tacho analysis is standardised as its factual output is very clearly defined by law. This means that you would normally choose your tachograph analysis software based on the telematics offering around it, rather than on the tacho functionality alone. 

The telematics provider will need to have an independent agency they work with that receives the data in a secure way and reads it to confirm independently that your drivers are compliant.

How to buy a tachograph system

You can use iCompario to compare tachograph systems. You can do this with our free “Compare vehicle tracking systems” tool.  

Our tool lets you compare telematics software and you can select a tachograph system as part of the package. These two pieces of equipment make it easier for you to manage your fleet, help to reduce accidents by enabling you to promote safer driving habits and can save you money on fuel, insurance and vehicle repairs. 

Simply select “Get a quote”. Once you’ve done this you enter the type and number of vehicles your business has. Then hit “next step” and you’ll have the option to select a telematics device that comes fitted with a tachograph. You can also select a range of other features, such as integrated dash cams, fuel efficiency and journey playback. 

You’ll then be given a recommended supplier, providing you with the information you need to buy the right tachograph system for your business. 

Alternatively, you can use our fuel card comparison tool. It lets you choose from Britain’s largest selection of fuel cards, including Shell, Esso, BP, Texaco and more. Just add in the details that are important to your business and you’ll be given a list of cards that meet your requirements.