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Rules for driving without a Tachograph Card

One of the easiest and most basic ways of getting yourself in trouble as an HGV driver is driving without a Tachograph Card. However, drivers can sometimes forget their tachograph card and in fact, this happens more often than you might think. In the UK, between 2016 and 2017 over £1.5 million in fines were handed out to drivers for card offences when driving and for exceeding driving hour times. Some drivers even ended up in prison.


The rules encompassing driving without a Tachograph Card are so fundamental that it is important to stay on the right side of the law!


Hauliers have had to track their driving for some time now, with Regulation (EC) 561 coming into play, back in 2006, which requires all relevant vehicles (produced after 2006) to be fitted with a digital tachograph system. This means that any authorities stopping drivers for information should be able to access their speed, driving, and rest hours easily, to ensure that they are keeping within the law.


For this blog, we will be focusing solely on Driver Cards (excluding company cards, workshop cards, and control cards) and we will look at the do's and don'ts of your Driver Card.




Rules when using a Tachograph Card

  • You must always use a card when operating your vehicle. If your card is lost or stolen, then you are required to take a printout at the start of and end of a shift. Be aware that the VU will still record that there wasn’t a card-present and continue to record all activities, which could be seen as “undeclared duty”.

  • One smart card per driver – One of the most crucial tachograph rules is that you cannot share your smart card with other drivers.

  • The enforcement authorities must have correct and up-to-date contact information for you. If any information is changed (like your address), you need to contact them to let them know ASAP.

  • Cards should be in the correct slot the moment you enter the vehicle and definitely before you begin to drive the vehicle, with driver 1’s card in the card 1 slot and driver 2’s card in slot 2 where applicable. Do not remove the card during the working day, unless there is a vehicle or driver change during that day.


What can a Tachograph Card track?

A Tachograph Card can track the distance travelled the activity status through the journey (whether the driver was driving or on a break), and record the activities of any co-drivers. The Tachograph Card (when in use) will track information that is specific to different vehicles it has been used in and can also offer the date/time it was used as well as the vehicle reg number and odometer readings.


There are bundles of information that the Tachograph Card can store; from the countries, it's been in, to the drivers' profile. It will store the name, DOB, and driving license number of the driver themselves.


Primarily, the Tachograph Card is used to serve as a record of the vehicle and driver's activity and information. Meaning that information can be accessed and questioned whenever it needs to be. As you can see a lot of this information has to be stored and recorded since the rules and laws set around them are strict, which can put both the company and driver at risk of prosecution should they not be followed. HGVs can be operated without a card; this is very much against the rules & regulations (there are some exceptions in very few circumstances). Driving without a tachograph card will result in your vehicle recording the times it is used without a card present.


When is it OK to drive without a Tachograph Card?

Excusing a driver for driving without a Tachograph Card happens in extremely rare situations. The only reason is that your card is completely irretrievable, whether that is through theft, loss, or damage. If you have misplaced or left your card at home, it must be retrieved before you are able to drive. Only those who have no possible method of driving, unless their card is replaced, will be allowed to drive without their card. Some steps are listed below which must be taken when driving without a tachograph card:

  • Inform your enforcement authorities immediately. If your card has been lost, stolen, or irreparably damaged, your local authorities must be informed as soon as possible during their open hours.

  • Alternatively, if your card has expired you will need to wait until a replacement card has been sent out and available for you to use before you can drive again. There are no workarounds for this rule, you must have an up-to-date card at all times.

  • Inform your superior as soon as you can. They need to know if you are available to work.

  • As previously stated, driving without a tachograph card is possible, but the situation comes with some rules of its own. You are able to drive, however, it can only be for a period of up to 15 calendar days and no more. As your local enforcement authorities must replace any cards within a certain number of working days, this shouldn't be too difficult to achieve. Again, this only applies to drivers who have lost, damaged, or had their tachograph card stolen.

  • During the days that you are working without your card, you must make a hard copy printout from your digital tachograph at the beginning and end of each journey. You must also write your name and DL number on the back of each printout to allow them to be traced back to you easily.

  • These printouts must be ready and available for inspection for up to 28 calendar days, after that, they should then be passed to the vehicle operator.

  • Apply for a new card immediately, you will find all information necessary by clicking here

How can our OPTAC3 Tachograph Analysis Software help in this situation?


The customised reports that are available on OPTAC3 will assist you in monitoring your drivers in case episodes of unknown driving occur. OPTAC3 also has over 40+ reports in (in 19+ languages) identifying and monitoring any infringements. You can apply for a free trial here


Our Remote Downloading solution available here, gives you Live Driver Decision Support and will notify you by email of episodes of driving without a card. If you'd like more information on our Remote Download Solution, please call us on 051 348 331.

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