Many often wonder why the legal limit for downloading your driver card is set at 28 days. Some believe it’s because the card itself holds a maximum of 28 days’ worth of data. While there are strong reasons for making this assumption, it is not entirely accurate. This leads to natural questions: Does that 28 days include weekends and holidays? Is it a consecutive 28 calendar days, or 28 shift activities? If it’s the latter, if one takes two shortened shifts a day, with a rest period in between, does the tachograph count that as two days or one?
The reality is not quite as straightforward as we might hope it to be. In fact, a fully functioning tachograph holds a minimum of 90 days’ worth of data. A card, on the other hand, holds at least 28 days’ worth. The total capacity—that is, the number of days a tachograph can hold before it begins to erase the data—varies from unit to unit. Because no ‘day’ is exactly like any other, some days will take up more storage space than others. Therefore, one can never accurately predict how long a card or a vehicle unit can be used past their respective deadlines before the data begins to go missing.
Hence the law: 28 days for cards, 90 days for vehicles. These are maximums, and it is an offence to exceed either limit. It’s the responsibility of the driver and the operator to ensure downloads are undertaken at legal intervals. In the event of a roadside stoppage or a site visit by an enforcement officer, both the driver and the operator can face reprimands and fines for allowing a card or vehicle to become overdue for their downloads.
Missing data is highly frowned upon. Once information is erased from the unit, it is impossible to retrieve. Noticeable gaps will appear on your reports, online activity calendar, and any compliance system used to record your data. Missing data may be viewed as an attempt to hide illegal activity and is therefore treated with the utmost suspicion.
For that reason, best practice is to download driver cards every week and the vehicle units every month. However, it is still easy to forget the downloads or to put them off. Vehicle downloads, especially, are time-consuming and often inconvenient to undertake. This is part of the reason why there has been a significant movement in the haulage industry towards remote downloading. This solution is achieved by a device that, when fitted to the rear of the tachograph, sends data to a preset online location. The device can be configured to send data every day, meaning vehicle data is sent every time the ignition is engaged, and driver information is sent every time the card is inserted in the VU.
Because this method eliminates the risk of data going missing, it has gained enormous popularity in the past two or three years. Fleets of all sizes have seen operational and financial advantages from automatic downloading. The trend has become so pronounced that we expect the vast majority of new operators to opt for this method in the next five years.