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Tweaking tacho regulations

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More changes to digital tachograph legislation will come into force next year; changes that are likely to cause even more confusion among long-suffering coach operators. This time it’s an alteration to the so-called ‘one-minute rule’ and it’s due to be introduced in October 2011 on new tachographs.

As things stand, if a driver drives just five seconds in a minute, then the tachograph will record it as a full 60 seconds of driving. That’s an approach that is being abandoned.

Instead, if a driver drives for, say, 29 seconds and remains stationary for 31 seconds, then he or she will be treated as though they had rested for the entire 60 seconds. In other words, it will be the main activity that took place during the 60 seconds that will dominate the record.

“It should be stressed that we’re not talking about two different sets of Drivers’ Hours rules here,” says Continental Automotive UK product manager, Peter Needham. The rules remain the same, and existing tachographs can still be used.

“The difference relates to the way in which driving time is calculated,” he states.

Though probably more likely to affect truck drivers on multi-drop delivery work in city centres than coach drivers, the new approach to calculation could nonetheless potentially result in drivers having up to half-an-hour’s more driving time during the working day. That sounds like good news for operators; but there’s a snag.

The difficulty is that existing digital tachographs cannot work to the new, and potentially more advantageous, rules without having their internal software altered. At present that may not be possible in all cases.

The risk therefore is that some operators will end up running with digital tachographs that calculate driving time in two different ways as well as having to deal with data from the analogue tachographs fitted to older vehicles. “It’s yet another EU triumph and goodness knows what the enforcement authorities will make of it all,” remarked one exasperated industry insider.

Tachograph makers are busy developing and testing onboard units that will comply with the changed legislation. Actia however is one manufacturer that insists that its existing digital tachographs can be re-programmed in line with the new rules.

“It can be done by an authorised calibration centre logging onto our secure web site,” says UK technical sales executive, Mike Oliver. “Updating the software should usually only take five or six minutes; 15 at the very outside.”

Law-abiding coach firms will unequivocally welcome another change to the tachograph rules set to be introduced in October 2012. It will require all new tachographs to take information from a second source of motion.

The aim is to deter dishonest drivers from manipulating the signal by, for example, placing a strong magnet near the gearbox.

“The second signal could be drawn from, say, the vehicle’s CANbus (the multiplex wiring system used to connect intelligent onboard devices such as ECUs) or arrive via GPS,” says Peter Hafmar, tachograph product manager at Stoneridge. “We understand that there will be no retrofitting requirement.”

In this context, it is worth noting that Continental has introduced an inspection key that tells the user if any attempt has been made to interfere with the tachograph. A useful tool for the enforcement authorities, it can also be employed by operators who suspect that one or two of their drivers may be up to no good.

The change to the one-minute rule will not result in alterations having to be made to download tools and analysis software says Stoneridge marketing assistant, Vicki Tramma. “Data will be downloaded in the same way that it currently is, and once imported into the software storing, viewing and analysing it will also be the same as it is at present,” she states.

Stoneridge’s product line-up includes its OPTAC3 analysis package for both analogue and digital tachographs. Customers can choose from a web, PC or server option, and the company has a range of short video tutorials online to make life easier for them.

Aimed at new users, and free-of-charge, they cover subjects such as looking at infringements, and driver and vehicle data and reports.

Stoneridge’s view of the likely impact of the one-minute-rule alteration on downloading and analysis is shared by Chris Cuffe, sales and marketing manager at Tachosys.

“So far as we can tell the changes will only affect the recorded times shown within the vehicle unit and on the driver’s card,” he says. “The methods used to download data from the unit and read data off the card should remain unchanged.

“This should mean that existing peripherals such as download devices, card readers and so on will continue to function normally.

“There should also be no difference in the way in which software analyses the data because the unit will simply be making different calculations for the recording of driving and rest times,” Cuffe continues. “Analysis software will simply take the newly-recorded times as presented in the data, the structure of which will remain unchanged.”

Actia now offers a new portable downloading tool under the D-Box 2 banner capable of handling data from both onboard units and driver cards. “It’s a much smaller device than its predecessor, easier to use, and is around 30 to 40 per cent cheaper,” says Oliver.

“The D-Box we used to offer had a calculator-type keypad which could be a little confusing,” he says. “Its successor has just four buttons, which makes it easier to use, but we’ve kept the three-LED display.

“It tells the user exactly what the tool is doing and we find that’s a popular feature,” he continues.
“People tend not to like tools that just blink at them. They prefer to know precisely what is happening.”

Compatible with all digital tachographs, D-Box 2 offers the options of a full download or allows the user to extract all the data that’s been recorded since the last download. It can be connected to a PC as a USB peripheral.

Continental’s new Download Tool 2 allows drivers to see immediately and clearly exactly how many hours they’re driven says Needham and highlights any infringements they’ve committed. “They can look at what’s happened day-by-day,” he observes.

Data may increasingly be downloaded remotely, especially if coaches are dispatched on European tours lasting several days and are fitted with one of the latest digital tachographs; the VDO DTCO 1381 Rel.1.3a from Continental for instance. When combined with a DLD remote downloading device it can send data back to home base via GPRS without the need for a company card to be inserted first.

Conscious that coach fleet managers may not always be aware of the ways in which digital tachographs have changed since they were first introduced, Continental is running a one-day course designed to update them. “Since 2006 things have moved on a bit,” Needham remarks.

Tachosys has introduced digipostV which can combine remote downloading with tracking.  Again, the company card does not need to be present if the onboard unit is of the most recent design – it can remain safely in the office – and data can be extracted at any time because there is no requirement for the driver to be there.

“As things stand the coach market has yet to swing heavily in favour of remote downloading,” says Cuffe. “However I think that will change as more and more coaches with digital tachographs go into service and operators start to realise just how inconvenient and time-consuming it is to go round and download all the data manually when the vehicles return home.”

Tachograph data analysis is increasingly becoming web-based, something that’s recognised by TruTac with its TruControl V8 package.

It now offers three extra features.

As well as Automated Reporting, which ensures operators are automatically emailed reports daily, weekly or monthly – “we’ve got over 40 reports in the system and they can be configured with KPIs,” says operations director, Jemma James – TruControl V8 offers Graduated Penalty Reporting.

It calculates what the graduated penalty could have been had the driver been stopped after committing an infringement. Penalties can be £60, £120 or £200 says TruTac depending on the severity of the breach, so showing this sort of report to drivers and reminding them that they’re liable for the fine is likely to make them more careful in future.

“Our customers love it,” says James.

The third additional feature is the Infringement Debrief Module.

It’s a tool that allows operators to manage and document the process by which infringements are drawn to the attention of drivers. It includes pre-populated templates which can be used to record comments and any follow-up action; the form is stored automatically for future reference.

One of the best-known suppliers of analogue and digital analysis packages is Road Tech with its web-based Tachomaster system. It’s available free-of-charge for 28 days, with a pay-on-use weekly charge of £1.00 per driver if you decide to continue with it.

The Tachomaster system provides operatoring staff with a browser-based interface that gives instant access to their data. When used alongside the Falcon telematics system, which retrieves engine management data from the CANbus, it can provide a complete picture of what each vehicle is doing at any specific moment in time including how well and where it is being driven.

“We estimate that we’ve analysed data from around 65 per cent of all the driver cards in circulation at one time or another,” says marketing manager, Gerald Woodgate.

A considerable number of companies now run driver CPC courses – Novadata, TruTac and Tachodisc all spring to mind – and those addressing tachographs and the Driver’ Hours rules are among the most popular. A well-known supplier of tachograph products and services, Tachodisc now offers Digi-Down Blue, capable of downloading data from a driver’s card or a digital onboard unit and relaying it to home base via a compatible Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone.

Proper training in this whole area for both managers and drivers is of course vitally important. The Drivers’ Hours rules can be complicated; and ignorance, alas, is no defence if you’re prosecuted.

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