Tachograph rules, regulations and applications

Tachographs: Rules, Regulations and Applications

Tachographs are one of the oldest pieces of modern fleet technology, and have become an essential part of effective fleet management. The first tachograph dates back to 1844 and was used on trains to record irregularities, and the ancestor of modern vehicle tachograph can be dated back to 1923.

These devices have seen a great deal of evolution over the years, and today tachographs are a necessary piece of equipment for most fleets. In this blog, we will take a look at what tachographs are, and address some of the legal expectations for fleets to utilise this technology.

What are tachographs?

Tachographs are the devices in telematics systems that track driving time, speed and rest periods, primarily for heavy goods vehicles. Fleet managers can then use the data gathered by tachographs to analyse patterns in driver behaviour and efficiency, and monitor performance.

Software and hardware packages like tachographs work as part of wider telematics systems to help manage driver data efficiently and alleviate the administrative requirements of fleet managers.

Tachographs are a legal requirement in the UK and in countries under EU and AETR laws. They serve to ensure that drivers and businesses are abiding by the standards of road safety, such as the legislation on drivers’.

Tachograph cards

Most tachographs utilise smartcards, of which there are four kinds.

  • Driver cards – these store driver information including rest periods, breaks and driving times.
  • Company cards – these smart cards are used to download data from the tachograph and protect it.
  • Workshop cards – these cards are used for tachograph calibration by the DVSA.
  • Control cards – these cards are used by police and transport officers and give access to all information stored on a tachograph.

Analogue tachographs vs digital tachographs

While modern digital tachographs utilise a smart ID card and store data pertaining to each driver on their respective cards, analogue tachographs gather data on pieces of paper which would then be handed back to administrators.

With both types of tachograph, drivers can choose between three modes:

  • Other work – for jobs that don’t involve driving, such as loading the vehicle.
  • Availability – for delays that would require the driver to wait for production reasons outside their control.
  • Break/rest – for when breaks are taken.

All vehicles registered from 2006 onwards are required under EU legislation to use digital tachographs instead of their older analogue counterparts. With digital tachographs offering a more streamlined management of data collection and reducing the risk of lost data with physical paper sheets, the more modern form of tachograph is a more effective tool for fleets today.

Tachograph rules and regulations

As tachographs are used to track driving hours and behaviour, rules and regulations associated with tachographs are mostly aligned with the time drivers can spend on the road and rest requirements rather than regulations relating to the tachographs themselves.

However, commercial vehicles are required to have a tachograph to ensure compliance with regulations on drivers’ hours, unless the vehicle is exempt from EU regulations on drivers’ hours or isn’t covered by them.

As of August 2023, legislation came in that requires newly registered passenger and goods vehicles to have a smart tachograph v2 installed. Smart tachographs offer benefits including enhanced security and efficiency, and an open interface for integration with other fleet solutions.

Fleet solutions from Fuel Card Services

Tachographs are part of the foundation of fleet services, and they have evolved a lot in the last 100 years. This invaluable tool is a fleet essential and when used in conjunction with a suite of other fleet solutions fleet managers can enjoy comprehensive driver tracking and data management.

At Fuel Card Services we are specialists in fleet management solutions. We offer a diverse range of fleet management tools including telematics systems and driver tracking software, dash cameras and more. These devices, apps and software are fully flexible meaning you can build your system around your fleet’s needs.

Our experts are on hand to help you choose the right fleet solutions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

Fuel efficient driving

How can efficient driving reduce fuel costs?

Fuel efficient driving is all about taking or omitting actions in order to optimise your vehicle’s fuel usage and keep expenditures down.

With fuel prices fluctuating massively over the last few years, optimising fuel usage is becoming an increasingly important consideration that fleet managers must make in order to remain competitive. That’s why we’ve pulled together some key tips and tricks to help facilitate this.

Implementing the majority of the techniques we’ll discuss in this article falls upon the driver, however fleet managers have a responsibility to support drivers in implementing these tactics, and also to ensure that drivers are equipped with the latest knowledge on how to be fuel efficient.

Which driving techniques can help you save fuel?

There are a number of tricks that can be used to maximise fuel efficiency and cut back on fuel costs for your fleet.

1. Focus on vehicle maintenance

Proper vehicle maintenance is the first step that should be taken to ensure efficient fuel consumption and should always be a priority. By ensuring the vehicles in a fleet are well-looked after, and properly and regularly checked, vehicles will run better and consume less fuel.

Things to keep a regular eye on:

  • Tyres – pressure, damage, valve caps.
  • Fuel tank – fuel leaks from/around the tank, cap security.
  • Bodywork – any loose, torn, or protruding panels or bodywork.
  • Start-up – any unusual mechanical noises, or smoke.
  • Moving off – steering pulling, dragging breaks, tracking issues.

Regularly checking these factors and keeping an eye out for changes in functionality will keep vehicles running smoothly and allow for issues to be rectified swiftly. Ultimately, well maintained vehicles will drive more efficiently while also proving less likely to result in expensive repair bills that can emerge from a long-term lack of attention.

2. Keep tyres properly inflated

Having tyres inflated to the appropriate pressure will have a positive impact on fuel consumption. Underinflated tyres, for instance, can cause your car to drag and waste fuel. In fact, for every 1% decreases in tyre pressure, fuel economy decreases by 0.3%.

3. Only carry necessary weight

It’s no secret that the heavier a vehicle is, the slower it will accelerate – and the harder it will have to work to maintain speed. For this reason, keeping vehicle weight to the necessary minimum will help fleet vehicles get from A to B with the most efficient use of fuel.

4. Avoid harsh breaking

Harsh breaking makes for inefficient fuel usage for a number of reasons. Braking hard brings you down to speeds that require the lower gear much faster, and these are more taxing on your fuel tank. Post braking, accelerating is much more efficient if you haven’t reached very low speeds or had to stop altogether.

In terms of how drivers can put this into practice, take for example when a driver is approaching a red light. Braking late and decreasing speed sharply could result in the driver having to drop into the lowest gear or come to a complete standstill at the lights.

Conversely, starting the braking process earlier and decreasing speed very gently could result in never having to come to a stop at all- meaning you could get back up to speed without wasting fuel. What’s more, this method is likely to cause less wear-and-tear for your brake pads.

5. Keep to the highest appropriate gear

Keeping to the highest gear suitable for the speed you are travelling helps to make you fuel consumption as efficient as possible. When driving at 30mph, for instance, some vehicles will comfortably sit in 4th gear. This will keep revs down and fuel consumption down too.

6. Use cruise control, where available

Cruise control, when used correctly, can save as much as 14% on fuel. Travelling at a continuous speed is one of the most efficient ways to travel, so having cruise control on when on motorways and A roads can help you keep your speed consistent.

7. Plan your journey

Where you drive has as much effect on fuel efficiency as how you drive. Route planning is therefore a fantastic step to take when looking to ensure that fuel usage is made efficient through optimising your journeys. Look at the roads you intend to travel and consider that a shorter journey isn’t always the most efficient.

Opting to travel on larger, straighter roads can maximise fuel efficiency and combining trips rather than doing many shorter ones are ways that you can better plan journeys. Traffic is also a key component of route planning, and understanding whether a route is likely to be busy or not can help reduce your fuel bill over time by ensuring your drivers don’t have to sit in traffic with their engines ticking over.

Telematics services like Tele-Gence can help you plan journeys and keep costs down. Tele-Gence is fully customisable so you can tailor it to your fleet requirements and save money and improve safety.

8. Turn your engine off

A vehicle that’s off is a vehicle that’s saving fuel. If your vehicle is stationary for longer than a couple of minutes, turn the engine off. The fuel you’ll save when at a stop will quickly add up.

How can missing out some gear changes save fuel?

An often-overlooked tactic for efficient driving is eliminating unnecessary gear changes when accelerating. Missing out gear changes can help to save fuel by reducing the overall time spent accelerating, but must be done with care.

Does coasting save fuel?

Coasting (depressing the clutch and using momentum rather than the engine to carry the vehicle) is not only a bad tactic for fuel conservation, but it also a risky driving technique.

In most modern vehicles, coasting won’t save much fuel and will leave you with significantly less control over your vehicle. Having the engine engaged will help you if you need to break or accelerate in response to external factors.

Does stop-start save fuel?

Stop-start technology aims to save fuel by turning your engine off when stationary. Whilst this won’t save you tonnes of fuel in the short-term, stop-start will help with fuel consumption over time, particularly on journeys that might feature lots of traffic lights or junctions.

Managing your fuel with Fuel Card Services

Fuel Card Services can provide a range of services designed to help fleet managers stay in control of fuel consumption and spending. With fuel costs increasing, now is the best time to get in touch with our experts and find out what fuel cards and services could help you streamline your fleet operations.

Woman standing next to blue car whilst it charges, looking at her phone

Are Electric Cars Safe?

In the past, there has been a lot of superstition towards the safety of electric vehicles. A few viral videos of an electric vehicle catching fire circulated the internet, and their overall safety was questioned. With any new and developing technology, it is wise to remain wary however with safety always at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of vehicles, electric vehicle safety is little cause for concern.

For any potential buyers who see safety as a barrier to purchasing an electric vehicle, let’s look at some of the reasons why safety is not something you should be worried about.

Are electric car fires common?

While it’s definitely a possibility for electric vehicles to catch fire, it’s even more possible for a vehicle using a combustion engine to catch fire.

In a 2014 study, the Research Institutes of Sweden concluded that whilst electric cars made by Tesla had a fire rate of 1 in 20,000, the fire rate in ICE vehicles was 1 in 1,000.

Simply put, a Tesla electric car is 20 times less likely to catch fire than a fossil fuel burning vehicle.

What is being done to prevent electric vehicle fires?

Safety is a huge priority for manufacturers when building an electric vehicle.

Batteries are very well protected in crash resistant frames. They are also mounted as low as possible, and away from areas likely to be crumpled in a heavy impact. This is all to stop any material piercing the battery, which is where issues might start.

A production line with a row of cars being built, sparks flying from machinery

If a cell within the battery does get damaged, it could short circuit and cause flammable electrolytes to ignite. This can cause a chain reaction, causing large, sometimes inextinguishable fires. You can see why the safety of each electric vehicle is of high importance to manufacturers.

Electric vehicles are also fitted with sensors that detect collision. When this happens, any high voltage connections are severed. This greatly reduces the risk of the vehicle catching fire after an accident.

Electric vehicles fitted with noise emitters

Another concern regarding the safety of electric vehicles is that they don’t naturally emit much noise. Whilst this sounds a lot less frightening than the chance of the battery catching fire, it could be just as dangerous.

We are used to hearing cars – we know they are there and which direction they are coming from. We wouldn’t cross the road without looking if we could hear a car behind us.

The obvious issue with electric vehicles is that if pedestrians can’t hear them coming, they could unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way.

Luckily, guidelines in the UK dictate that electric vehicles must contain an acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS). The legislation means that cars must emit a sound with a minimum volume of 56 decibels. This is about the same volume as a quiet conversation. On a quiet street, the AVAS is enough to make pedestrians aware of the vehicle’s presence.

As of 2021, all new electric cars must have AVAS fitted. Hopefully, concerns about low noise levels will be a thing of the past by the time we get to the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel production.

What happens to electric car batteries in a crash?

Batteries can be volatile, so it’s understandable that there might be some concern over how electric cars will react in the unfortunate event of a crash. While an electric car battery could explode or ignite in the case of a crash, electric vehicles undergo the same rigorous safety testing as combustion engine vehicles, and are just as safe in a collision.

Modern electric cars feature a host of safety measures to prevent the ignition of batteries during a crash such as sensors, circuit breaks, and other system features designed to detect potential damage before it happens.

Additionally, since hot batteries are more likely to explode, these vehicles utilise a range of different cooling systems to keep the battery temperature as low as possible. This further reduces the risk of any further disaster should a collision occur.

How to ensure safety on the road

Whilst we can compare the safety of electric vehicles and ICE vehicles, the overall safety of any vehicle is determined by the driver.

Continuing to drive with 100% focus on the road is the simplest, most effective way to avoid any accidents that could cause fires. Keep distractions out of reach, and always be aware of other motorists.

For fleet managers, using telematics allows you to monitor whether your drivers are being safe. You’ll be able to see which of your drivers are prone to speeding, aggressive turns and breaking, tailgating and other erratic habits. Any action taken with this information is down to the fleet manager, but teaching drivers to avoid these habits will make the roads safer for everyone.

From 2022, all new cars will be fitted with speed limiters in Europe and the UK. The technology can be disabled for overtaking and joining motorways, but data will also be stored so that, in the case of an accident, police can determine whether the driver was at fault.

If you’d like to know more about how telematics can improve your fleet’s safety, get in touch with our team.

Electric car charging stations

AC vs DC charging: what’s the difference?

Whether expanding your electric fleet, encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles amongst your workforce, or simply keeping an eye on the electric HGV market; many fleet managers are now steadily acknowledging and embracing the key role that electric vehicles will play in services moving forwards.

Whichever stage of the electrification journey your fleet is currently at, it pays to know about the ins and out of these evolving vehicles, including how they are charged.

You might be aware of the fundamental differences between AC and DC charging, but do you know how they apply to the charging of electric vehicles? In this blog we will take a look at just that, going over what each of these are and how they apply to electric vehicle.

What is AC and DC

AC stands for “alternating current” and is an electric current which sees the flow of electrons change in direction periodically. DC stands for “direct current” and as the name would suggest it flows in a constant direction. AC is acquired from the grid and needs to be converted into DC to power electric vehicles.

Charging EVs with AC vs DC

When charging an electric vehicle, the type of charger will have an impact on how it charges and how quickly the battery reaches full charge.

Charging at an AC charging point will require the vehicles being charged to convert the power they receive from AC to DC. These types of charging points take the AC current from the grid and carry it to the vehicles, but the task of converting the current to DC must be completed by the vehicle itself.

When charging with a DC charge point, the current is converted to DC within the charger which means the electricity that enters the electric car is ready to use. Removing the task of converting the AC current to DC after the power enters the vehicle means the charge time with DC chargers is faster.

What this means in simple terms is that AC chargers can be found in the form of slow and fast EV chargers, while rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are DC chargers.

Are home chargers AC or DC?

If you have a home charge point installed it will almost definitely be an AC charger. While you could have a DC charger installed at home, it is much more costly for both the equipment and the skills required, as well as the power needed to operate them.

Whilst it sounds tempting to have a fast charger at home, given that most electric cars will fully charge in between 4-8 hours, an AC charger is more than suitable for most EV drivers needs.

Allstar Homecharge from Fuel Card Services

Whether AC or DC, managing charging costs can feel like a troublesome chore for both fleet operators and drivers. Calculating what is owed can become a gargantuan task, especially with a large fleet of electric vehicles.

However, if your fleet drivers charge their vehicles at home there is a solution to help alleviate the stress of calculating mileage for AER. Allstar Homecharge integrates with home charging solutions to calculate the spend on charging at home, so you and your driver know exactly what has been paid.

Allstar Homecharge and other charging solutions, including charge cards, can all be found from Fuel Card Services. Get in touch with our team today to discuss what your fleet could benefit from.

important tips when buying a used electric car

Second-Hand EV Buying Guide

Second-hand vehicles are a great option for businesses looking to expand their fleet without spending too much to do so. When it comes to buying electric vehicles, new models often carry a hefty price tag that can make adding electric vehicles to the fleet financially unviable. Buying second-hand can help fleets of all sizes and budgets to increase their environmental sustainability and get ahead of the NetZero 2050 initiative.

Like buying any vehicle second-hand, however, the second-hand EV market can feel like a minefield. We have put together a quick buying guide for fleet managers exploring the possibility of second-hand electric fleet vehicles, outlining some of the most important things to remember before investing in used EVs.

Service history

A full service history is essential for purchasing any used vehicle, including electric, and a service history with big gaps should be a red flag. While vehicle servicing looks a little different for electric vehicles compared to their combustion engine counterparts, acquiring vehicles you can trust have been looked after properly is vital.

Can you service your fleet EVs?

You’ll want your used fleet EVs to have been properly serviced before they arrive with you, but are you able to continue to service them moving forward? Depending on the size of your fleet and the location of your business, you might find it tricky to find a conveniently located garage that offers EV servicing. Make sure to check the services near your before you put your money into used electric vehicles and subsequently realise they are going to be a nightmare to get serviced.

Battery health

Battery health decreases over time and this applies just the same to electric vehicles as it might to a laptop or smartphone. Many things can contribute to battery degradation in EVs, including the use of faster charging points, overcharging, and running until ‘empty’. While you won’t be able to know if these actions have impacted the used EVs you are looking at, it’s important you get a good idea of the battery’s overall health and charging capacity.

Additionally, you’ll want to know about the battery’s warranty, including how long it lasts and if it can be transferred to new owners.

Cables and leads

We’re all guilty of misplacing cables and leads, and the panic sets in when battery power runs low. It can be easy to survive without a phone charge for a little while, but you will be in a sticky situation should you need to replace the charging cables and leads for your newly acquired used EV. You can replace these vital pieces of kit, but you are going to be looking at a hefty additional price to pay on top of what you have already spent on your vehicle.

As such, make sure the used electric vehicles you add to your fleet come with the charging cables you need to keep them running.

Range

Understanding EV range is important whether you are looking to buy new or used, and will be a big influence in your decision making. Range anxiety is not quite the concern it used to be, with more charge points cropping up regularly and range capacity increasing with each new model of EV. However, when purchasing used EVs and especially older ones, it’s important you understand what minimum range your fleet vehicles require.

For example, in 2018 the majority of midrange electric vehicles had a range of between 100-125 miles on a fully charged battery. Taking into account battery degradation, this potential mileage is lowered by approximately 2.3% per year, making the mileage capacity approximately 86-110 miles in 2023.

Depending on the types of journeys your fleet vehicles are making day to day, this might be plenty of mileage for many fleets and shouldn’t be a concern. However, if your drivers are regularly taking trips of upwards of 100 miles on tight schedules, then this mileage capacity could be limiting and not a good fit for your fleet.

Charging

The final major consideration you need to make when acquiring electric fleet vehicles, both new and used, is if your business premises and your driver’s homes (if necessary) have the infrastructure to support efficient charging.

Relying solely on public charge points is most likely going to be unsustainable for any fleet that isn’t very small. Instead, have you considered the infrastructure you would need to invest in? Installing charge points for your electric fleet vehicles means convenient charging on the business premises and can even be subsidised by the government through the Workplace Charging Scheme.

Additionally, if your drivers keep their fleet vehicles at home then there are grants available to help cover the cost. Of course, it can be complicated to manage mileage allowance with home charging, so implementing tools like Allstar Homecharge can help to ensure that no one is out of pocket for charging carried out at home.

Allstar Homecharge from Fuel Card Services

Allstar Homecharge is an EV charging solution designed to take the hassle out of charging company vehicles at home. Whereas previously reclaiming charging allowance has been inaccurate and often left drivers out of pocket for the money they spend charging at home, Allstar Homecharge integrates with most home charge systems to calculate the costs of charging business vehicles. These costs are then charged directly to the business.

Less administration, less uncertainty, and a more convenient and cost-effective way to charge.

Speak to our experts today to learn more about how Allstar Homecharge could benefit your fleet.