Ford vans sponsor image desktop

In association with Ford Pro

Do you need a tachograph to drive a van?

Tachographs can be analogue or digital, and record information about your journey. Not all commercial vehicles require them, however, and some are exempt altogether...

Tachograph print out

Tachographs record how long you’ve been driving for, and are compulsory in all vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes that are being used for commercial benefit. However, you’ll also need one if you are towing a trailer and the total gross weight of the vehicle and trailer is more than 3.5 tonnes. Essentially, if you are driving something big or towing something big, you might need to use a tachograph.

How does a tachograph work?

A tachograph records information about how long you have been driving for, as well as speed and distance. They are predominantly found in trucks and are used to make sure drivers follow the drivers’ hours rules and do not spend excessive amounts of time behind the wheel. 

It’s not just trucks that need tachographs, though. They apply to all vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes; however, the rules are generally geared towards people using these sorts of vehicles for hire or reward. That means towing a trailer full of your own belongings behind your van on the way to your holidays isn’t classed the same as towing a digger on a trailer for your next job.

Tachographs can be analogue and digital and require either paper discs or a driver card in order to store all the information. 

Volkswagen Crafter front

Do I need a tachograph?

To better understand if you need a tachograph, it is easier to look at when you don’t need one, because some types of vehicle or usage are exempt from EU rules and come under GB domestic rules. 

Vehicles that cannot travel more than 25mph are exempt – a clause that usually governs agricultural equipment. Emergency aid vehicles are also exempt if you’re carrying out non-commercial transport of humanitarian aid.

Breakdown vehicles, vehicles undergoing road tests for repair or maintenance and vehicles made more than 25 years ago also do not have to use a tachograph. If you’ve got a steam-powered van, you’ll also be exempt. There are many examples within the industry including circus vehicles and milk floats that are also exempt, but the important one that most people will need to know is that vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes but less than 7.5 tonnes – for example, one that you might borrow or rent to move house – do not require a tachograph because there is no commercial element to it. Driving a horsebox for personal use does not require a tachograph, either.

As soon as there is a commercial (ie profit-making) element to the work you are doing in a vehicle weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, though, you must comply with the rules on tachographs.

If in doubt, consult the official government website.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here