I have found my self in a really strange place recently.
I have advised a client that to comply with the law they must fitted tachograph units to some of their vehicles and obey the driver hours regulations. The problem is that neither the vehicle manufacturers or the tachograph manufacturers have a solution for most smaller vehicles. By smaller vehicles I am talking about 4×4′s, pick-up trucks and cars.
This means that my client cannot meet the requirements of the legislation at all. This is a situation I find ludicrous. To give you some more background I suggest you read further.
The Gross Train Mass (GTM) of some cars now exceeds 3,500kg and a large number of these are cars purchased by or for businesses. Now for those who are not in the know, Gross Train Mass is defined as the weight of the vehicle, any trailer towed behind it and the weight imposed on the two. The weight of 3,500kg is important because vehicles with a permitted Gross Mass in excess of 3,500kg are required by European Law to obey EU Drivers Hours and Tachograph Law, if the vehicle is used in connection hire and reward (business use). This initially involves the fitting of a Tachograph Unit to record data about the activities of the driver and vehicle.
To establish the permissible Gross Train Mass or even the permissible Gross Vehicle Mass of your vehicle you need to find the VIN Plate. This is a metal plate stamped with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and a series of 4 numbers that denote weight in kgs. The Gross Vehicle Mass is the top number, the Gross Train Mass is the second number, the Front Axle Mass is the third number and the Rear Axle Mass is the last number. These weights are the Maximum permissible masses allowed, not the current mass. These plates are either under the bonnet or on one on the sills inside the front doors. The design of the vehicle is not important only the permitted masses.
Until recently all passenger cars had a Gross Train Mass of 3,490kg and hence fell below the threshold of 3,500kg, but with the advances in technology the car manufacturers have been able to increase the capacities of the cars, in some cases, far in excess of 3,500kg. They have done this, in my opinion, to allow people to tow larger caravans more safely, which is a definite bonus. Also the private use of these vehicles to tow a caravan will not require a tachograph to be fitted.
The problem arises with the purchase of these newer vehicles by the fleet industry. These vehicles are being used for business, and if a towbar is attached to allow the transportation of goods in trailers by the business, then the vehicle falls within the regulations. The big issue is that the car manufacturers have yet, as far as I am aware, to produce a tachograph unit that is able to be fitted to their vehicles.
It is not illegal to sell these cars without a tachograph as the manufacturers do not necessarily know the use the vehicle will be put to, but if you are using the vehicle and you do not comply with the law you will potentially be looking at prosecution. Fleet Risk Consultants are already discussing this issue with a number of manufacturers on our clients’ behalf, but if you tow trailers in connection with your business you should be raising the issue with your vehicle supplier.
Whilst we are on the topic of tachographs it is worth noting that almost all the panel vans, 4 x 4 Pick-ups and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) will require a tachograph when towing for business.
Your individual use of vehicles and trailers may fall outside the regulations as there are a few exceptions available, if you are in any doubt you should either contact us directly or seek other legal advice.
As for my client, we are now looking at using Trucks rather than the more cost and fuel efficient smaller vehicles.