Tachographs – from 2026, it’s vans’ and light vehicles’ turn

The expansion of the mandatory tachograph to vehicles weighing 2.5 tons or more in international traffic presents fleets with new challenges.

Since August 2023, new commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more have only been delivered with the new second version of the intelligent tachograph, and the first vehicles in the existing European fleet have already been retrofitted with devices such as the VDO DTCO 4.1. What many people are not yet aware of, however, is that from 1 July 2026, the obligation to use a tachograph in international logistics will also apply to a completely new vehicle class: vans and light commercial vehicles whose maximum weight, including trailers or semi-trailers, exceed 2.5 tons and which are used in cross-border freight logistics or cabotage transport must then record their driving data using the tachograph. This results in completely new compliance tasks for both fleet operators and drivers. In this blog post, we would like to take a comprehensive look at the most important obligations they now face – but also discuss the potential challenges and benefits of this regulation.

These compliance duties will apply to fleets and drivers in the future

With the introduction of mandatory tachographs for vans and light commercial vehicles from 2026, logistics companies will have to adapt to some basic obligations. The tachograph records the driving and rest times of drivers and thus ensures compliance with legal regulations. This not only serves to ensure safety on the roads, but also the fair billing of working hours. The key obligations for fleet operators include:

  • the proper installation and regular inspection of the tachographs in the vehicles,
  • setting a company lock in the intelligent tachograph with the company card to protect the data stored in the device against unauthorized downloading,
  • planning tours in accordance with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 561/2006,
  • the accurate recording of driving and rest times,
  • regular downloading of tachograph and driver card data to a designated archiving system,
  • the archiving of this data for at least 12 months,
  • raising awareness and training drivers on the proper use of tachographs and
  • compliance with national and international regulations.

Drivers also have new duties to fulfil, namely:

  • obtaining a valid driver card in in time, if not already available,
  • carrying a driver card on which the tachograph data for at least 56 days can be stored,
  • accurately recording their driving and rest times, including work hours and breaks,
  • the subsequent recording of activities that were not recorded by the tachograph and stored on the driver card,
  • support with the regular download of tachograph and driver card data to a designated archiving system,
  • the obligation to cooperate with the authorities when checking tachograph data,
  • compliance with the statutory driving and rest times and all other compliance regulations of the EU Mobility Package with regard to posting and cabotage,
  • regularly checking the tachograph for proper functioning and
  • participation in training courses and other measures to better understand the use of the tachograph.

These measures are crucial to remain in compliance with legal requirements.

New rules for vans – what else do you need to watch out for?

In addition to these obligations relating to the use of the tachograph, there are also more specific questions that fleet operators ask themselves, for example: What if a vehicle in this class (2.5 to 3.5 tons) is used both nationally and internationally? Do the national tours also have to be recorded on the tachograph? There is currently a simple answer to this: No. This is because, in this case, the respective national driver regulations apply, and we are not currently aware of any European country that obliges vans to record their activities with the tachograph in national freight transport. However, an adaptation of the national regulations to the EU regulation cannot be ruled out.

However, if the tachograph is already on board because cross-border driving also takes place, it is still possible to use the device – without this use leading to negative consequences during checks. The tachograph can be set to the “out-of-scope” or “recording equipment not required” status. In this state, the tachograph continues to record the full data set. However, infringement warnings such as driving without a valid driver card or exceeding the driving times are suppressed by the tachograph. Note: Please be sure to observe the relevant national regulations!

From an occupational health and safety perspective, however, it still makes sense to adhere to the regulations of the EU Mobility Package in national freight transport as well, which benefits the safety of drivers, among other things.

Some drivers are also concerned that the tachograph data could be used to check and sanction any speeding in retrospect. For example, vehicles transporting goods with a maximum permissible mass of more than 3.5 tons are subject to a speed limit. The limit value (V-max) for the corresponding speed is a maximum of 90 km/h for these vehicles. It is set by workshop personnel during the installation and subsequent calibration of the tachograph, which takes into account the vehicle model and tires, among other things.

This special speed limiter legislation expressly does not apply to vans and light commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 2.5 to 3.5 tons – and workshops should therefore set the V-max to 220 km/h so that the tachograph does not store any speeding. But be careful: digital tachographs such as the VDO DTCO 4.1 still have a speed memory that continuously records the last 24 hours of pure driving time in a grid of seconds. This data can be analysed after accidents, for example. And in principle, this regulation does not release van and light commercial vehicle drivers from the obligation to comply with the respective national road traffic regulations and local speed limits.

Overcoming challenges through early planning

Naturally, these numerous new obligations present fleet operators and drivers with a number of challenges – especially if they are not yet familiar with this technology. Starting with the cost of purchasing and installing the tachographs and training drivers. The transition to a new system requires time and resources, which can lead to temporary restrictions in operations.

Early planning of the introduction to tachographs in vans and light commercial vehicles is essential to ensure smooth processes and rapid integration. Companies should check at an early stage which technical adaptations are required in their vehicles and start training their drivers in good time. In addition, contact with the fleet workshop should be sought early so that the transition does not ultimately fail due to full workshop calendars.

Planning ahead enables companies to minimize potential bottlenecks and productivity losses. They also have the opportunity to adapt to the new requirements and train their employees at an appropriate pace if they take care of the installation of the tachographs early enough.

Possible advantages of mandatory tachographs for fleets and drivers

Despite these initial challenges, the introduction of mandatory tachographs for vans and light commercial vehicles in cross-border freight transport also offers considerable advantages. For example, the accurate recording of driving and rest times not only contributes to compliance with legal regulations, but also to road safety in general. The data from the tachograph also enables more efficient planning of routes and operating times.

Improved planning leads to optimal vehicle utilization and a reduction in empty runs. The trustworthy data from the tachograph can also be used in the administration of tolling charges or for payroll accounting. Furthermore, this data is a good basis for a trust-promoting and transparent relationship with drivers and customers. The use of fleet management software, such as VDO Fleet, offers additional opportunities for optimizing operational processes.

We therefore recommend that all logistics companies start dealing with the upcoming transition now to ensure a successful implementation and to take advantage of the positive effects of the mandatory tachograph for their fleets and drivers.

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