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Tacho law means fleets struggle to tow the line

Date: 19 December 2006   |   Author: Tristan Young

Last May's changes to the digital tachograph law, making them compulsory for all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, has left fleets up-in-arms because they can no longer pick their preferred vehicles.

Fleets using off-roaders and pick-ups for towing, which then exceed 3.5t, are now required by law to fit a digital tachograph. Previously an easily fitted analogue tachograph was required. However, the only two 4x4s capable of towing this weight and having a digital tacho fitted are the Isuzu Rodeo and Mitsubishi L200.

One fleet manager that contacted BusinessCar said: "We discovered the problem when we went to renew several of our Land Rovers used for towing and launching boats. Land Rover have told us they are working on a fix, but they can't give us a date when it will be solved. It's typical of the British car industry to wait until there is a problem before trying to solve it."

Land Rover told BusinessCar that it was working on a solution, but did not have an estimated time when a solution would be available.

Industry insiders have sympathy with Land Rover's position, and one source said: "This was a very complicated introduction of a law - it was on and off for a time then rushed through."

The Government agency responsible for this area is the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency. A VOSA spokesman said: "To date, due to technical difficulties, it has not been possible to fit digital tachographs to certain types of light vehicle which might, through use of a trailer, fall into scope of the EU drivers' hours and tachograph rules.

"Tachograph manufacturers have developed an adaptor which could enable light vehicles to use digital tachographs. However, under current EU legislation such adaptors would be regarded as manipulation devices and would be illegal.

"We are working closely with our European partners and with the industry to identify a technically and legally sound solution to this problem." The SMMT believes this solution is likely to be given type approval in mid-2007.

The VOSA spokesman continued: "Until any amended legislation emerges from the EU our position is that VOSA will enforce strictly and properly against any drivers and/or operators who use vehicles, registered after 1 May 2006, for in-scope driving but which have not been fitted with a digital tachograph. The Department for Transport and VOSA will ensure that industry is made fully aware of this policy and urge operators to find alternative solutions for their needs."

Interestingly, Masterlease's commercial vehicle boss (and BusinessCar's guest opinion author this week, see page 12) Eddie Parker said the situation had forced upward the used car market for 4x4s registered prior to 1 May 2006. That's because one solution to the problem was to buy these vehicles and fit an analogue tachograph, which did not present as many technical problems.