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The science and technology behind safer lorries

From 2019, all heavy vehicles must be equipped with new Smart Tachograph
From 2019, all heavy vehicles must be equipped with new Smart Tachograph
Jun 14 2019

From 15 June 2019, all heavy vehicles newly registered in the EU must have a smart tachograph on board.

These devices help fight fatigue and speeding, the most common causes of accidents, by allowing authorities to check vehicles without stopping them. 

Their reliable operation depends on technical specifications and infrastructure designed and put in place by the European Commission's science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre.

Smart tachographs track and record the driving and resting times of professional drivers.

They use satellite navigation, connect to intelligent transport systems and provide remote detection.

They allow authorities to identify potential offenders and detect fraud without stopping vehicles.

Authorities all over Europe will rely on smart tachographs to tell what is going on with a given vehicle in a given moment. 

And as with every digital and networked device, they are only as good as the data they provide. 

To make sure they can be trusted, the JRC defined the security architecture of the system. 

It also set up and manages the European Root Certification Authority (ERCA) and the Laboratory for Interoperability Certification (DTLab).

The ERCA generates the "secret codes" which authenticate the devices and encrypt the data.

It also certifies the keys of national authorities, and manages the master keys used in equipment such as motion sensors, early detection receivers and on-board units.

These keys guarantee the digital security of the tachograph data.

The DTLab is the only laboratory in Europe for interoperability certification.

It tests tachographs thoroughly and certifies their ability to operate on the network, without which they cannot be sold in the EU.

JRC scientists have used this laboratory also to define the smart tachograph and system security specifications that the tachograph components must satisfy.

The JRC provided comprehensive guidance on the cryptographic security mechanisms and on the tachograph components, security tests and certificates.  

This allowed industry and authorities to be ready for the introduction of smart tachographs.


Fatigue and speeding are common causes of accidents among drivers of lorries and coaches.

To address this issue, but also to guarantee fair competition between transport companies and decent working conditions for the drivers, digital tachographs became mandatory in 2006 on all newly registered commercial trucks and buses across the EU.

They record the driving and rest time of drivers of heavy vehicles and are used by law enforcement authorities to verify the compliance of drivers and the transport companies with transport sector regulations.

The EU Regulation which laid down the requirements for the smart tachographs highlighted the need to develop technical specifications for the construction of smart tachographs, and specifically called for the introduction of reinforced and additional security mechanisms to address security threats.

The EU regulation made it obligatory that the type approval of the tachograph components include security related tests, functional tests and interoperability tests.

The positive results to each of these tests are stated by a corresponding type approval certificate.

Further information:

Digital Tachograph - increase road safety, ensure working conditions standards, guarantee fair competition

Tachograph (Council Regulation (EU) N° 165/2014)