Driving hours and rest periods


The primary reason for the monitoring of drivers hours is to control driver activity so that driver fatigue is avoided, safety is maximised and a good standard of working conditions is maintained. Monitoring technologies are primarily implemented as surveillance and enforcement tools. Tachographs are the most common means of monitoring driver hours in the commercial transportation sector and are mandatory for commercial vehicle drivers in Europe.

Tachographs are devices fitted inside the cab of the vehicle that measure how long the driver is on the road and compliance with driver legislation. The device measures the distance that the vehicle has covered, the vehicle speed and driver activity in terms of breaks and rest stops, periods of availability, driving time and other work. Digital tachographs are most commonly used and these provide paperless data storage and activity monitoring.

The digital tachograph system consists of three main components: a vehicle unit, a motion sensor and a driver smartcard. The motion sensor detects vehicle speed and distance travelled and sends this information to the vehicle unit in an encrypted form. The vehicle unit consists of smartcard slots for the driver and co-driver to access the system, a processor, a facility for making manual entries, a printer, a display, a download connection and a real-time clock. This is the hub of the system where activity is monitored and recorded. Driver Information is also stored on the driver smartcard so that it can be used for data transfer rather than downloading information directly from the vehicle unit itself.

A number of other technologies are also available for the purpose of monitoring driver hours including electronic driver time and attendance systems which use mobile networks to monitor drivers. Use of mobile networks also allows for storage of information and tracking of vehicles/transmission of data when signal is available. In addition to driver hours monitoring and vehicle tracking, call and text message activity can also be monitored. Driver interface can be provided by an in vehicle device which is connected to the onboard computer and can transmit data via GSM, or it can be provided by a mobile phone application that transfers data to the control centre.

GPS systems can also include monitoring applications and this type of system and is capable of providing real-time information both in-vehicle and at an operations control centre. Recognition of individual drivers is possible and tracking data can be recorded so that individual trips can be documented.


The majority of driver hour monitoring technologies offer the following applications:

  1. Operations management in terms of resource allocation, computer aided dispatch, driving standards compliance and schedule adherence;
  2. Driver support and information in terms of activity monitoring and regulatory compliance;
  3. Security and surveillance.

In addition to these applications some technologies can offer real-time information and vehicle tracking and can potentially be integrated with other systems to provide services such as vehicle performance management.

Advantages and cautions

There are various advantages in implementing driver hour monitoring technologies including improved safety and working conditions standards, improved service management capabilities and increased security and surveillance. Other advantages or disadvantages depend on the choice of technology. For instance, tachographs do not allow for continuous real-time monitoring and may represent a higher cost due to the additional hardware and data management requirements, whereas mobile phone or GPS systems with monitoring systems utilise existing hardware and could be integrated with the AVLS.