Do van drivers need to install a tachograph when towing?

Tachographs are most commonly associated with the largest vehicles on our roads, including Heavy Goods Vehicles like trucks and lorries. Light Commercial Vehicles, on the other hand, generally don’t need them, largely because of their lower Gross Vehicle Weight. But if you’re driving a van that’s towing a load that puts you above that total weight, you may well need a tachograph. If you’re already considering buying a new van from the best van deals on our site here at Van Discount, it’s worth having a quick refresher on what you need to know with regard to tachographs. Let’s start with the basics.

What is a tachograph?

A tachograph is essentially a device that records how long a driver has spent at the wheel, as well as their speed and the distance at which they’ve travelled. One of its main purposes is to allow employers to fulfil their legal obligations around working hours of their drivers, by enabling them to accurately track how much time they’ve spent on the roads, and to ensure that breaks are being taken and that drivers are getting the proper amounts of rest.

Tachographs are generally fitted somewhere in the driver’s cab, within the driver’s eyeline. This ensures that they can easily spot any warnings which pertain to them, such as a warning that they’re nearing their driving limit for the day. Different units might have slightly differing instructions on exactly where they should be fitted – its individual manual will outline this, but the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency also has specific advice about installation.

Once the tachograph is firmly in place, the driver will start each day by inserting an individual ‘smart’ card into the device, which starts recording from that moment.

Do I need a tachograph for my van?

You only need a tachograph if the Gross Vehicle Weight of your van exceeds 3.5 tonnes. (Gross Vehicle Weight refers to the weight of a fully loaded van – it’s distinct from Gross Kerb Weight, which basically refers to the weight of an empty van.)

Now, most vans be able to legally exceed 3.5 tonnes under most circumstances, which means they won’t need a tachograph. However, if you’re towing a trailer, that’s one of the few situations where your van could end up weighing over 3.5 tonnes without being dangerously overloaded. So if you’re towing a trailer that puts the Gross Vehicle Weight of your van over 3.5 tonnes – including the weight of the trailer itself – that’s when you’ll need a tachograph.

You can consult your van’s owner’s manual to see the vehicle’s weight limit. It’s also usually on a plate or sticker somewhere on the vehicle itself – possibly on the body of the van right behind the driver’s door. Alternatively, you can check the engine bay or the back of the fuel filler cap, both of which are common places for indications of the van’s weight limits.


Gross Vehicle Weight vs Gross Train Weight

Most importantly, make sure that you don’t exceed your vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight. Vans have upper weight limits for safety reasons, so if you’re in excess of that, then you’ll be breaking the law by driving dangerously. That means that in the best case scenario, you’re risking a fine if you’re stopped – which is very likely.

It’s also worth noting that your van’s Gross Vehicle Weight isn’t the same as its Gross Train Weight. Gross Vehicle Weight is the maximum legal permissible weight of a fully loaded van without a trailer, whereas Gross Train Weight is the maximum legal permissible weight of your fully loaded van PLUS the weight of a trailer.

As the vehicle operator, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your van is legally compliant, so make sure that you’re definitely fulfilling all your legal responsibilities with regards to both the van and driver, before they set off!

And if you decide your current vans might not be up to the job, that’s where we can help here at Van Discount. We have a huge range of the best van deals for you to choose from, with popular models from global brands, including Peugeot, Ford and Vauxhall. On average, we save our customer around 40% off the price of a brand new van – which often equates to thousands of pounds!