Rules and exemptions for tachographs when towing

Pickup tachographs

Many pickup truck operators in the UK may require a tachograph if they are towing for commercial purposes, although there are certain exemptions. There is a lot of confusion within the construction and farming industries regarding tachographs, but this article attempts to dispel the myths and shine light on the subject.

Affected vehicles

According to Article 2 of the European Union’s Harmonisation of Certain Social Legislation Relating to Road Transport (EC 561/2006), all vehicles “where the maximum permissible mass of the vehicle, including any trailer, or semi-trailer, exceeds 3.5 tonnes” must run a tachograph.

With the exception of some large American pickup trucks (like the larger Ford F250 and Ram 2500), pickup trucks without a tow bar, generally, are not required to run a tachograph as they all fall well below the crucial 3.5t gross vehicle weight threshold.

However, as soon as a tow bar is added, even if the vehicle isn’t towing, it then becomes subject to tachographs as the permissible weight increases by whatever the towing capacity is (usually between 3 and 3.5 tonnes).

So, if you have a Ford Ranger with a gross vehicle weight of 3.2 tonnes, you don’t require a tachograph. The moment a tow bar is added, the gross vehicle weight (GVW) is negligible and the gross train weight (GTW) of six tonnes applies.

Tachograph exemptions when towing

There is good news, in that there are a lot of exceptions. The most famous exception is the ‘hire and reward’ argument, i.e. if it’s for recreation or leisure (towing a horse box, jet-ski, car for banger racing), you’re unlikely to face prosecution although, even in these circumstances, there could be an issue if there’s a cash prize involved.

Nothing new there, then. However, there is a recently updated (2nd March 2015) piece of legislation that increases the radius of which the operator can travel from his or her base without a tachograph from 50km (31 miles) to 100km (62 miles) for certain uses.

This applies to vehicles or vehicle trailer combinations with a maximum weight of 7,500kg which are either used to carry materials, equipment or machinery for the driver’s use in the course of their work or when driving the vehicle is not the driver’s main activity.

The 100km rule can also be applied to farmers whose vehicles are transporting live animals from farms to local markets and slaughterhouses.

There is also special dispensation for vehicles involved with sewerage, flood protection, water, gas or electricity maintenance services, road maintenance or control, door-to-door refuse collection or disposal, telegraph or telephone services, radio or television broadcasting or detection of radio or television signals.

Other notable exemptions includes vehicles used by agricultural, horticultural or forestry undertakings as part of their own entrepreneurial activity to carry goods within a 100 km radius of their base, and specialised vehicle breakdowns within 100km of their base.

Other exemptions can be found on the DVSA exemptions form (

If you are unsure whether or not you need a tachograph, seek advice from DVSA. You can also call 0300 123 9000 or email

Also read our Guide to Towing.

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