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Road transport solicitors have criticised the government for ‘sneaking in’ tough new tachograph rules at the height of the pandemic and not publicising the changes.

Backhouse Jones described the new EU requirements as the most onerous on drivers “since the tachograph was first invented” and that nothing at all had been done to raise awareness of the rules.

However, the department for transport (DfT) refuted this claim and pointed to three bulletins that it sent out to haulage operators highlighting the changes during August 2020.

According to Backhouse Jones, the new rules require every professional driver, regardless of how little EU-regulated driving they undertake, to record every minute of every day – whether driving, undertaking other work, taking daily or weekly rest, on holiday or even on sick leave.

The record must be made on a tacho chart, the driver’s digi-card or using a printout from the digital device.

It said there were “a huge number of impractical implications” to how the DVSA was interpreting these requirements: “As a minimum, every driver, regardless of how little EU-regulated driving they undertake, has to have their current tachograph/digital record and records for the previous 28 calendar days available for production at the roadside,” Backhouse Jones said.

“These records now include the 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week record required in accordance with the DVSA interpretation of the August 2020 changes.

“Immediately, therefore, all drivers need to record their daily rest every day and their weekly rest, holidays and sickness absence, in one of the three legally recognised formats.”

The solicitors said the situation was even more complex for occasional drivers, who now have the “huge burden of retrospectively recording their last 28 days as a manual entry, printout or analogue chart”, as well as for drivers undertaking a combination of EU and non-EU driving, transport managers and new drivers.

It also warned that the traffic commissioners were now referring to these obligations and were exploring operators’ systems for effectively managing compliance with the rules.

A spokesman for the office of the TC said: “Traffic Commissioners are aware of industry concerns concerning the legal requirement to record all activity on the driver card, which can be onerous on infrequent drivers in particular.

“Commissioners always take a proportionate approach to regulation and will continue to do so in relation to the recording of other work.”

A DfT spokesman told that hauliers and operators were informed and reminded about the forthcoming changes in bulletins sent out on 12 August, 14 August and 20 August 2020.

The DfT spokesman added: “Following a period of consultation with industry and unions, we updated the online guidance on tachographs in August 2020.

“We also informed operators before the changes were implemented and reminded them on the day they went live.”