Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from Lord Geddes, Chairman of Sub-Committee B, to Glenda Jackson CBE, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions

  The above proposal was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting on Thursday 12 June. The proposal was not sifted for formal scrutiny but referred to the Sub-Committee for information.

  The Sub-Committee supports measures that will tighten the regulations on recording equipment in commercial road vehicles, particularly by reducing the vulnerability of existing tachograph equipment to fraud. We would therefore support the Government in their attempt to secure a satisfactory outcome in the present negotiations.

20 June 1997

Letter from the Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Geddes, Chairman, Sub-Committee B

  On 17 June the Transport Council reconsidered the above proposal. The Presidency concluded the time was ripe to seek the Council's agreement on it. Unfortunately it had not been possible to clear Parliamentary scrutiny, by then. Nevertheless I decided to support the proposal, which the Council agreed by qualified majority. Germany alone opposed it. I have since seen your letter of 20 June to Glenda Jackson.

  The essence of the proposal is to replace the tachograph by digital equipment as the means of recording drivers' hours and rest periods. The proposal originated from the European Commission in 1994. Since then it has been much amended. Parliament was brought up to date on it most recently on 18 March, when the previous administration submitted a supplementary explanatory memorandum and cost compliance assessment based on a compromise proposal put forward by the Presidency.

  The text agreed by the Council differed in three main respects from that on which the supplementary memorandum was based.

  First, the requirement to fit digital equipment in place of tachographs will apply to new vehicles two years after the specification for the new equipment has been fully worked out and formally adopted into Community legislation. As the supplementary memorandum explained, the detailed specification is to be drawn up by the Commission with the support of a technical committee established under the regulation. The target date for the completion of the specification is 1 July 1998, though the task may well take longer. If, within one year of the completion of that specification, no digital equipment has yet received EC type approval, the Commission will propose a postponement of the date from which new vehicles have to be fitted with the equipment. The earliest therefore at which the equipment would have to be fitted in new vehicles is 1 July 2000, but the date may well be later.

  Second, the Council accepted an amendment that I proposed, to ensure that any new equipment will not be type approved until after the system as a whole has been shown to be capable of resisting attempts to manipulate the drivers' hours data, and to ensure that such tests should be carried out by experts familiar with computer security.

  Third, the digital equipment will not have to be fitted to vehicles already in circulation on the date when the regulation begins to apply to new vehicles, except in the case of certain vehicles whose tachograph needs to be replaced, for example because it no longer functions properly. In our experience, it is rare for a tachograph to need replacing, so this provision will have negligible significance.

  I share the view of the previous administration that the digital recording of drivers' hours and rest periods should reduce the scope of fraud, strengthen enforcement, and provide improved information for both drivers and transport managers. In my view, the position that was reached on the proposal at the Council on 17 June was the best that the UK could realistically have hoped for. We had secured a longer period between the agreement of the specification and the fitting of the new equipment in vehicles, and we have ensured that the type approval process will include attempts to hack into the computer systems. We would like to have seen a requirement for the new equipment to be installed also in existing" vehicles, over a suitable transitional period, because we believe that that would make enforcement more effective. However, a large minority of Member States was adamantly opposed to that, on grounds of cost. I therefore concluded that the text represented the best deal we could get for the UK.

2 July 1997

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