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What is an ELD?

Everything you need to know about electronic logging devices

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

Key Takeaways

An electronic logging device is a tablet computer carried in the truck cab. It records data regarding the operation of the vehicle, as well as driver activity including driver hours of service (HOS) and record of duty status (RODS). The United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specifies that ELD use is mandatory for most commercial vehicles beginning Dec. 18, 2017 and for all vehicles covered under this legislation by Dec. 16, 2019. Read more about the the FMCSA ELD rule.

  1. What is an ELD?
  2. What does an ELD Do?
  3. What technology does an ELD replace?
  4. What is the ELD mandate
  5. Issues regarding the ELD mandate
  6. ELD mandate compliance
  7. The registered ELD list
  8. What are the benefits of and ELD?
  9. ELD and DOT compliance
  10. How ELDs Can Help Your Company
  11. Are ELD’s good or bad for business

What is an ELD?

An ELD is an electronic logging device that is used within commercial trucking to provide an accurate and simple means of keeping HOS records that drivers and fleet operators are required by law to maintain.

It’s important to recognize that ELDs do not impose an additional layer of regulation on the trucking industry. Instead, these devices are designed to make an already-required daily task easier to perform.

What does an ELD Do?

An ELD connects to the vehicle’s engine and automatically records driving activity and updates driver logs, giving dispatchers and drivers real time visibility into available hours and violation risks.

The HOS information is automatically recorded in the fleet management software where managers and office personnel can review HOS statuses, run reports and create compliant routes. HOS data is also displayed on the tablet in the cab, so that the driver can refer to it at any time or present it at a roadside inspection.

ELD Devices capture and transmit a wide range of data points to make sure that businesses are accurately recording hours of service and maximizing available driver hours. These include:

Vehicle Information captured directly from the vehicle:

  • Vehicle identification
  • Motor carrier identification
  • Date
  • Time
  • Geographic location
  • Miles traveled
  • Engine power up and shutdown
  • Yard moves
  • 60-minute intervals of motion
  • Engine diagnostics and malfunction

Information captured from the driver:

  • Driver or authorized user identification
  • Driver logon/logoff
  • Hours of service (HOS)
  • Duty status changes (driving, on duty, off duty)
  • Personal use
  • Certification of driver’s daily record

The ELD records these data point automatically, but some entries can be manually edited or annotated by the driver or support staff. Edits are tracked and have to be approved by the driver.

What technology does an ELD replace?

Drivers and fleet managers have used different methods to record vehicle and driver hours of service information. At first this was a paper logbook with handwritten entries that evolved into an Automatic On Board Recording Device, or AOBRD. These are automated systems but do not perform all the functions of an ELD as specified in the technical requirements of the ELD mandate. Some drivers record their hours of service using a personal device - generally a mobile phone or laptop - together with an app that stores and sends this information, these processes also don’t meet the technical requirements of an ELD.

Key functions of an ELD device are summarized in the table below.

Integrally Synchronized System No Yes No Yes
Automatic Recording of HOS No Yes No/Maybe Yes
Technical Specifications Approved by FMCSA No Limited No Yes
Registered with FMCSA No No No Yes
Meets ELD requirements on Decemebr 18, 2017 No Temporary* No Yes


The ELD mandate, or ELD Final Rule, is a U.S. federal government regulation specifying that operators of commercial motor vehicles covered by this law will be required to use electronic logging devices, or ELDs.

These devices are designed to record data related to operation of the vehicle and to driver activity. The driver information mainly concerns hours of service, or HOS. Commercial truckers are restricted to a maximum number of hours they are allowed to drive between rest periods. HOS is a permanent record of driving hours, on-duty hours (when drivers are working but not driving) and rest time, over the course of a trip.

The first federal law that required commercial drivers in the U.S. to keep these service records was passed in 1937. Paper log books were originally used, with the information entered by writing.

The ELD mandate requires replacing paper logs and an earlier type of recorder called an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) with automated ELD technology.


Driver privacy concerns were raised by some groups, who asked if ELDs, as automated systems that record driver activity, are intrusive.

To ensure that the rights of drivers are protected, the ELD mandate includes restrictions on what the device can and cannot do. The personal conveyance status selection limits geographical tracking and other measures allow the driver to maintain a separation between duty hours and off-duty time. Against several legal challenges on this privacy question, the ELD mandate has been upheld in court.

Drivers were also interested in knowing if the electronic record produced by an ELD would allow them the ability to modify or expand the information. The ELD mandate has provisions for drivers and selected support personnel to make notes or edits. These are tracked and must be approved by the driver.


The ELD mandate covers commercial driving operations that are required to keep hours of service records - that is, drivers or operators who were using paper log books before this rule was passed.

Who does the ELD mandate apply to?

  • Interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers currently required to keep RODS (record of duty status)
  • Vehicles that weigh more than 10,001 pounds
  • Vehicles with placarded hazmat loads
  • Vehicles carrying more than 8 or 15 passengers (depending on vehicle class)

ELD mandate exemptions

  • Drivers who operate within a 100-air-mile radius, who may continue to use timecards
  • Non-CDL (commercial driver license) freight drivers who operate within a 150-air-mile radius
  • “Drive-away, tow-away” operators
  • Vehicles manufactured before model year 2000

For the most up to date information about who is required to have an ELD please refer to the FMCSA website. WHY THIS LAW WAS PASSED

It’s well known that long-distance or extended periods of commercial driving — sitting behind the wheel for several hours at a stretch — can be physically tiring. Several studies over many decades have established that fatigue is a major factor in increased street and highway accident rates.

When a commercial vehicle with a tired or sleepy driver is the cause of a major accident, this issue comes to the attention of regulators, news media and the public. Awareness of the problem led to the restriction on driver hours of service and the requirement to keep a log documenting that driving hours are not exceeded.

Paper logbooks are not always accurate, because there is the possibility of error or miscalculation by drivers, and coercion pressures from employers to manipulate hours. The ELD mandate requires the replacement of paper logs with electronic recording, performed automatically to ensure accuracy.


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains a list of ELD products from various manufacturers. These products are registered — their names were submitted by these companies with a statement that the device meets the minimum operational requirements specified by the agency.

The products have not been formally evaluated or tested by FMCSA and registration is not a rating or a measure of product quality. An ELD product that is not on the list may already meet the FMCSA registration requirements. The opposite may also be true — that agency is still developing the hardware and software interface, which means that some products currently listed could be disqualified after all details are worked out.


Fleets and drivers who have made the conversion to electronic logging devices see benefits beyond mandate compliance. The top 5 benefits of ELD devices are:

  • Reducing time spent on paperwork: The FMCSA estimates that ELD’s will save $2.44 billion in administrative work with a $1.88 billion saving from drivers’ time by them no longer having to complete paper logs.
  • Quicker roadside inspections: Drivers will spend less time at roadside inspections so they can spend more time on the move.
  • Improved Safety: Keeping accurate hours of service helps to ensure drivers aren’t driving fatigued and additional driver behavior monitoring features to provide insights that can help develop a culture of safe driving across fleets.
  • Improved CSA Scores: An ELD removes human error from the recording of HOS logs ensuring that logs are totaled properly and completely. Research by ATA also found that trucks equipment with ELD’s had 53% fewer driving related violations.
  • Fleet Efficiency: An ELD will provide more than compliance data, and fleet owners can use this to increase profitability by reducing fuel costs by monitoring engine idling and improved route planning. Digital maintenance planning tools also enable businesses to increase vehicle up-time.


Maintaining a record of driver hours for each driver (where required via and ELD) is part of DOT compliance but there are a number of other factors that need to be taken into consideration to ensure that fleets and drivers adhere to DOT standards.

Fleet Compliance:

  • Maintain a copy of the current FMCSA rules in the office.
  • Complete pre-trip and post-trip inspections of vehicles, with documentation.
  • Develop a vehicle maintenance program and adhere to it, with documentation.
  • Ensure that each vehicle is marked with its DOT registration number.
  • Maintain a record of any road incidents for each vehicle.

Driver Compliance:

  • Provide each driver with a copy of FMCSA rules, and obtain a signed receipt for the document and agreement to follow the regulations described in it.
  • Maintain qualification records and safety history for each driver.
  • Maintain a record of HOS (hours of service) for each driver.
  • Maintain records of pre-employment drug testing for each driver. This should also include reports of drug and alcohol abuse in previous employment if any.
  • Conduct random drug and alcohol testing of drivers on a regular basis, as described in DOT regulations.

Require supervisors to receive drug and alcohol training as required by DOT regulations. 

How ELDs Can Help Your Company 

Businesses that use ELDs have a clear advantage over their competitors, with improved federal compliance records and greater insight into vehicle statuses. The best ELDs go beyond federal compliance to give managers a comprehensive view of what happens on the road.

Improve Compliance, Productivity and Safety

ELDs provide drivers with an efficient way to enter hours of service (HOS) information. With paper logs, drivers have to fill in their logs by hand and fax them once they reach a fuel stop – a time-consuming, pricey, and outdated process that companies don’t need. With ELDs, drivers can instantly send digital reports from their in-cab device, saving time and staying compliant.

Save Time on Repairs and Maintenance

Sidelining a vehicle due to unforeseen maintenance or repairs is a costly decision. Driver vehicle inspection reports for pre- and post-trip inspections mitigate this risk. It is wise to track vehicle inefficiencies and needs so that they can be quickly attended to, keeping the fleet strong and on the road year-round.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

ELDs are paperless, helping companies reduce their reliance on physical resources. Companies can save a great deal as a result of their reduction in paperwork. On top of saving money, companies can reduce the risk of a costly federal audit with reliable HOS data.

Boost Driver and Dispatch Communication

Advanced ELDs include a slew of driver apps, including two-way communication, as well as federally compliant electronic log books and driver vehicle inspection reports. These devices can issue break-time alerts, send arrival and departure times, and allow drivers to ask for help without using a mobile phone or leaving their vehicle.

Visibility into Vehicle Activity and Driver Safety

An ELD that integrates with a cloud-based fleet management system goes beyond tracking HOS status changes. These fleet management systems include GPS fleet tracking features, such as real-time access to vehicle locations on a live, interactive map, ensuring managers can always remain in touch with their drivers. In addition, businesses can use dashboards, reports and business intelligence data to see what matters most to the company.

The ELD mandate gives companies an opportunity to dive deeply into their fleets’ operations and retrieve data that can reveal previously unknown inefficiencies.  The right ELD system can provide the framework for a stronger, better business.


Are ELD’s good or bad for business

Businesses everywhere are looking to keep operational costs low. But for smaller trucking companies, fluctuating costs of fuel, driver shortage, and regulatory compliance makes it difficult to even stay in business. The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) reports more and more small carriers, averaging 30 trucks or less, are going bankrupt.

One culprit, they claim, is the enforcement of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) by federal authorities that make recording hours of service (HOS) easier and more reliable.

With ELDs, drivers enter their daily hours from an in-cab display, eliminating paper logs of the past. A clear record of all hours for each driver is stored in the electronic logbook, ensuring drivers and carriers are compliant and safe.

However, since HOS rules regulate the number of hours a driver can operate a vehicle, many of these small carriers saw their vehicle operations drop. Drivers were earning less miles and less money, and many decided to quit. Operational costs were further raised for carriers when they had to hire and train new drivers, often at higher salaries. This financial strain took a toll on a reported 390 small trucking companies, according to Rosalyn Wilson, author of the CSCMP’s report.

It is a rocky time for the trucking industry. But not all carriers are subject to HOS compliance. There are certain HOS requirements that apply to drivers who operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that weighs 10,001 pounds or more, transports hazardous materials in a load that requires placards, is used to transport nine or more passengers, and other requirements. To view a full list, check out the FMCSA’s website.

But ELD’s and HOS compliance were put in place to make driver health and safety a priority, and to ensure carriers are not overworking their employees.

The trucking industry, regardless of operation size, cannot ignore safety. Too many stories of driver fatigue and deathly accidents brought about regulations, like HOS. And adapting to government regulations that protect the health and safety of its employees and the general public on the road is of utmost importance in any business.

By incorporating an ELD solution, accurate and fast data entry is at the touch of a driver’s fingertips. The data is automatically recorded and transmitted to a fleet manager’s tablet or desktop for easy-to-use information gathering. An ELD solution can also make it easy to identify the most talented, safety conscious drivers, rating their performance and giving incentives for improved driving. Additionally, identifying drivers who do not comply with company and federal regulations is clearly recorded. For example, drivers who do not complete signatures on their HOS log, or fail to take a lunch break, is all automatically documented.

Overall, driving safely and under federal compliance can pay off on the road, and in a driver’s wallet.