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Why Your “FMCSA-Certified” ELD Isn’t What It Seems

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

If you’re in the market for an ELD, you’ve probably come across the phrase “FMCSA-certified” in vendors’ ads. On the surface, it sounds great - after all, it implies the device has been evaluated and found to meet FMCSA standards. But if a vendor is advertising this, it’s actually a sign to walk away. Why? There’s no such thing as an FMCSA-certified ELD.

“Certified” vs. “Registered”

Simply put, FMCSA-certified ELDs don’t exist because the FMCSA doesn’t issue certifications. However, they do maintain a list of ELD vendors whose products meet their standards around what a compliant ELD must include, outlined here. Those devices are considered FMCSA-registered.

You might be thinking, “Who cares what we call it? As long as it’s on the list, I’m good, right?” Not exactly. Where it gets tricky is that the FMCSA doesn’t conduct testing on or evaluate any of the ELDs on their list. All a provider must do to appear on the list is self-certify themselves. We’re not insinuating that anyone on this list isn’t actually compliant; we’re just making it clear that the users know there is no such thing as an “FMCSA-certified” ELD. 

That being said, all vendors have been provided guidelines from the FMCSA regarding how they can – and cannot – refer to their registered devices. “FMCSA-certified” was a very strict “No” because this could imply that the agency tested the device themselves.

That’s why a company touting that it’s “FMCSA-certified” could be a red flag: it indicates they may not have a real understanding of how they’re permitted to address and market their ELD. If they do not understand something as simple as terminology, how confident can you be that they completely understand the technical requirements of the mandate enough to appropriately self-certify their platform and accurately place it on the list of registered devices?

How to choose a quality ELD provider

Obviously, that’s not to say the registered ELD list shouldn’t be trusted - it’s a great starting point. However, it’s also true that not all ELD solutions are created equal. While almost any developer can turn the FMCSA’s technical specifications into a product, it takes a class above to build and support it knowledgeably and sustainably. That’s why many ELD providers are already out of business.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind while choosing a new ELD provider:

  1. Look for a long industry track record: many tech companies have jumped into the ELD market to capitalize on the mandate. Trouble is, many of them don’t have any prior experience with the trucking industry, meaning they lack insight into other day-to-day challenges of fleet management. Some with existing GPS systems are also trying to spin up ELD solutions to work with their current product. As a buyer, make sure you’re getting a comprehensive solution that’s built from a deep understanding of the workflow of each user across a fleet. 
  2. Go beyond the basics: used properly, ELDs can offer so much more than HOS compliance. While it might be tempting from a budget standpoint to buy a bare-bones model that checks the compliance box, you’ll be missing out on the many other benefits ELDs can bring, like monitoring for fuel use, idling and unsafe driving behavior. Look for an ELD provider whose products include features like location tracking, driver messaging and communication, which will help you gain operational efficiencies in addition to compliance.
  3. Investigate their customer support and training offerings: The ELD implementation process will undoubtedly come with challenges, which is why you shouldn’t overlook customer support in your evaluation process. Ensure the provider you select will offer guidance and training throughout the installation and implementation process – including weekend and 24-hour tech support. 

Ultimately, your ELD provider should be much more than a tech vendor - they should be your trusted fleet management partner who can help you make the most of the technology to lower costs and maximize efficiency and safety. Just don’t be fooled by claims that they’re “certified,” as impressive sounding as that is, it’s actually a meaningless phrase.

To learn more about choosing the right ELD provider, please visit: ELD Compliance

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