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What is an ELD?

Everything you need to know about electronic logging devices

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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.


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.

The United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specifies that ELD use will be mandatory for most commercial vehicles beginning Dec. 18, 2017 and for all vehicles covered under this legislation by Dec. 16, 2019.

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.

Who needs to use an ELD?

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 logbooks before this rule was passed.

Specifically, this includes:

  • 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).

Some vehicle classes and drivers are exempt from the rule. These are:

  • 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.

What are the benefits of an ELD?

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 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 ensuing 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 provides more than compliance data, and fleet owners can use this to increase profitability by reducing fuel cost by monitoring engine idling and improved route planning. Digital maintenance planning tools also enable business to increase vehicle up-time.

ELD and DOT compliance

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.

What technology does an ELD replace?

Drivers and fleet managers have used different methods to record vehicle and driver information. At first this was a paper logbook with handwritten entries. Some fleets still use this system, but they must begin operating ELDs in their vehicles before the Dec. 18, 2017 deadline.

Another technology is an Automatic On Board Recording Device, or AOBRD. These are automated but do not perform all the functions of an ELD as specified in the updated technical requirements of the ELD mandate, which is why they must be upgraded or replaced by Dec. 16, 2019.

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. This must be replaced by an ELD on or before Dec. 18, 2017.

Key features of an ELD

An ELD device is the only device that meets the functionality requirements set out in the FMCSA mandate. The table below shows a summary of the key functions that electronic logging devices must meet.

FUNCTIONS & CAPABILITIES PAPER LOGS AOBRD APPs ELD
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

 

*Vehicles equipped with an AOBRD prior to December 18, 2017, are in compliance until December 16, 2019, by which time the AOBRD must be upgraded or replaced with an ELD.

For a full list of the required features and functions of an ELD visit the FMCSA website.

ELECTRONIC DEVICE

Frequently asked questions

An electronic logging device (ELD) and an automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) are electronic mechanisms that can be used for recording a commercial driver’s hours of service (HOS). An AOBRD includes some of the same functions as an ELD but may not meet all the requirements specified in the ELD mandate. Read more about the difference between AOBRD and ELD.

 

Yes, as of December 2019, most commercial vehicles are required to use electronic logging devices, including those that previously used Automatic Onboard Recording Devices (AOBRDs). To learn more about which vehicles need ELD, read our article: What vehicles must be DOT compliant?

The ELD rule:

  • Requires ELD use by commercial drivers who are required to prepare hours-of-service (HOS) records of duty status (RODS).
  • Sets ELD performance and design standards, and requires ELDs to be certified and registered with FMCSA.
  • Establishes what supporting documents drivers and carriers are required to keep.
  • Prohibits harassment of drivers based on ELD data or connected technology (such as fleet management system). The rule also provides recourse for drivers who believe they have been harassed.

ELD devices are self-certified and the FMCSA registered ELD list was compiled using product names the agency received from ELD manufacturers that assert that their products meet the general technical requirements for an ELD to qualify as registered.

Yes. If a log has a mistake or unassigned drive time it can be updated by a driver or someone authorized to edit the record. There are guidelines that should be adhered to when making edits to logs these include:

  • Annotating the reason for the edit in the log
  • Drivers are responsible for certifying that the edit is accurate
  • The original ELD record must be maintained

The cost for an ELD solution can very, the solution cost is made up of telematics hardware, in vehicle hardware (if required) and software that runs on the driver tablet and in the back office. It is important to complete a thorough vendor review prior to choosing an ELD solution and to make sure that you look at business requirements beyond ELD compliance, there are many ways that telematics technology can increase profitability. Take a look at our guide on how to choose an ELD provider.