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 logbooks 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.
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.
Who is Affected by the ELD Mandate
Basically, 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.
When the ELD Mandate Goes Into Effect
The ELD rule became law Feb. 16, 2016. The compliance date, the day when use of ELDs in the described applications becomes mandatory, is Dec. 18, 2017.
For vehicles equipped with an AORBD, these units must be upgraded or replaced to meet full ELD status by Dec. 16, 2019.
Issues Regarding the ELD Mandate
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 have to be approved by the driver.
The Registered ELD List
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.