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What is an ELD?

January 25, 2022

What is an ELD? The ultimate guide to ELD Compliance

eld logbook mandate

ELD stands for electronic logging device. An ELD connects to the engine of a commercial motor vehicle. It automatically records data to ensure the integrity of the driver’s record of duty status (RODS) and compliance with hours-of-service (HOS) rules. In 2019, the ELD mandate deadline passed, and all commercial vehicle operators were required to use ELDs instead of paper logs or automatic onboarding recording devices (AOBRDs).

Whether you aren’t up to date on the regulations surrounding ELDs or want to learn more about staying compliant, this comprehensive guide will provide all the information you need to get started.

What does an ELD do?

An ELD automatically records driving time and additional information for accurate HOS reporting. It also captures vehicle data, including vehicle movement and mileage. The ELD keeps you informed of your driver’s status in real-time to support fleet compliance and inspections. ELDs are made up of a tracking device that plugs into the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and pulls data directly from the engine. It also typically includes fleet management software combined with a mobile app. Manufacturers must self-certify that ELDs meet specific technical standards and register with the FMCSA. Drivers can only use ELDs that are certified and registered on FMCSA’s website because other devices may not be compliant with the ELD mandate.

At any point, inspectors can pull your drivers over to review the driver’s RODS for the past seven days and confirm there are no violations. At a minimum, your ELD must be able to share data with the inspector via USB or Bluetooth, but some ELDs also have built-in WiFi that you can use to transmit information. Built-in WiFi provides mobile connectivity for drivers to access email, electronic work orders and other applications while in transit. Two additional approved methods for sharing ELD data include wireless web services and email. However, the FMSCA recommends that your drivers use the wireless web method because it is more reliable than email.

What is the ELD mandate?

The ELD mandate is a U.S. Federal Government regulation published in 2015 stating that commercial motor vehicle operators covered by this law must use ELDs. The government instituted the rule to create a safer work environment for drivers and facilitate accurate tracking and sharing of RODS data. By making it easier to record HOS, the mandate helps reduce driver fatigue and minimize potential accidents. The goal of the law is to modernize the compliance process while saving lives. The final ELD deadline was December 16th, 2019. Any commercial drivers who maintain RODS must have an FMCSA-approved ELD installed in their vehicle to avoid possible fines and penalties.

A brief history of ELDs

The first federal law that required commercial drivers in the U.S. to keep HOS records was passed in 1937. Drivers would enter the information in paper logs. Given that paper logs are not always accurate, the industry evolved technologically. Over time, AOBRDs were introduced. Now years later, the federal government requires the use of ELDs.

Below are some key dates leading up to the requirement of full ELD compliance:

  • 2012: Congress enacts a bill called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” aimed at improving commercial vehicle safety
  • 2016: The initial phase allows fleets to transition from paper logs to AOBRDs or ELDs without penalty from February 2016 to December 2017
  • 2017: AOBRDs installed by December 18th may still be used until the full compliance deadline
  • 2018: Starting April 1st, fleets that are not ELD compliant are subject to penalties
  • 2019: The deadline for full ELD compliance was December 16th, 2019

Is anyone exempt from the ELD mandate?

The FMCSA allows exemptions for certain drivers, including the following:

  • Drivers who use the short-haul, timecard exceptions are not required to keep RODS or use ELDs
  • Those who are required to keep RODS not more than eight days within any 30-day period
  • Operators conducting a drive-away-tow-away operation (an operation in which an empty or unladen motor vehicle with one or more sets of wheels on the surface of the roadway is being transported) if the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered, or if the vehicle being transported is a motorhome or recreational vehicle trailer
  • Vehicles manufactured before the year 2000

The ELD mandate timeline

long haul trucks and what is an eld

Once the ELD mandate was implemented, motor carriers were allowed to fully adopt ELDs via a phased approach. The ELD rule implementation timeline was divided into three phases:

1. Awareness and transition phase (2/16/2016 – 12/18/2017)

During this time, drivers and carriers subject to the rule could prepare to comply and voluntarily use ELDs. In addition, they could use any of the following for RODS:

  • Paper logs
  • Logging software
  • AOBRDs
  • ELDs that are self-certified and registered with FMCSA

2. Phased-in compliance phase (12/18/2017 – 12/16/2019)

This phase is the two-year period from the compliance date to the full compliance phase. Carriers and drivers could use either AOBRDs installed and in-use before December 18th, 2017, or self-certified ELDs registered with FMCSA.

3. Full compliance phase (12/16/2019 – present)

We are currently in the third phase of implementation. All drivers and carriers subject to the rule must use self-certified ELDs registered with FMCSA or be subject to penalties.

What is an AOBRD?

An AOBRD connects to a vehicle’s engine to record date and time, engine hours, miles, drive times and locations. The display and data recorded on an AOBRD are not as detailed as an ELD. While both AOBRDs and ELDs record a commercial driver’s HOS, an AOBRD doesn’t meet all the requirements specified in the ELD mandate. According to the ELD mandate, all commercial motor vehicles operating in the United States subject to the law must have drivers recording their HOS using a registered ELD.

What is the difference between an AOBRD and an ELD?

Both AOBRDs and ELDs are more reliable and accurate than paper logs. For one thing, they can both electronically transmit HOS information to a database or make it available to the Department of Transportation authorities. Yet, there are many key differences between AOBRDs and ELDs. The main distinction is that AOBRDs are not as accurate and do not record or display as much data as ELDs.

Learn more about the differences between AOBRD vs ELDs

What information does an ELD capture?

ELDs are only required to collect information to confirm compliance with HOS regulations. An ELD automatically records the following data:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Engine hours
  • Mileage
  • Identification information for the driver, authenticated user, vehicle, and motor carrier

 An ELD must record location data at 60-minute intervals when the vehicle is in motion and when the driver starts and shuts down the engine, changes duty status, and indicates personal use or yard moves. However, vehicle location information is not precise enough to identify street addresses.

ELD required paperwork

Motor carriers must retain up to eight supporting documents for every 24 hours that a driver is on duty. Drivers must submit RODS and supporting documents to the motor carrier no later than 13 days after receiving them.

Who is required to use an ELD?

Under the ELD mandate, many different types of businesses that operate commercial motor vehicles must have ELDs. For example, if your driver has eight days or more of duty status logs out of 30 days, they must use an ELD. In addition, drivers must record their status on the ELD, including whether they are off duty, sleeping, driving or on-duty but not currently driving.

What are the benefits of an ELD?

IntelliShift ELD Logbook Compliance App

Commercial vehicle carriers mainly use ELDs to record drive time and HOS to comply with the ELD mandate. But because ELDs record such a wealth of information, they have become a crucial part of any state-of-the-art fleet management system. Fleets in multiple industries, including construction, food and beverage, local government and other sectors, often find that ELDs effectively improve efficiency and safety.

Because ELDs record a large amount of data beyond HOS, they offer the following benefits:

Maintain compliance:

ELDs record HOS electronically, eliminating the need for paper logs. Under the ELD mandate, most commercial vehicles must have an ELD to maintain compliance.

Save Time:

Because ELDs automate HOS, they reduce the amount of time your compliance managers spend preparing for audits and inspecting logs. You can easily find the data you need and be confident that it’s accurate.

Reduce fuel costs:

ELD systems provide real-time visibility into fuel usage, enabling your staff to train drivers more effectively. In addition, by helping reduce engine idling and increase fuel efficiency, ELDs can save your company a great deal in fuel costs per year.

Improve efficiency:

Dispatchers can work faster because they have real-time visibility into the location of your vehicles. ELDs also eliminate the need to call drivers. Instead, you can update their routes and provide accurate ETAs using your ELD.

Enhance driver experience:

ELDs are easier to update and maintain than paper logbooks, making for a better driver experience. Recording their duty status and HOS on a mobile app is also more convenient.

Promote safety:

Safety managers can use harsh event data from your ELD system to instruct drivers on reducing dangerous driving behavior. By combining this information with dash cam footage, ELDs can help you decrease accidents and improve CSA scores.

Reduce liability:

With the ability to identify the location of your trucks, ELDs can assist in exonerating drivers from false claims. In addition, when paired with dash cam footage, you can also exonerate drivers from accidents where they are not at fault.

Provide a competitive edge:

The real-time GPS data that ELDs provide offer a competitive advantage. For example, less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers use location data to share vehicle locations with broker apps, earning more per load. In addition, passenger transit fleets use this information to share live ETAs with their customers, increasing client satisfaction.

Reduce paperwork:

ELDs can record essential engine data for scheduling preventative maintenance and responding quickly to critical repairs. Drivers can also use the mobile app to complete electronic driver vehicle inspection reports, reducing paperwork.

Improve security:

The best ELD solutions include software that helps you leverage your data to improve safety. For example, ELDs equipped with a geofencing feature let you create a virtual boundary around any location. That way, you can be notified when a vehicle leaves your geofence—possibly preventing security issues or even theft.

Provide robust reporting:

ELDs provide powerful reporting features that help you identify areas to improve efficiency and reduce costs. For example, by having visibility into idling time and harsh events, you can more effectively train drivers and minimize dangerous driving behavior.

How do you make sure your ELD is compliant?

To ensure your ELD is compliant, make sure the solution is included in the FMCSA’s list of self-certified ELDs. These vendors have self-certified that their product is compliant and registered each ELD model with FMCSA. You will also want to check the list of revoked ELDs to make sure your ELD is not on that list. Once you narrow in on a provider, check with the Better Business Bureau and read online reviews for their products. While some ELDs are part of a fleet management or telematics system, it is not required.

How much does an ELD cost?

If you haven’t upgraded to an ELD or are looking to switch systems, the cost can be a concern. In a study conducted several years ago, FMCSA estimated the cost at $41.25 per month per truck. Since then, prices have declined although they vary greatly. During the FMCSA study, hard-wired tablets were the most common type of ELD hardware. But the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) option has grown as tablets and smartphones have become more prevalent.

Here are a few points to consider that will impact the cost of your ELD:

  • Hardware: You can choose vehicle-installed ELDs or BYOD as a hardware option to track HOS. Some vendors will also provide a volume discount, so you may pay less per device if you have a large fleet. However, whichever option you choose must be compliant with the ELD mandate.
  • Installation: Ease of installation can have a significant impact on cost. Some vendors require that you use their professional installers, while others allow you to install their devices yourself. An option that allows you to install the devices in minutes will provide more flexibility and reduce costs.
  • Training: Some ELD systems are complex and require more training than others. Look for software that is intuitive and easy to use so your drivers can begin using it immediately with minimal training.
  • Additional fees: Some vendors will charge more for additional features. Try to look for a vendor that offers a comprehensive, simple solution so you can avoid any surprise costs.

How do I choose the best ELD device?

Choosing the right ELD device is critical. Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating different ELD solutions:

  • Operates with any class of vehicle: Your fleet may have multiple types of vehicles. In that case, find a universal solution that can work with any vehicle class. This approach will reduce the overall complexity of the solution as well as your costs.
  • Easy to install: If the solution is too complicated, it will be time-consuming to install. A plug-and-play option will help simplify the process—getting you up and running in minutes versus days or weeks.
  • Affordable price: Many ELD solutions are expensive depending on hardware, professional installation, and monthly recurring charges per vehicle. Make sure you understand the ongoing fees so that you select the best long-term solution.
  • Easy to operate: Drivers are busy on the road and need a simple solution. Confirm that the ELD makes it easy to update status, complete inspections and provide compliance reports.
  • Compatible with smartphones: Compatibility with tablets and mobile phones is crucial because drivers are already comfortable with these devices. Try to confirm whether the ELD supports iOS and Android and whether you can use off-the-shelf devices
  • Event-based solution: An event-based solution is preferable because it records and transmits data each time an event changes (i.e., location, speed, etc.). On the other hand, a time-based solution periodically asks the device to provide information on a set schedule—also known as a time ping rate. Depending on the frequency, the pings can occur every one to fifteen minutes which won’t provide the most updated data.
  • Flexible solution: You want a product that can evolve with changing regulations. Make sure your vendor is responsive and ensures that the solution remains compliant. You also want an ELD solution that is easy to upgrade so that it will grow with you.
  • Cloud-based solution: A cloud-based solution ensures your data is safe even if something happens to your hardware. That way, if a mobile device malfunctions, the ELD will not lose any data.
  • Secure solution: The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) has advised motor carriers to show preference to ELD solutions from providers that are based on existing secure platforms. Ask the vendor about their security measures and how they handle data transfer and storage.

IntelliShift’s ELD solution

One way to integrate a compliant ELD solution into your fleet safety and compliance strategy is to consider IntelliShift’s Logbook. Logbook is an ELD point solution on the IntelliShift enterprise operational intelligence platform that provides complete driver data visibility. This solution helps you accurately track and record mandated HOS to increase safety and avoid costly violations. Using a convenient checklist, it also allows drivers to perform comprehensive inspections before and after their shift efficiently. Then when issues arise, send real-time alerts to dispatch and operations staff to initiate maintenance. In addition, mobile-friendly software and applications offer a full suite of compliance features, including meeting the ELD mandate, driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) safety inspections and IFTA fuel tax.

Achieve total operational excellence by integrating a compliant ELD solution into your fleet safety and compliance strategy. Request a free demo today to get started.