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What Is an Electronic Logging Device?

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) for truckers are hardware devices that are attached to commercial vehicles via the onboard diagnostics port, or OBD. They are designed to make it easier to track, manage and share driver information related to the driver’s hours of service (HOS) and off-duty time.

ELDs are mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They are also a vital component of a trucking fleet system because they automatically record a wealth of information as well as driver logs. Commercial carriers in many industries such as construction, trucking, food and beverage, and passenger transit find that ELDs also help to improve safety and efficiency. 

What is it?

An ELD is a hardware solution used to record driving time and other data from commercial motor vehicles. It automatically captures information at certain intervals from the vehicle’s engine via the OBD port. Data recorded includes:

  • Time and date
  • Vehicle location
  • Engine hours
  • Vehicle miles
  • Diver duty changes

Some ELDs can also record:

  • GPS location
  • Engine speed and load
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Safety-related events

Who needs an ELD?

Drivers are required to have an ELD if they have to keep records of duty status. This includes most commercial vehicle drivers. Drivers involved in interstate commerce must comply if:

  • Their vehicle is heavier than 10,001 pounds.
  • Their vehicle’s gross weight rating or gross combination weight rating is greater than 10,001 pounds.
  • Their vehicle is for the transportation of 16 or more passengers (including the driver) for no compensation.
  • Their vehicle is for the transportation of nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
  • Their vehicle is for the transportation of hazardous materials that require placards.

Beyond compliance, there are many advantages to having an ELD. These include:

  • Reducing paperwork
  • Reducing fuel wastage
  • Better route management
  • Driver location
  • Identification of poor driving habits
  • Reducing liability 

How to use an ELD

The ELD is attached to the vehicle via the OBD port. Once it is connected, the indicator light will be on and the driver will be able to use the smartphone or tablet app to connect via Bluetooth. The device records the driver’s HOS at regular intervals and transmits the information to the cloud where it can be accessed by the driver or fleet manager from anywhere via a smartphone or tablet app.

ELD compliance: the basics

The ELD mandate came into full effect on December 16, 2019. This means any commercial driver who does not meet the exemption criteria, and who is required to maintain records of duty status, must have and use an ELD in his/her vehicle.

Drivers are exempt only if:

  • They use paper logs fewer than eight days during each 30-day period.
  • They are drive-away-tow-away drivers.
  • Their vehicle was manufactured before the year 2000.

FAQs about ELDs

Can an ELD be on a wireless device like a smartphone or tablet?

This is acceptable so long as the device meets all the specifications of the ELD mandate, including being able to access the data from the vehicle’s engine. If the ELD is portable, it must be mounted on the dashboard where the driver can see it while in the driver’s seat. 

A smartphone alone does not meet the ELD mandate. The ELD must be physically attached to the vehicle so it can sync with the truck’s engine.

How does an ELD detect non-driving status?

An ELD automatically switches to driving mode when the vehicle is traveling faster than 5 mph.

The ELD will register a vehicle as stopped when its speed drops to 0 mph and stays there for three seconds. Once the vehicle’s duty status is set to driving, if the vehicle has not been in motion for five minutes, the ELD will send the driver a prompt to confirm driving or adjust the duty status. The driver has one minute to respond or the ELD will automatically switch the duty status to on-duty not driving. 

What happens if some drivers in a fleet are subject to the ELD mandate and others are exempt?

Carriers that run a mixed fleet may find it confusing to deal with different HOS and duty-status records. They may decide to exceed the mandate and use ELDs for all drivers. 

What if a driver only runs the service within a single state?

Intrastate commercial drivers must check with their local authorities. Some states follow federal regulations, and others have their own specific rules with changes. Changes can include things like different definitions of HOS limits or what a commercial motor vehicle is. 

Are drivers able to enter any information manually?

Yes, drivers can enter the following information manually:

  • Additional comments to explain a specific data point
  • Description of locations (if prompted by the ELD)
  • Trailer number(s)
  • Commercial motor vehicle power unit number, CMV ID
  • Bills of lading numbers

Which documents should drivers always carry with them in their vehicle?

Drivers should carry the following documents at all times 

  • ELD instruction manual
  • Instructions for transferring HOS information
  • Instructions for reporting ELD errors or malfunctions
  • Backup paper log sheets

 What should a fleet manager do if an ELD malfunctions?

In this circumstance, a fleet manager must repair the ELD or have it serviced within eight days of the malfunction. While the ELD is offline, the driver must maintain RODs until it is back in service. 

What happens if a vehicle goes beyond the range of call service?

If a driver is in an area where there is no range of call service, the location and engine information is still collected and recorded on the ELD. As soon as the vehicle returns to an area with good coverage, the data will be transmitted to the servers to update the driver’s HOS status. 

What happens if a driver fails to verify the ELD logs?

Drivers are required to verify their logs on a daily basis. If a driver fails to verify the logs within 14 days, the fleet manager will have to print out the logs and get the driver to sign them. The driver will not be compliant until the logs have been submitted.

Can automatically recorded logs for on-duty service and drive time be manually edited or changed?

No. All HOS must be accurately accounted for. Neither drivers nor fleet managers have authorization or access to change this information. However, in the case of shop moves, a log may be assigned to an unidentified driver so long as an explanatory annotation is added.

Final word on ELDs

ELDs are now mandatory for commercial motor vehicle drivers that are not exempt. As well as providing a much easier way to record, maintain and report HOS, an ELD can also improve efficiency and safety in many other ways because it automatically records both driver and vehicle data. There is no need for a driver to have any privacy concerns regarding the gathered information because ELD technology collects the same information that is currently monitored and recorded with paper logs.

ELD’s allow drivers and fleet managers to be on the same page. They also protect drivers from simple human errors and harassment or pressure into unscrupulous activities such as driving for extended hours. There are many ELD solutions on the market. Find out more by checking out FreightWaves’ detailed reviews of the best ELDs on the market.