Guide to the ELD Mandate

Jul 19, 2018 | Articles


From the time the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its final rule on electronic logging devices in late 2015, much of the trucking industry has been mindful about ELDs. On Dec. 18, 2017, the nationwide ELD mandate took effect–a move opposed by many independent owner-operators and small carriers that still use paper logs.

The following guide from RTS Financial is designed to address any questions or concerns you have about ELDs. In addition to walking you through the requirements of the ELD mandate, you will find helpful information about how to adopt the technology for your trucking company. You will also learn about the benefits that ELDs may present for trucking fleets in the approaching years.

For additional information about ELDs, refer to our article, “How to Prepare Your Trucking Company for the ELD Mandate” on the RTS Financial blog.

What are ELDs and How Do They Work?

An electronic logging device is a small piece of equipment that is used to track a vehicle’s drive time. Once an ELD is installed in your truck, the device synchronizes with the truck’s engine to automatically record when the engine is running.

3.4 million
truck drivers will be subject to the ELD rule, according to the FMCSA.

The ELD is designed to make it easier for carriers and truck drivers to accurately log their hours of service. The automation of an ELD replaces the time-consuming process of maintaining a paper log, while ensuring that the driver remains compliant with federal hours-of-service rules.


Today, many trucking companies log their hours with automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs). Under the new mandate, those fleets must phase out their use of AOBRDs and replace them with ELDs, but have been given more time to do it than carriers that don’t use any type of recording devices. While carriers currently using paper logs must switch to ELDs by Dec. 18, 2017, AOBRD users have until Dec. 16, 2019 to make the change.

Why are AOBRDs being phased out? Because ELDs are more technologically advanced and have greater reporting capabilities. An AOBRD can track a truck’s engine use, speed, miles driven, as well as the date and time. An FMCSA-certified ELD performs those functions, in addition to recording engine power status, vehicle motion status, and the vehicle’s location. ELDs can sense engine diagnostics and malfunctions, and can also automatically transfer record of duty status to the FMCSA.

How Does an ELD Work?

Once an ELD is plugged into a truck’s OBD-II port, it can integrate with software on a mobile app to transfer data to a driver’s phone or tablet. Once it has been synched up with a mobile device, the ELD can provide information about engine status, hours, idling, vehicle movement and miles driven. An ELD may also include GPS, allowing it to determine the vehicle’s location. By using the combination of an ELD and related mobile application software, hours-of-service logs and other data can appear on the screen of a smartphone or another wireless device. The information can be viewed, printed or emailed to an inspection officer upon request.

$1.8 billion
The amount saved each year by drivers no longer spending time manually logging their hours of service.

Source: FMCSA

The History of the ELD Mandate

The mandate requiring the use of electronic logging may be a “new” rule, but it took a long time to create. Here is how the ELD mandate has evolved over the years:

Early Attempts to Regulate

The driving force behind the ELD mandate was the federal government’s concern about truck safety. As early as 2000, the FMCSA tried to work e-logging devices into its hours-of-service regulations. Electronic logging, the regulators said, would be more accurate than paper logs, ensuring that drivers and fleets would comply with limits on weekly hours of service. This in turn would reduce the number of exhausted, drowsy truck drivers on U.S. roads, leading to fewer truck-related accidents and highway deaths.

For years, the FMCSA’s attempts to mandate electronic logging were blocked by federal courts. Groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) also opposed an ELD rule, claiming it would lead to driver harassment by carriers and regulators.

A Turning Point for ELDs

In 2012, however, Congress passed a transportation bill called MAP-21 (“Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century”). The legislation included a provision requiring an ELD mandate for most commercial trucks to follow. At this point, many large trucking fleets had started using ELDs. The devices also had the support of the American Trucking Associations and other influential industry groups.

After public comment periods and approval from the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget, the FMCSA published its final version of the ELD mandate in December 2015. The OOIDA immediately filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the new rule. However, two appeals courts upheld the rule and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear OOIDA’s case in June 2017.

The FMCSA has stated that the new mandate “improves commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety and reduces the overall paperwork burden for both motor carriers and drivers… (improving) compliance with the applicable HOS rules.”

The Rule Moves Forward

The election of President Donald Trump generated hope among some truckers that new regulations like the ELD mandate might be thrown out by the Department of Transportation. However, the FMCSA has moved forward with plans to implement the rule. On Dec. 18, 2017, trucking companies representing an estimated 3.4 million drivers were required to use ELDs. As early as April 1, 2018, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) will start penalizing fleets and drivers found to be noncompliant by putting them out of service.

Key Dates for the ELD Mandate

  • July 2012 – Congress mandates a rule requiring ELDs as part of the its MAP-21 transportation bill.
  • April 2014 – The FMCSA releases a report evaluating the potential safety benefits of recording hours of service electronically.
  • December 2015 – The FMCSA releases its final rule for Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents.
  • December 2015 –OOIDA files a lawsuit over the ELD mandate, claiming it would be unconstitutional and a harassment for truck drivers.
  • June 2017 – The U.S. Supreme Court declines to review OOIDA’s case against the government over the ELD mandate. Previously, two federal appeals courts also rejected OOIDA’s lawsuit.
  • Dec. 18, 2017 – The deadline by which carriers and drivers using paper logs must switch to ELDs.
  • Dec. 16, 2019 – The date when motor carriers that still use AOBRDs are required to use ELDs.

Source: FMCSA

How ELDs Can Help Your Trucking Company

If your trucks need to be equipped with ELDs, it might help you to know that the devices can be much more than just an added business expense.

Most large trucking fleets have been logging their hours-of-service electronically for years. Below are some of the advantages that ELD technology has brought many of those carriers. Your company could eventually see these benefits as well.

ELDs Reduce Paperwork

According to the FMCSA, truck drivers spend an average of 20 hours a year filling out logs and reporting their hours of service. The automation of ELDs eliminates all that paperwork, giving drivers more time to drive.

Electronic logging can add several hours a week of drive time because drivers can round up to the nearest minute for stops. Paper logbooks currently require rounding up to the nearest 15 minutes.

Inspections Will Go Faster

In the event of a roadside inspection, ELDs will make it easier for the inspecting officer to read the hours-of-service data. There will be no more sorting through a driver’s handwritten logbook. This should make inspections go faster and get your trucks back on the road a lot sooner.

ELDs Help You Track Your Fleet

The accuracy of electronic logging should make your trucking operation better-informed and more efficient. ELDs can help you monitor your trucks’ locations through GPS tracking, giving you real-time visibility to your fleet. This cuts down on the amount of time spent texting and calling drivers to learn their locations. Many ELDs can integrate with dispatch software, helping trucking companies plan shorter and more efficient routes. The results can include better fleet productivity and reduced costs of doing business.

ELDs Eliminate Mistakes

In tracking their hours of service on paper, drivers can sometimes make mistakes. It’s easy to enter the wrong time or location. Poor reporting in logbooks can catch up with a trucking company, leading to rising CSA scores and fines.

An ELD automatically calculates hours of service, IFTA fuel tax reporting and driver-vehicle inspection reports. Because the device is connected to a truck’s engine, it can also warn of any performance or maintenance issues. More accurate reporting from ELDs helps eliminate mistakes and keeps your trucks on the road.

Your Trucks Can Log More Miles

ELDs will be an added expense for your trucking company—the FMCSA estimates an average annual cost of $495 per device. However, ELDs can more than pay for themselves over time by making your fleet more productive and efficient.

With less paperwork and administration, your trucks can spend more time moving freight. With the engine diagnostics and GPS tracking that ELDs provide, your trucks should spend less time in the shops and at loading docks. In the long run, these efficiencies should generate more profits for your trucking company.

You Can Save More on Fuel

Because they track a truck engine’s activity, ELDs can tell you how much time your trucks are idling, just burning through diesel. Once you identify drivers who spend too much time idling, you can encourage them to adopt better driver habits. This can help reduce your company’s fuel consumption—the Department of Energy estimates that 1,500 gallons of diesel are burned each year by idling trucks.

ELDs will Keep Your Trucks on the Road

The main incentive to adopt ELDs for your trucking company is that the technology will soon become mandatory. An out-of-service penalty from inspectors, even for a few hours, can be disastrous for a small carrier.

In addition to the other potential advantages they provide, ELDs can give you the peace of mind that your company is compliant with the new federal mandate. You won’t have to worry about the fines and penalties that non-compliant carriers now face.

The Eight Most Common Questions About ELDs

During the countdown to the Dec. 18 deadline for ELD compliance, drivers and fleet owners still had a lot of questions about ELD mandate.

Below are eight frequent questions we at RTS Financial hear while serving our trucking customers, followed by thorough, up-to-date answers.

Q: Do all heavy trucks have to comply with the ELD rule?

Most commercial motor vehicles will be required to have an ELD. Exemptions from the ELD rule include:

  • Fleets operating heavy trucks manufactured prior to the year 2000.
  • Drivers who only use paper duty status records for eight days or less during a 30-day period.
  • Drivers who do not have to keep a records-of-duty status.
  • Vehicles that are also the product being delivered (drive-away/tow-away).
  • Carriers that only perform short hauls within a 100-air-mile radius.

Q: Does the ELD rule apply to owner-operators and small fleets?

Yes, it does. Small carries and owner-operators that do not qualify for an exemption must now equip their trucks with ELDs.

Q: Do hot shot trucking fleets have to use ELDs?

The FMCSA provides an exemption from the ELD mandate for carriers with vehicles that do not require CDLs and operate within a 150-air-miles radius of their headquarters. To learn more about this exemption, visit the FMCSA website here.

Q: How much will it cost me to equip my trucks with electronic logs?

The cost of an ELD can vary widely, depending on what kinds of capabilities you want it to have. The FMCSA has estimated that an ELD could cost anywhere from $165 to $832 per year, per truck. RTS Financial’s partner, Transflo, offers two types of electronic logging devices that cost $25 or $35 per month. that cost $25 or $35 per month. If you purchase Transflo’s Standard or Fleet Telematics ELDs through RTS Financial or RTS Carrier Services, you can save $99 for each device.

Q: I have an electronic logging system, but it’s old. Do I have to get a new one?

You may currently be using an automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD). If so, you have a little more time before you need to worry about upgrading to ELDs. The deadline when drivers using AOBRDs must comply with the new ELD regulation is Dec. 16, 2019.

Q: Can I just log my hours on my phone?

You can use your phone or tablet to help track hours of service, but you will also need an ELD physically installed in your truck. The hardware of the ELD device records engine data and driving activity. Your phone or tablet can be used to download compliant mobile application software that works with the ELD’s data to track drive time, duty status, driver breaks and other operational information.

Q: How big a deal is this for trucking?

The ELD mandate is expected to affect most of the trucking industry. The FMCSA estimates that 3.4 million commercial truck drivers must comply with the rule. Some studies have estimated that as many as 2 million trucks do not use any type of electronic logging today.

Q: How will the government know whether I’m using ELDs or not?

ELD non-compliance can be detected during a DOT audit or a roadside inspection. The penalties for not having an ELD can be stiff: fines of as much as $11,000 per incident, in addition to possible temporary or permanent shutdown orders.

How Prepared Are You for the ELD Mandate?

Results from TransPlace’s 2017 survey of carriers on their ELD implementation plans:

Small Fleets (250 or fewer trucks)

  • 33% Fully implemented
  • 29% Started the process
  • 38% No immediate plans

Large Fleets (more than 250 trucks)

  • 81% Fully implemented
  • 19% Starting the process

Source: 2017 Transplace survey

Talking to Your Drivers About ELDs

By now, you may understand that a lot of misinformation about the ELD mandate has been circulated on the Internet. Your trucking company’s drivers may have varying opinions about the new rule and what it means for their livelihoods. Some of them may feel that electronic logging violates their personal privacy. Others may see the benefits of ELDs and be willing to use them.

Here are a few steps you can take to inform your drivers about the ELD mandate and your company’s plans to address it.

Communicate and Listen

Share with your drivers the reliable information you have collected about ELDs and the mandate. Communicate your company’s ELD plans, timelines and goals well in advance. Most importantly, be willing to listen to drivers’ questions and concerns about the technology and the regulatory requirements. Make sure that everyone on your team understands the mandate and how your company will respond to it.

Emphasize the Positives

Regardless of how you or your drivers feel about ELDs, the devices soon will be a requirement. While installing ELDs and the related software may be a short-term hassle, the technology can bring several benefits as well. Emphasize to your team members how ELDs will increase their time on the road, reduce paperwork, improve efficiencies and eventually make your company more profitable. Once your company adapts to using ELDs, the long-term advantages will begin to take effect.

$11,000 to $16,000
The maximum fine for egregious hours-of-service violations.

Source: FMCSA

Find Some Advocates

Some of your drivers may be more receptive to electronic logging than others. Some may have used ELDs with their previous employers. Cultivate these drivers and other employees as your first wave of ELD adopters. Allow them to influence the rest of your team and help with training on how to maximize their use of the devices. Celebrate internal success stories of drivers who have had good experiences using ELDs.

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