What Is an ELD? The Benefits, Purpose, and Features of ELDs

What Is an ELD? The Benefits, Purpose, and Features of ELDs

Many businesses that operate a fleet of trucks or vehicles are required to have ELD or electronic logging devices installed in each vehicle. ELDs are intended to enhance the safety of professional truck drivers.

ELDs are a convenient way to manage, track, and share data during driving and downtime. As technology continues to evolve, it has become easier to regulate the number of hours drivers are on the road without significant rest. 

If you own a fleet of vehicles including flatbeds as a growing business, it is imperative that you have a comprehensive understanding of what ELDs are, who is required to have them, and how it works.

What is an ELD?

An electronic logging device is used by individuals who operate commercial motor vehicles—or CMVs for short. These devices automatically record hours of service (HOS) and driving time records. The ELD syncs directly with the vehicle’s engine and records all necessary information automatically, such as driving activity, location, miles driven, ignition status, and engine hours. 

The device helps both dispatchers and commercial drivers stay current with a driver’s status in real time. This information makes sure both parties know how many available hours the driver has and ensures that there are no risks of violating HOS requirements. The device then relays the stored data to a server; where duty status logs are made, updated, and sent to the ELD mobile app for real-time visibility. 

Because HOS information is recorded automatically, compliance managers can run reports, review HOS statuses, and ensure their routes will not put a driver in the position of violating the HOS requirements. Drivers also have the latitude to access this ELD data at any time while in their vehicles. They can even display it during a roadside inspection conducted by DOT officials. 

Electronic logging devices can also send data in multiple ways. Most people use Bluetooth or cellular service to transmit information between the driver’s mobile app and the ELD device. Additionally, some ELD systems feature a built-in WiFi hotspot. This feature can also be used to transmit information between a mobile app and the ELD device.

The built-in WiFi feature offers mobile connectivity for commercial motor vehicle drivers, allowing them to access email, electronic work orders, and other productivity-inducing applications while on the road. The FMCSA states that since Dec. 18, 2017, the ELD rule for usage has been mandatory for most commercial vehicles and for each vehicle covered under this legislation by Dec. 16, 2019.

What’s the Purpose of an ELD?

The federal government has enforced hours of service since 1938. The HOS defines the maximum time truckers can drive within a specific window of time without rest. This feature supports the safety of professional drivers and the motoring public with whom they share the roads. Prior to the ELD mandate, drivers had to log their hours on paper or other kinds of electronic systems manually.

Since first being introduced, HOS regulations have changed multiple times. However, currently, in the US, truckers drive up to 11 hours per day with a 10-hour reset. Also, drivers can drive a maximum of hours with eight hours rest or rest, in terms of a 60-hour seven-day work week which is then reset with a 34-hour reset.

Since December 18, 2017, the electronic logging device became a requirement for all truck drivers to use in their commercial vehicles at all times. The only exception is the typical Class-A hauler. In 2015 the transition began when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted the  ELD rule for carriers, requiring companies to incorporate ELDs in their trucks.

All devices incorporated during that time and earlier were grandfathered and ruled as compliant until December 16, 2019—from this point forward, all ELD devices must be self-certified. Consequently, the manufacturers must certify with the FMCSA that the devices meet the appropriate technical specifications and are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

ELDs Features

construction worker using tablet

Below are the most critical features of an electronic logging device:

Vehicle Engine Connectivity: Sometimes Bluetooth connections can be unstable and problematic in the cab, making roadside inspections difficult and limiting drivers. That is when being able to connect to the vehicle’s engine is valuable. 

Cell Connectivity: Various ELD solutions utilize one wireless carrier and can have gaps in coverage, which can affect the real-time use of the system for operations and dispatch.

Ease of Use: If a device has a steep learning curve, it could frustrate the driver, which can impact cooperation and compliance.

Reporting and Recording: The ELD records have to be available on-demand for roadside inspections and certification. Additionally, driver logs must be reported after every 24 hours to ensure compliance.

Why are ELDs Important?

An electronic logging device is crucial because of how integral it is to the trucking industry in terms of transporting goods. Apart from being mandated by law, these devices help with ELD compliance and improve overall safety. Additionally, ELD devices allow drivers to record all of their pertinent information in their logs conveniently. Overall, ELDs enhance compliance, efficiency, and safety.

According to the ELD final rule, using ELDs will make it convenient for drivers to report their duty status precisely. It also makes it more difficult for companies or drivers that are not compliant with HOS regulations to falsify records proclaiming otherwise. 

Implementing an ELD system will increase transparency and create a reliable record created automatically, along with records of any human interaction and editing.

Who Needs an ELD?

truck driver behind the wheel

Under the ELD mandate, most commercial drivers must adhere to HOS statutes. For example, drivers who must maintain records of duty status (RODS) for a minimum of eight days out of 30 days are required to use an ELD. 

These rules apply to vehicles manufactured after the year 2000, have a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds, are DOT-registered, serve business purposes, and cross state lines. Other characteristics are transporting more than nine people and carrying placarded hazardous materials (hazmat) loads.

Any drivers that don’t adhere to these rules face a range of fines and penalties, including being unable to perform service for 10 hours. The fines can be anywhere from $1,500 to over $20,000. 

ELD Benefits

Here are the crucial benefits of the ELD mandate:

Driver Compliance: To ensure FMCSA ELD compliance, ELDs can record the duty status and HOS electronically, eliminating the need for a log book or paper logs. 

Routes: The most effective ELDs have built-in tracking devices that relay real-time location data. These details help dispatchers understand where vehicles are at any time without contacting the driver. 

Maintenance: When it comes to repairs and preventative maintenance, the ELDs facilitate a more straightforward diagnosis since they connect to the truck’s OBD (onboard diagnostics) port. They can easily access critical engine data such as fault codes and mileage.

Driver Safety: Installing ELDs in a CMV helps reduce driver fatigue and related incidents, as well as being able to detect improper driving practices. That includes harsh turning, collisions, and braking picked up by the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope in most ELDs. Companies can also use this information for training.

Security: ELDs are a valuable company asset because they promote the security of drivers and vehicles. For example, geofencing enables a virtual boundary that sends an alert any time the vehicle leaves this boundary, indicating possible theft or security issues. 

Reporting: Fleet managers can benefit from robust reporting from ELDs, which can help identify areas to cut costs and improve operations. For example, less fuel usage and reductions in improper driving behavior are made possible by analyzing data reported through an ELD.  

ELD Disadvantages  

Despite the numerous benefits, the ELD mandate creates some challenges. The devices can be expensive and some truck drivers may feel that real-time tracking, along with GPS technology, is invasive and violates their privacy. 

There is a learning curve associated with using the most up-to-date ELDs, which can present problems when there’s a need for immediate action if the device malfunctions. Lastly, the editing possibilities are limited in some cases, and the process of editing incorrect data can be time-consuming for the driver.

ELD Mandate 

The Final Rule, or the ELD mandate, is a set of regulations from the United States federal government that dictates the necessity for an electronic logging device for most CMV operators. 

An ELD records vehicle operation data and driver activity, specifically related to their hours of service (HOS). Under this mandate, commercial truck drivers must stay within a maximum number of driving hours before stopping for rest.

The e-log for their hours of service is a permanent and ongoing record of the hours they’ve driven, when they were on duty (but not driving), and how long they rested for the duration of the route. 

The first time a federal law mandated that CMV drivers in the United States kept these service records was in 1937. Initially, this data was recorded manually with paper logs. 

The automated ELD also had a predecessor known as the AOBRD or automatic onboard recording device. The primary difference between the two is the more extensive capabilities of the ELD.  

Required Documentation

When a driver uses an ELD, they must have an information packet inside the vehicle. The packet must contain the following:

  • Instruction manual for the user to understand how to use an ELD correctly
  • The instruction sheet informs the user about the data transfer mechanisms, including how to create and transfer the hours of service records to safety officials if necessary
  • Instructions on the correct way to report technical difficulties such as a malfunctioning ELD and how the driver can maintain records during the malfunctions
  • A minimum eight-day supply of blank RODS graph-grids


Though the ELD mandate applies to commercial motor vehicles, and most drivers must maintain RODS, there are some exceptions

Here’s a list of some commercial motor vehicles and any commercial driver that doesn’t have to use an ELD:

  • Tow-away operations if the commercial motor vehicle is the commodity being towed.
  • Short haul drivers
  • Vehicles with the model year 1999 or before
  • Livestock, farm, and agricultural vehicles
  • Drivers that do not have to keep logs longer than eight days out of 30 days


Here are the responses to the most common inquiries regarding the ELD mandate:

What information does an ELD record?

The automated electronic logging device records the following data to help keep track of driving limits and the driver’s duty status:

  • Time
  • Vehicle Location
  • Date
  • Vehicle miles
  • Vehicle engine hours
  • Driver identification
  • Personal use
  • User authentication
  • Change of duty status
  • Hours of service (HOS)
  • Commercial motor vehicle  identification

What is the difference between AOBRD and ELDs?

Automatic onboard recording devices are similar to electronic logging devices because they have integral synchronization and automatically record driving activity including duty status changes. 

However, the ELD system is manufactured to comply with the mandate, and it has more features, greater functionality, and generates more data. 

How much do ELDs cost? 

An electronic logging device can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands. You must pay for the device hardware, professional installation into the vehicle, and the monthly fleet management software fee. 

Electronic logging devices all have comparable features for the most part, but they still come with varying levels of support. Therefore, you want to ensure that you select the ELD provider that best meets the fleet carrier’s needs. 

What data is retained?

Drivers have to retain the ELD-generated RODS, and they have to comply with the requirements for supporting documentation for six months. 

Also, the driver’s privacy must remain intact throughout the reporting process. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may not retain any data unless there is a violation.

Must Canada and Mexico drivers use ELDs?

Mexican and Canadian drivers must adhere to the federal HOS rules when they operate in the United States. That includes using devices compliant with the mandate unless they fall within one of the exempt categories. 

If the driver operates in several jurisdictions, they can annotate the driver’s RODs on the electronic logging device with the information for periods when they were operating outside the United States. 

Who can edit an ELD record?

All authorized office personnel and the driver can perform limited edits to the ELD record if they need to add missing information or correct errors. 

The edits must include an annotation to explain why the edit was necessary. Additionally, the person making the edits must certify that the edits are accurate before they resubmit the ELD data.