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    What is an ELD? Your Guide to Electronic Logging Devices

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    As the trucking world—and the transportation industry in general—become more and more stringent on safety, the role of fleet managers grows exponentially, including the need to be accountable for ELD mandates and other rules and regulations.

    But keeping up with mandates, new laws, and regularly updated requirements for fleets can be an exhausting exercise if you don’t have the necessary tools. In many cases, fleets have important records that must be readily located and presented during roadside highway stops or during impromptu visits by regulators.

    Electronic logging devices (ELDs) help ease what used to be cumbersome paper trails that were often hard to locate, left incomplete, or at the mercy of employees who didn’t fully understand the gravity of noncompliance.

    What does ELD stand for?

    The definition of ELD is a device that captures critical data on engine usage, miles driven, and the overall movements of a truck/vehicle at any point during a route. ELDs record what are referred to as hours of service (HOS), the amount of time drivers are on duty including driving time. This detailed HOS information is sent electronically to a server on a regular basis, helping fleet managers stay attuned to on-duty driver hours in order to ensure compliance.

    An ELD typically includes several parts that connect to a mobile ELD application that the driver has on their company smartphone.

    A little ELD background

    The ELD mandates that exist today came about as a way for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure traffic safety. Before ELD requirements there was greater potential for drivers to log long hours without adequate downtime, thus increasing the risk of accidents or even deaths on the road.

    The ELD mandate itself is a section in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act that was enacted as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. This rule mandates ELD use by any commercial drivers who are normally required to keep hours of service (HOS) records in the form of digital ELD logbooks that keep records of duty status (RODS).

    What is ELD in trucking?

    ELD in trucking is the primary target of ELD mandates given that long-haul truckers often log many miles with potentially multiple drivers behind the wheel at different points throughout a trip. Drivers are responsible for not only the operation of the rig on the road, but also the safety of other drivers on the nation’s busy highways and thoroughfares, making HOS compliance so important.

    ELD specifications

    There are some unique specifications that should be noted surrounding the topic of ELDs. ELDs often require three different types of connection ports in a vehicle to capture diagnostics. Trucks built before 2000 were not equipped with the required ports, thus making them incompatible with the requirements and are excluded. As these trucks age out, the blanket ELD regulations will apply to all trucks in any fleet. In the meantime, drivers of older vehicles can continue to use paper logs for their records.

    Per the FMSCAs website, the following ELD exemptions apply:

    Short-haul drivers, or those who drive short distances (within a 150 air-mile radius) and return home every night, are not required to keep RODS or use ELDs. Additionally, the following drivers are not required to use ELDs:

    • Drivers who use paper logs no more than 8 days within any 30-day period.
    • Drivers 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.
    • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before the model year 2000.

    It’s important to note that these drivers are still bound by the RODS requirements in 49 CFR 395 and must prepare RODS when required, using paper logs, an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD), or a logging software program.

    Other ELD exemptions

    ELD exemptions for several industries have also been made, including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), United Parcel Service (UPS), and any truck rental or leasing companies.

    ELD compliance: important ELD-related terms and updates

    ELD apps

    DOT-approved ELD apps help drivers avoid HOS violations by keeping more accurate logs and helping them stay within driving time limits through the convenience of their mobile devices.

    For many fleets, ELD compliance is mandatory and can be complex. By using a streamlined digital solution like an ELD app, drivers and managers alike can be confident that the fleet is FMCSA compliant with up-to-date HOS logs. This also gives fleet managers the ability to seamlessly monitor driver status and manage their time while maintaining compliance across the whole fleet.

    HOS tracking

    The main metric that ELDs track is HOS. With modern HOS ELD systems, logs are kept in electronic form and updated automatically, resulting in far greater precision and accuracy. The logs are then easily accessible to drivers and inspectors through the driver’s ELD app. ELD solutions typically also allow fleet managers to see ELD HOS information as well as driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) though a fleet management web dashboard that can help sort information by driver, location, fleet, and more.

    ELD requirements

    Since the ELD law went into effect near the end of 2017, drivers who record HOS and RODS have been required to meet electronic log or “elog” requirements for Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance, including the ability to share logs with a DOT officer in the field. ELD systems must meet specific logging capabilities and support state-by-state regulations as well as HOS exemptions related to short haul driving, adverse conditions, emergency situations, and others.

    DOT eLog requirements allow the logs to be displayed on mobile devices such as phones or tablets. DOT requirements also specify that the logging device is mounted in a fixed position in the vehicle during operation where the driver can see it.

    ELD solutions

    Fleets that employ ELDs for compliance often recognize additional benefits such as reduction of wasted labor. Fleet managers can save time with ELDs given HOS information is readily available. In addition, they can avoid warnings, fines, and penalties through reports on all of their drivers’ HOS compliance, DVIR, and more.

    Components of ELD devices for trucks

    To further understand how ELDs work, it’s imperative to understand the components of these devices in trucks and how they work together to create compliance for mandates.

    The best ELDs for fleet trucks have components made up of both hardware and software devices. The hardware connects to an electronic control module (ECM) inside the truck’s engine. This is then connected to important diagnostic systems that track records of duty and other important data like drive time.

    Specific ELD hardware components include:

    • Display: A readout that shows driver duty status and other important information.
    • ECM connector: Connects the ELD to the truck’s engine compartment.
    • Component power source: The part of the component that powers the device during operation.
    • GPS receiver: Transmits important information about the vehicle’s current and past locations.
    • Storage component: Keeps track of data that can be used at a different time to review information collected at any time.

    How the software in an ELD brings it all together

    The software components of ELD devices in trucks are comprised of the applications that are used to manage the data that is collected by the truck’s hardware components.

    Specific ELD software components include:

    • Fleet management application: This important software component is used by the fleet’s manager to further manage the information collected by the hardware.
    • Driver application: This is the ELD application (driver app) that is installed on the driver’s smartphone.
    • Data storage: The information that is stored by the ELD is kept on a back-end system that is easily accessible on the front-end through either the driver’s ELD app or the fleet manager’s fleet management application.

    Benefits of ELDs

    As we’ve already discussed, ELDs are a requirement for fleets to retain government compliance when their vehicles are on the road. However, they also have some important benefits that fleet managers can use to educate drivers, create new company best practices, and help their drivers be more successful.

    Further ELD benefits include:

    • Improve efficiency by dramatically reducing administration duties such as paperwork and recordkeeping.
    • Provide actionable data that can be used to create new efficiencies in the way the fleet is doing business. ELDs provide information that can improve overall performance, create new opportunities for driver education, and help fleet managers more efficiently plan routes to save on vehicle wear and tear and fuel expenditures.
    • ELDs have also been shown to help fleets lower insurance premiums as the number of fines and violations by drivers are typically dramatically decreased.

    Intrastate ELD mandates

    In addition to federal rules and regulations, specific states may have their own rule sets and bylaws when it comes to intrastate drivers. California, for example, has the following parameters that must be met while also complying with the FMCSA regulations.

    • Drivers must never drive more than 12 hours in a work period
    • No driving after the 16th hour after first coming on duty
    • Must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty to qualify to be on the road again
    • Not allowed to drive after being on duty for a total of 80 hours in any 8 consecutive work days
    • 34 consecutive hours off the road can reset the 8th day cumulative total to 0 (zero) again as long as the hours are consecutive and equal 34 or more without time behind the wheel (also called a 34-hour reset).

    It’s important to not only understand the FMCSA rules and regulations surrounding ELDs, but to also be aware of state-specific laws that must also be followed by all fleets.

    What to look for in an ELD company

    Choosing an ELD provider can be a challenging task, as it requires some thought and due diligence. Take these important steps when determining the right ELD company for your fleet’s needs.

    First and foremost, make sure that the ELD service you’re considering is ELD certified. Companies who provide these services must be registered and subsequently certified that they comply with all of the requirements set forth by governing agencies. The FMCSA states in their bylaws that each company is required to make sure that their devices are registered.

    In addition to critical registration and certification, make sure to check out the following parameters of any ELD services or companies that you’re interested in doing business with.

    • How long has the company been doing business?
    • How many customers do they work with and are there reviews or references that can be checked to determine reliability and compliance?
    • What are their security policies?
    • Do they have solution partners with additional components that can be seamlessly integrated into their platform for additional insights?

    In closing, make sure to look for an FMCSA approved ELD when you are shopping for the best options for your fleet.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQs) 

    Do fleets of all sizes need to be ELD compliant?

    Yes. It does not matter the size of a fleet. The ELD mandate is a legal requirement for most commercial vehicles so long as they meet certain requirements as outlined above.

    What information is automatically recorded by an ELD?

    ELDs collect date, time, location information, engine hours, vehicle miles as well as identification information for the driver, vehicle, and motor carrier at certain intervals throughout a trip.

    When will the ELD start to record driving status?

    ELDs are required to automatically switch to driving mode when a vehicle begins motion and moves up to a speed threshold of five miles per hour. Conversely, the ELD will consider a vehicle stopped when it has reached zero miles per hour for 3 to 5 consecutive seconds.