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ELD Mandate – Lessons Learned/Current State

11.08.2018 | By Chris Pickett | 9 min. read

For decades, truckers have been the backbone of delivery for the United States. Thanks to truckers, we’ve enjoyed bread on our tables, cars in our garages, and a myriad of other goods and materials that keep us functioning day in and day out. Alone in their cabs, truckers faced harsh weather, navigated treacherous thoroughfares, and withstood the boredom of the roadway—all to serve the consumer and earn an honest living.

In the past, these truckers logged their miles the old-fashioned way; with a pen or pencil into a paper logbook, adhering to the Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. But in December 2015, everything changed. ELD mandate trucking became a reality. But what exactly does the ELD mandate mean today? Read on here.

The ELD mandate? A brief history

To better understand the ins and outs of the ELD mandate, it is essential to know how it came into existence and why.

The ELD rule was initially a part of the 2012 congressional bill called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” commonly known as MAP-21. This bill, which also outlined the criteria for highway funding, included a provision requiring the FMCSA to mandate the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs), effectively replacing a trucker’s paper logbook.

With this device in place, the government reasoned that truckers would be able to keep far more accurate hours of service (HOS).

The government’s intention with this ELD mandate was also to benefit the lives of truckers. How so? The government reasoning behind the ELD rule was to:  

  • Create a safer work environment for drivers.
  • Enable drivers to share RODS (records of duty status)
  • Increase the efficiency of managing and tracking of these RODS.

Interestingly, the ELD rule was born out of an entire series of earlier laws, each of which was built on the rule before. The initial ELD Standard was published but ultimately vacated.

Eventually, the ELD Standard was pulled back because carriers had the potential of harassing their truck drivers.

The result of all these earlier rules was that truckers and fleets were left confused, and many remain befuddled by the current ELD mandate and how it directly affects their daily lives and business.

What is an ELD?

Simply put, an ELD (electronic logging device) electronically records a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS). An ELD works by synchronizing with the trucker’s engine. Once synchronized, the ELD automatically marks that truck’s driving time.

When the trucker is on duty, ELDs record the truck’s location within approximately a one-mile radius. To protect the driver’s privacy, when the driver is using his vehicle for personal use, the ELD’s level of accuracy is within a 10 square mile radius.

While the FMCSA has a list of compliant ELD devices, Smartphones, and tablets, as long as they meet the FMCSA’s requirements, are also considered acceptable as ELD devices.

What exactly is the ELD rule

The ELD rule details who is covered by the rule itself, as well as giving information about who is considered an exception to the rule and makes it easier for a trucker to demonstrate compliance and hopefully make it faster and easier to share their RODS with safety officials. Additionally, the ELD Rule:

  • Requires that ELDS be self-certified and registered with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)
  • Gives truckers technical specifications to ensure ELDs are standardized and compliant, as well as including a compliance timeline.
  • Gives truckers information regarding harassment and tampering prevention often caused by other truckers.
  • Spells out the data transfer processes in hopes of making it easier for truckers to comply with the mandate as well as share their data.

Who is required to comply with the ELD mandate?

On the most basic level, the ELD mandate applies to truckers who are required to maintain records of duty status (RODS). Not only are trucks included in this rule, but the ELD mandate also includes commercial buses.

The ELD mandate also applies to Canadian and Mexican drivers, unless, they fall under any one of the following exceptions:

What are the exceptions to the ELD rule?

While many truckers are required to comply with the ELD, there are notable exceptions. While the following drivers fall under the exception umbrella for the ELD mandate, the following truckers can still volunteer to use ELDs. The following are exceptions to the ELD rule:

  • Truckers of vehicles manufactured before the model year 2000. This includes vehicles with reported VIN numbers appearing on the registration showing a later model year.
  • Driveaway-towaway drivers. This exemption includes vehicles that are considered to be recreational or a recreational vehicle trailer. Additionally, vehicles in which a minimum of one set of wheels that contacts the roadway during transportation would be included in the exemption as well.
  • Any vehicle that has an engine that predates the model year 2000 is also exempt.
  • Truckers who are not required to maintain a RODS for more than eight days in a 30-day period.
  • Truckers who operate within a 100-air-mile radius from the point of pick up to the end of delivery.
  • Non-CDL truckers who operate within a 150-air-mile radius.

What is the implementation timeline of the ELD rule?

There are three phases of the ELD Rule:

  • Phase One: 12/16/2015 – 12/18/2017.  The “Awareness and Transition Phase.” Phase one was a two-year period that followed the publication of the ELD rule. During this period, truckers were mandated to “prepare to comply” with the ELD mandate. This phase was also known as the “voluntary compliance” stage. During this time, drivers could use any of the following for their RODS:
    • Logging software
    • Paper logs
    • FMCSA registered, self-certified ELDS.
  • Phase Two: 12/18/2017 – 12/16/2019. The “Phased-In Compliance Phase.” This phase is the mandate today. During this two-year period, also known as the “final rule,” the ELD mandate affects truckers in the following ways.
    • Carriers and drivers are allowed to use AOBRDS (Automatic On-Board Recording Device) installed before December 18, 2017
    • All ELDS must be self-certified and registered with the FMCSA
  • Phase Three: 12/16/2019 and beyond. “Full Compliance Phase.” Every ELD-mandated trucker will be required to use self-certified ELDs. As stated previously, these ELDS must be registered with the FMCSA.

What must each ELD trucker do to comply?

ELD mandate trucking requires the following of their drivers:

  • After selecting and installing their ELDs, the trucker and their support staff should be trained to use these ELD devices by the applicable deadline—December 18, 2017, for truckers who use paper logs or logging software, or December 16, 2019, for those truckers using ELDS.
  • Truckers must also have a proficient understanding of how to use ELDs by the deadline. Practically speaking, they must be able to certify RODS, record and edit RODS, and also be able to collect any other supporting documents that may be required.
  • When requested, drivers must know how to transfer all data to safety officials.
  • Truckers must also be sure to use ELDS that appear on the FMCSA’s list of approved ELDs. The devices on this list are all considered compliant. Each of these ELD models meets specific technical specifications and is registered with the FMCSA.
  • If requested by a law enforcement officer, the trucker must be prepared to immediately show required AOBRD display information—including information on the day of the request and seven days prior to that request.

ELDs: beyond RODS

ELD devices are capable of far more than recording RODS. Truck and fleet applications today can log various other vehicle data, including:

  • Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR).
  • Driver behavior such as idling, hard braking, and speeding.
  • Map and route solutions.
  • Avoidance of blocked roads, construction, and high-traffic areas.

Benefits of ELD trucking

Many carriers agree the ELD mandate offers many benefits such as:

  • A reduction of paperwork, which is considered by many as more convenient while also increasing driver safety.
  • Concerning HOS compliance, dispatchers can be more efficient in planning for driver loads because they can keep abreast of their driver’s status.
  • Many drivers familiar with e-commerce find the ELDS are a natural development our technological age and ultimately are preferable to handwritten paper logs.
  • According to studies, drivers using ELD mandated truckers showed an 11.7% crash reduction in comparison to truckers who are not ELD mandated.
  • Carriers can identify excessive speeding or idling and build in incentive programs for their truckers to cut down on these excessive fuel burning practices. These incentive programs are not only an added perk for drivers, but increase fuel efficiency, company profits, and decrease the drain limited fuel resources.
  • According to studies by the Aberdeen Group, fleets have noted a 15% decrease in vehicle downtime and increased vehicle utilization of 13%.

The practicalities of the ELD mandate today

Even though the ELD mandate was published in 2015, many truckers are still confused and feel strong-armed by the government surrounding the ELD mandate.

In August 2018 truckers gathered at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, where Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance for FMCA, addressed a still uneasy crowd of truckers about the ELD mandate and its ramifications.

DeLorenzo started his talk by trying to dispel any confusion surrounding the compliance dates before he moved to exemptions of the ELD mandate.

One such point of confusion surrounded the issue of the “personal conveyance” rule which states a driver’s status is considered to be “off duty” if he the drive is considered to be personal in nature. This “off duty” status would be true even if the vehicle is commercial.

This “off duty” status would include a drive to get something to eat, or even visit relatives. However, it DOES NOT include a trip home to drop off a load, which is considered a continuation of a trip.

Another point of frustration and misperception for most truckers was the difference between AOBRDS vs. ELDs as well as compliance issues surrounding these devices. Many truckers were still unclear about the most fundamental issues surrounding their devices.

“The number-one point of confusion on roadside inspections is whether the driver has an AOBRD or ELD,” DeLorenzo said.

“The more you know,” DeLorenzo continued, “the easier the inspection goes. Knowing right off the bat whether you have an AOBRD or ELD will make that inspection go easier.”

To be fair to the trucking community, the distinction between AOBRD vs. ELD isn’t always so clear. For instance, some devices even can utilize either AOBRD or ELD mode.  

If the trucker is utilizing the ELD mode, the driver must remember that he is required to meet the specifications. This means that the driver must keep a transfer sheet, know how to transfer data when requested to do so by law enforcement, and maintain a copy of the instruction book.

It’s essential to remember that even with using ELDs, this doesn’t mean a driver should stop making notations. These notations often help a driver to explain away certain situations the ELD isn’t built to record.

Drivers should also be sure to log out of the ELD every night and log into the ELD every morning. Logging in and out, as well as keeping other notations will go a long way to explain unaccounted driving, or if the driver has gone over his specified driver time.

“I think when we moved to ELDs, people forgot how to use annotations,” DeLorenzo said. “Annotations are available, so use them to explain away situations.”

It appears, even in the age of technology, there’s still room for the human touch.


With the advent of the ELD mandate in 2015, truckers have been required to launch themselves into a new, computerized system of tracking and record keeping. While at times there has been considerable confusion surrounding ELD rules and timelines, it behooves trucks and their fleets to invest their time, money, and attention to this new development in the trucking industry.

Just as in decades past, the public’s basic needs and much of the economy itself depends on trucks and their carriers. Hopefully, with the advent of the ELD mandate, safety and efficiency will strengthen not only the trucking community but will also benefit the society the trucking industry serves.


– Keep Trucking Blog https://keeptruckin.com/blog/understanding-eld-rule-eld-mandate/

– Market 18 https://www.freightwaves.com/news/chartofweek/14

– FMCSA – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/faq

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