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Take the Stress Out of ELD Compliance

By on July 1, 2017


Ever since the wheels of government churned out the 126-page DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Final Rule for Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) and Hours of Service (HOS) Supporting Documents as published in Volume 80, Number 241 of the Federal Register on Wednesday, December 16, 2015, the wheels of the trucking industry have been slowly grinding toward ELD implementation. Some industry estimates indicate that approximately 75% to 80% of large fleets and perhaps 20% to 25% of small to medium fleets have already complied. The compliance percentage likely remains just above single digits for independent owner-operators and somewhat higher for owner-operators dedicated to a fleet. Following are some tips and suggestions that may help you accelerate your decision-making process and on-boarding plan.

ELD Rule’s Deep Roots

What began inauspiciously during 2012 when the United States Congress enacted the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” bill—commonly referred to as MAP-21—has turned into a rather long and complex entanglement that may, as of this writing, be on the road to the Supreme Court. That bill, which also outlined the criteria for highway funding, quietly included a provision requiring the FMCSA to develop a rule mandating the use of ELDs.

An ELD is simply defined as a device that electronically records a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS). ELDs are intended to replace the industry-standard paper logbooks—that are as comfortable to many as a favorite pair of shoes—for recording drivers’ compliance with Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. Like it or not, it’s time to begin looking for a new pair of shoes, if you haven’t already.

The ELD rule is based on a series of previous rulemaking events, each updating, clarifying or building upon its predecessor. Many drivers and fleets are already using Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) to reduce paperwork. These devices must automatically record a driver’s duty status and any changes in status, as well as the amount of time the vehicle is operated. If requested by law enforcement, drivers must also be able to immediately present the required AOBRD display information for the current day plus the previous seven. When AOBRD grandfathering ends on December 16, 2019, all drivers must be using a device that is on the FMCSA-approved list.

3-Phase Timeline

Key dates start with the December 16, 2015 Publication Date in the Federal Register. The Effective Date of February 16, 2016 was set 60 days after the rule’s publication. The December 18, 2017 Compliance Date is two years from the publication date. The Full Compliance Date is set for December 16, 2019. Using the above dates as reference points, the ELD rule is being implemented in three phases:

Phase 1: Awareness & Transition – The two-year period following publication of the ELD rule February 16, 2015 to December 18, 2017. During this time, drivers and carriers subject to the rule should prepare to comply, and may voluntarily use ELDs. Drivers and carriers subject to the rule can use any of the following for RODS:

  • Paper logs
  • Logging software
  • AOBRDs
  • ELDs that are registered and listed on the FMCSA website

Phase 2: Phased-In Compliance – The two-year period from the Compliance Date to the Full Compliance Phase (four years following ELD rule publication) December 18, 2017 to December 16, 2019.

Carriers and drivers subject to the rule can use:

  • AOBRDs that were installed prior to December 18, 2017.
  • Certified, registered ELDs following the December 16, 2015 rule publication.

Phase 3: Full Compliance – After December 16, 2019, all drivers and carriers subject to the rule must use certified, registered ELDs that comply with all requirements of ELD regulations.

What You Need to Know

The ELD Rule applies to most drivers and motor carriers who are currently required to maintain records of duty status (RODS). In addition to trucks, the rule also applies to commercial buses. Canada-and Mexico-domiciled drivers operating on U.S. highways are included, unless they qualify for one of the following exceptions to the ELD rule:

  • Drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days during any 30-day period.
  • Drive-away and tow-away drivers (transporting an empty vehicle for sale, lease, or repair).
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.

What You Need to Do

  • Fleet owners and owner-operators must:
  • Evaluate and select ELDs.
  • Ensure ELDs are properly installed.

Drivers and administrative staff must be trained to use ELDs by the deadline that applies:

•December 18, 2017 for those using paper logs or logging software.

•December 16, 2019 for carriers using AOBRDs.

Fleet Compliance Checklist

  • Additional fleet responsibilities include:
  • Drivers must understand and be able to use ELDs by the required deadline.
  • Drivers must know how to annotate and edit and certify RODS.
  • Drivers must know how to collect required supporting documents.
  • Drivers must know how to display and transfer data to safety officials when requested.

Choosing a Compliant ELD

Below are tips to consider when choosing an ELD, and a checklist of key features and functions that every ELD must provide:


  • Most Important, make sure that any ELD models you are considering are on FMCSA’s list of registered ELDs. The vendors on this list have self-certified that their devices are compliant with all of the ELD technical specifications and are registered with FMCSA. You’ll find more than four dozen listings that include device names, model numbers, software versions, ELD identifiers, companies, e-mail contacts, plus links to images, user manual PDFs and company websites.
  • Take a few minutes to research ELD providers by checking with the Better Business Bureau and looking at online reviews about their products and customer service.
  • While many ELDs may be part of a Fleet Management System (FMS) or include FMS functions, there is no requirement for Fleet Management functionality. An ELD that complies with FMCSA requirements is what the ELD rule requires.
  • Determine your cost of acquisition and the monthly or quarterly fees required to provide the ongoing service capability.
  • Determine if and how software updates for a given device are provided whenever a rule changes and if updates are free or come at a cost.


Before choosing an ELD, have the vendor verify that its device meets all of the ELD specifications contained in the rule. While this list is not a complete list of all required ELD functions, at a minimum, have the vendor demonstrate or show you all the features and functions in the list below.

ELD Features & Functions

  • Provides separate accounts for drivers and administrative (non-driver) ELD users.
  • Has “integral synchronization” with the engine control module to automatically record engine power status, vehicle motion status, and other data.
  • Automatically records all driving time at 60-minute intervals.
  • Records date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles, and driver identification.
  • Accurately records location within a one-mile radius during on-duty driving periods.
  • Reduces location accuracy to a 10-mile radius when vehicle is used for authorized personal use.
  • ELD time is synchronized with UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
  • Retains data for the current 24-hour period and the previous seven consecutive days.
  • Prevents tampering; does not allow anyone to alter or erase information originally collected for driver ELD records.
  • Requires driver to review unidentified driver records—and either acknowledge assignment of this driving time, or indicate that the records do not belong to the driver.
  • Allows a driver to obtain a copy of his/her ELD records on demand—either through a printout or electronic file.
  • Supports one of two options for electronic data transfer: Telematic Type using wireless web services or email, or Local Transfer Type using USB2.0 or Bluetooth.
  • Displays all required standardized data to authorized safety officials on demand—through a screen display or printout that includes three elements: a daily header, graph grid showing driving duty status changes, and detailed daily log data. The graph grid, if printed, must be at least 6 inches by 1.5 inches.
  • Requires driver certification and annotation (written explanation) for any edits to records that are made by the driver or any other ELD user.
  • Requires certification of driver records at the end of each 24-hour period.

ELD provider furnishes user’s manual, instructions for handling malfunctions and record keeping during malfunctions, and instructions for transferring ELD hours of service records to safety officials.

Volume control or mute option for any audio feature.

ELD Benefits

Drivers who’ve successfully adopted other technology improvements will quickly see that the automation provided by ELDs simplifies the logging process and HOS compliance. Key benefits are:

  • ELDs make it easier, simpler, and quicker to keep your logs.
  • ELDs limit mistakes and reduce form and manner errors.
  • ELDs provide information to you and your company, so that you can better manage fatigue and schedule issues.
  • ELDs correctly record location and accurate information to easily track duty status.
  • ELDs are a good back office asset to improve productivity and enhance compliance.
  • With ELDs, there is less paperwork, and your logs are orderly, clear, and accurate.
  • ELDs also simplify the process of tracking hours when there are changes in regulations.
  • HOS violations are virtually eliminated, unless you choose to ignore what your ELD is telling you.

Separating Fact from Fiction

The one behavior you must avoid when switching from paper logs to an ELD is resistance. Not switching isn’t an option. You have December 18, 2017 staring you in the face. Know what to expect and prepare to respond to four key myths.

Myth 1 – You’re Going to Quit 

Carriers that have successfully implemented ELD programs see zero to a few driver losses. Drivers like you typically become avid users when they see for themselves that ELDs are less time consuming than filling out cumbersome paper logs. You’ll gain time, and stress levels are reduced. Training is the key to becoming comfortable in an ELD environment.

Myth 2 – Lost Time & Money

Drivers who stretch the HOS limits to generate more revenue are risking significant financial and/or credibility losses due to an auditing penalty or post-crash litigation—whether using ELDs or paper logs. Ask yourself if you and/or your customers are applying undue pressures related to delivery timing, waiting to load/unload, overextending capacity, experiencing breakdowns or other factors.

Myth 3 – ELDs are Too Expensive

While this may have been true in the past because ELD functionality was tied to an expensive communications and tracking system, that is no longer the case. Today’s modular systems have stand-alone electronic logging functionality. Prices vary, but a reliable device can cost as little as a couple of hundred dollars for hardware, plus a monthly service fee. Over the life of a device, the monthly cost can be quite modest, perhaps less than $15.

Myth 4 – I’ll be Compliant Overnight

More wish than myth, the truth is that ELDs do not:

  • Teach you to comply with HOS regs
  • Stop your truck when you reach a limit
  • Make sure you have all credentials
  • Make you obey the traffic laws

Used correctly, ELDs make you more compliant by eliminating two of the most common HOS violations, “Form and Manner” and “Log Not Current.” An ELD also helps with HOS compliance, provided the system gives a warning and you heed it.


There are so many questions that space does not allow answers to be published here. On the FMCSA website at FMCSA.dot.gov, you’ll find dozens of questions and answers in 15 categories. Plus many manufacturers and marketers of ELD compliant products also include FAQs on their websites.

To Wait or Not to Wait?

As briefly mentioned earlier, some drivers are holding out hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s (OOIDA) lawsuit that challenges the legality of the federal government’s electronic logging device mandate. The legal team has asked the nation’s high court to reevaluate a lower court ruling issued last October that upheld the U.S. DOT’s rule. The Supreme Court receives hundreds of petitions a year, but generally only hears a few dozen cases. Four of the nine justices on the court must vote to hear a suit for it to come before the court.

At the minimum, you should begin evaluating options to make sure you’re not caught short, come December 2017. If you need assistance determining the best ELD solution for your needs, please ask the electronics experts at your TA-Petro Travel Store or Minit Mart. You’ll find a range of flexible, compliant ELD solutions that benefit owner-operators and fleets of all sizes. Some customers are just looking for a low-cost, high-value ELD solution. Others want additional features like truck navigation, mapping, and reporting. We can recommend devices that are user friendly to set up and easy to use, right out of the box.

NOTE: With input from FMCSA, Rand McNally and Tom Bray at J.J. Keller.

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