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Understanding Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs):
Who Needs Them and Why

A fleet manager looking at ELD data

An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is a digital tool that automatically records a commercial driver’s hours of service (HOS) in compliance with federal regulations.

It connects to a vehicle’s engine and captures data like driving time and duty status. This information helps ensure drivers adhere to safety regulations and prevents fatigue-related accidents.

How Does an ELD Work?

An ELD consists of a physical unit mounted in the truck’s cab, often near the dashboard. It connects to the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) or engine control unit (ECU) through the onboard diagnostics (OBD) port, similar to how mechanics scan car engines.

Once connected, the ELD continuously gathers data from the ECM, including engine status, vehicle speed, distance traveled, and timestamps. The ELD also has the core records of duty status (rods) data such as vehicle identification number, driver’s duty status, and more.

Based on this data, the ELD automatically classifies the driver activity as driving, on-duty (not driving), or off-duty.

The ELD processes the collected data and applies HOS regulations, calculating how much driving time remains and alerting the driver when approaching limits.

It securely stores the processed data internally and transmits it wirelessly to a cloud-based server or a fleet management system at regular intervals.

ELD data is accessible to authorized users, including drivers, the fleet manager, and enforcement officials.

A truck driver logging data on an ELD
A bus driver complying with ELD requirements

What is the Electronic Logging Device Mandate?

The ELD mandate or the ELD Final Rule, established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2017, requires most commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to use an electronic logging device (ELD) to track their driving hours electronically.

This mandate aims to improve road safety by reducing driver fatigue and ensuring compliance with hours of service regulations.

Why are ELDs Needed?


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Why are ELDs Needed?

Prior to electronic logging devices, drivers manually recorded their record of duty status (RODS) on paper logs (paper RODS) , which were susceptible to errors and falsification of duty status.

The ELD address several critical needs from commercial motor vehicles and motor carriers, ultimately contributing to a safer, more compliant, and more efficient sector.

Who Has to Use ELD Devices?


The ELD mandate applies to a broad range of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators, but there are some exemptions. Here’s a breakdown of who needs to use ELDs and who doesn’t:

  • Truck drivers: Drivers operating CMVs with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceeding 10,000 pounds, regardless of the cargo type. This includes tractor-trailers, dump trucks, and other large commercial vehicles.
  • Bus drivers: Drivers operating commercial buses with a seating capacity of more than 16 passengers, excluding school buses.
  • Drivers transporting hazardous materials: Drivers transporting any amount of hazardous materials, regardless of the vehicle type. This includes flammable liquids, explosives, and toxic substances.
Farm vehicles are ELD exempt

ELD Mandate Exemptions: Who is Exempt from the ELD Mandate?

While the ELD mandate is broad, some commercial motor vehicles are exempt from the ELD mandate. Here are some ELD exemptions to take note of:

  • Short-haul exemption: Commercial drivers who operate within a 100 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location and complete their shift within 14 consecutive hours are exempt. This applies to local deliveries and service calls within a limited area.
    • In easier terms, your vehicle is ELD exempt if it’s used by short-haul drivers for short-haul trips that fit the above criteria.
  • Paper log exemption: Drivers who use paper logs for not more than eight days out of every 30-day period due to adverse weather conditions or ELD malfunctions are temporarily exempt. This provides flexibility in case of unforeseen circumstances.
  • Driveaway-towaway operations: Drivers transporting vehicles as the commodity itself, such as tow trucks or car carriers, are exempt. This is because their primary function is not transporting goods.
  • Vehicles manufactured before the year 2000: Older vehicles with an engine model year dated before the year 2000 may not be compatible with ELD technology and are therefore exempt. However, keep in mind that this exemption is gradually being phased out, and older vehicles may eventually need to be retrofitted with an ELD.
    • In a nutshell your commercial motor vehicle is exempt from the ELD mandate if its engine model year is manufactured before the year 2000.
  • Agricultural and farm vehicles: Covered farm vehicles that are used by the farm’s operator, employees or family members may be ELD-exempt, regardless of distance traveled. They are part of the ELD exemption if they are hauling agricultural machinery or supplies, rather than agricultural commodities.
    • In summary, farm vehicles are ELD-exempt if it’s used to transport agricultural livestock, machinery, or supplies within a 150 air miles radius.
A dashboard of an ELD

How Many Hours Can You Work with an ELD?

An ELD help ensure drivers comply with the maximum allowable HOS limits set by the FMCSA. These limits vary depending on the type of operation, but generally include:

  • 14-hour driving window: Drivers can drive for a maximum of 14 hours within a 16-hour window.
  • 11-hour driving limit: Drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours within a 14-hour consecutive on-duty period.
  • 10-hour break: After 14 hours of on-duty time, drivers must take a minimum 10-hour off-duty break.

An ELD tracks and displays these limits in real-time, notifying drivers when approaching restrictions. Drivers are responsible for planning their breaks and ensuring compliance with HOS regulations. Violating HOS rules can result in fines and penalties.

A trucker infront of his commercial motor vehicle

A Safer Trucking Industry for All

Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) have transformed the commercial trucking industry by modernizing record of duty status with digital monitoring of driver Hours of Service (HOS). This shift prioritizes safety by preventing driver fatigue through enforced limitations on driving and on-duty time.

While electronic logging device exemptions exist for specific operations, understanding who needs to use an ELD and the core HOS regulations is crucial. An ELD system not only enforces these regulations but also offer benefits like improved accuracy, efficiency, and data-driven insights for fleet management.

Whether mandated or not, adopting ELD technology promotes safer roads, fairer competition, and a more efficient transportation industry overall.