ELD - Electronic Log Device Frequently Asked Questions

Effective February 16, 2016, the United States Department of Transportation amended the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The amendment mandates the use of ELD (Electronic Logging Devices) for most drivers who are responsible for maintaining records of duty status (RODS) data, such as hours of service. The new rule is intended to increase driver safety and simplify the management of RODS data.

What is an ELD?

An electronic logging device (ELD) is a device that is installed in commercial vehicles. The device keeps track of hours of service (HOS) compliance by collecting information on engine status, vehicle movements, length of engine operation, and miles driven. They are physically connected to the engine, though they may have an independent interface, like a smartphone application or dedicated handheld device.

ELDs transmit data wirelessly, which makes them less prone to manipulation than other logging methods.


All AOBRDs fall into the larger category of ELD. Many of these systems and devices already meet compliance requirements. However, providers of these products must follow the same certification procedures to ensure compliance.

What is the ELD Rule?

In accordance with its mission to reduce fatalities and injuries involving commercial vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an office in the United States Department of Transportation, amended its regulations to require the use of electronic logging devices to record HOS data.

The text of the rule describes:

  • Which drivers must use electronic logs
  • Driver empowerment issues
  • Sets guidelines for electronic logbook manufacturers
  • Sets deadlines for compliance

Who Must Be Compliant?

Per the FMCSA, the rule applies to most drivers who are currently required to maintain RODS. This includes commercial buses and trucks, as well as Canadian and Mexican drivers operating in the United States.

Drivers that are not required to be compliant:

  • Those who use paper logs for 8 days or less out of a 30-day period
  • Tow drivers
  • Operators of vehicles manufactured before 2000

How Are Drivers Empowered?

Keeping track of HOS electronically protects drivers from potential harassment or coercion. It also simplifies the paperwork process and reduces recording errors.

The rule defines coercion as a threat to punish a driver by withholding work, taking actions that endanger employment, or other negative consequences if the driver does not agree to commit violations. These threats can come from a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transport intermediary. Potential violations of FMCSA, Hazardous Materials, and Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations are included.

  • Each user has a separate log-in to the elog system. Other users are not able to access or alter other accounts.
  • Driving data is accurately and automatically recorded every hour.
  • Drivers can review and verify information easily. Also, allows drivers to obtain a printout of their electronic logbook.
  • Any edits made to electronic logs must have an explanation.
  • Electronic logbooks protect drivers from working off the clock and pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines.
  • The new regulations include provisions that prevent data tampering and driver harassment.
  • Establishes a process to report and address attempts to coerce drivers into HOS violation.
  • Mandates an ELD mute function, so drivers are not disturbed during rest hours.
  • Creates manufacturing requirements that limit the ability to access and edit elogs.
  • Preserves original records when edits occur.
  • Drivers must certify edits to electronic logs.
  • Drivers must report incidents within 90 days. Written complaints are accepted by the National Consumer Complaint Database or the FMSCA Division Administrator for the state in which the driver is employed.

What Are the Requirements for ELD Manufacturers?

The rule specifies requirements for compliant electronic logging products. After the final compliance date, all ELDs must meet technical specifications as described by the FMCSA. Providers must certify that their products are compliant, and register them with the FMSCA.

While the technical specifications are stringent, they are not restrictive. The guidelines leave space for a wide range of cost-effective devices that can be integrated with existing truck dispatch software to fit the needs of varied business and service types.

Some of the important required specifications are:

ELDs must automatically record date, time, location, engine hours, vehicles miles, driver identity, user authentication, vehicle identification information, and the motor carrier at regular intervals, or when the driver changes duty status indicates a special driving category. If the driver inputs a personal use status, some of this information may not be collected.

Compliant ELD devices must meet roadside electronic data reporting requirements. This makes it easier for safety officials to access electronic logbook information during roadside inspections. Devices can transmit data via wireless internet, Bluetooth, or USB connectivity.

ELDs must be able to display or print out a graph of driver’s daily status changes.

What is Considered a Compliant Device Under the New Rule?

Technical specifications as stated in the rule’s text require compliant devices be hardwired to the truck’s engine. This reduces the ability to tamper with data. Beyond that, many different interfaces can be used to collect, interpret, and transmit collected information:

  • Tablets
  • Smart phones
  • Laptops
  • Other hand-held devices
  • The ability to use these interfaces makes moving to compliance and training easier and reduces initial set-up costs.

If your organization currently uses an automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) to collect HOS data, your equipment may not be compliant with the new rule.

What is the Compliance Deadline?

Current logging method determines compliance deadline.

Those using paper logs – December 18, 2017

Those using AOBRDs (automatic onboard recording devices) – December 16, 2019

The rule establishes a timeline to help ease the transition to compliant reporting methods. This timeline is broken down into three phases.

Phase One: Running from the effective date of February 16, 2017 thru December 18, 2017, this phase gives carriers and drivers time to prepare for full compliance. Early adaptation of ELD methods is encouraged. All logging methods are still valid.

Phase Two: Between December 18, 2017 and December 19, 2019, only two reporting methods will be accepted.

AOBRDs installed before the beginning of Phase Two

Fully compliant ELDs

Phase Three: After December 19, 2019, all drivers must be fully compliant.

What Should I Do to Ensure Timely Compliance?

These steps will ensure that your commercial and fleet vehicles are fully compliant with the new ELD rule by the deadline.

  • Determine if you must comply or if you qualify for an exemption.
  • Determine which compliance date applies to you.
  • Purchase an ELD system from the list of approved devices.
  • Learn how to use your ELD.
  • Review instructions and other documents included with system, and store them in vehicle for easy access.

The rule also mandates that drivers have the following items in their vehicle beginning December 18, 2017:

  • Instruction manuals and user guides for ELD
  • Instructions for transferring HOS records to safety officials
  • Instructions for reporting malfunctions
  • Record keeping procedures during equipment malfunctions
  • Paper tracking forms in case of malfunction

How Do I Use an ELD?

Logging In

All drivers must log in with a unique identifier and password. Owner/operators must have separate logins for driving and administrative roles.

Accounts should be created for support personnel who are authorized to manage user accounts, configure ELD parameters, and access or manage driver records.

When creating accounts, the driver’s license number must be attached to it, along with the state from which it was issued. This information is used to verify driver identity.

If a driver begins a route without logging in, the system will respond when it senses vehicle motion:

A visual or auditory warning will attempt to remind the driver to log in.

Driving information will be logged under an unidentified driver profile. Data will be added to the driver’s profile once login is complete and unassigned driver information has been reviewed.

ELD will not allow information to be input until login is complete.

Duty Status

Drivers are responsible for updating duty status whenever their work-related activities change.

If there has been no duty status change in 60 minutes, the electronic log will collect data once every hour while the vehicle is in motion.

Recognized duty statuses:

  • Driving – automatically engages when vehicle reaches 5 MPH.
  • On-Duty Not Driving – engages when vehicle is not moving for more than 5 consecutive minutes and driver has not input an alternative status. This status will require editing or annotation.
  • Off-Duty – should be used for periods of non-driving on-duty time.
  • Sleeper Berth – select for rest periods.
  • Special driving categories include:
  • Authorized Personal Use – authorized off-duty use of vehicle, such as travel time from home to work site or other incidental travel times.
  • Yard moves – time used to complete yard related activities
  • Adverse Operations – document harsh weather, accidents, and other circumstances that affect driving statistics
  • Oilfield Operations – time used to complete oilfield related activities

Data Transfers

When conducting roadside investigations, safety officials will choose their preferred method of transmission, depending on the ELD in use.

For localized devices, inspectors may connect a USB device to the ELD. The data will be downloaded onto the device, then transferred to the inspector’s laptop or computing device.

For devices with email capabilities, drivers may email electronic logs as an attachment to a secure email address provided by the inspector.

For Bluetooth capable devices, the inspector must pair a computing device to the ELD. To do this, Bluetooth must be activated on the computing device as well as the ELD. A pairing code must be entered to connect and allow data to be downloaded onto the inspector’s device.

For devices with internet capabilities, the inspector will give the driver a routing code. The driver will upload the requested data to an FMSCA server, using the routing code as an identifier. The inspector will then download the files from the secure server.

Malfunctions and Diagnostic Events

Under the rule, ELDs are required to monitor its performance for ongoing technical compliance. It must be able to detect the following issues:

  • Data inconsistencies
  • Synchronization issues
  • Missing data
  • Timing and positioning
  • Data recording and transfer
  • Unidentified driver records

When an event or malfunction occurs, the user will receive a diagnostic event message. Some common event messages include:

  • Power data diagnostic event or power compliance malfunction – indicates an issue with the power supply to the ELD
  • Engine synchronization data diagnostic events or engine synchronization compliance malfunction – indicates the device is not able to receive required data from the engine
  • Missing required data elements data diagnostic event – indicates an empty data field

If an ELD experiences a diagnostic event, follow manufacturer instructions to restore function. Malfunctions may require expert technical support.

Important Notes

ELDs cannot round duty status times to even intervals. They can only record actual time.

When completing a period of Authorized Personal Use, the driver must switch the duty status before powering the vehicle down, or an annotation will be needed at the next login.

Elogs can be programmed to warn drivers when they are approaching HOS limits.

If electronic data transfer is not available, drivers can show compliance by displaying RODS on an electronic display or with a printout.

Systems may vary. Manufacturers often offer training classes and materials that can help you understand your specific ELD.

Are There Advantages to Early Compliance?

Early compliance gives fleet managers and operators time to choose the best system. Current technical specifications may cause some difficulty when attempting to integrate with existing truck dispatch software. Installing systems early means more time to address any glitches that may threaten timely compliance.

Drivers and administrators will have time learn to use ELDs correctly. All staff responsible for compiling, editing, or otherwise accessing RODS should complete all available training, including hands-on demonstrations and readings. This will reduce errors and confusion that can complicate full implementation.

Prophesy, a HighJump product, is committed to supporting owners, operators, fleet managers, and drivers reach compliance easily and efficiently. Prophesy is a fully compliant trucking software that can be operated with your existing mobile devices. We provide ongoing technical training and support for our truck dispatch software and ELD products.