What Is ELD? Everything You Need to Know About Electronic Logging Devices

Driving long distances can result in driver fatigue and increase the risk of collisions, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put regulations in place to reduce these occurrences.

One of these is the requirement that commercial drivers may need to have an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) installed in their vehicles depending on the size of the vehicle, distance traveled, etc.

In this article, we’ll look at what ELDs are and how they work. We’ll also look at who needs to have them installed and how you can ensure ELD compliance.

What is ELD?

ELD stands for Electronic Logging Device. It’s a piece of hardware that plugs directly into a vehicle’s Engine Control Unit (ECU) to record data like driving hours, miles driven, and more.

An ELD includes an interface that drivers can use to check their current status, complete daily logs, and present driver logs for roadside inspections. Most importantly, an ELD automatically records Hours of Service (HOS) — a regulation that ensures commercial drivers are not exceeding the maximum number of hours they can drive.


Using an electronic logging device

Under the ELD mandate or ELD Final Rule of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), many commercial vehicles must have an ELD device installed. The devices must be registered and approved by the FMCSA.

The ELD mandate applies to most motor carriers and commercial drivers who are required to maintain a record of duty status (RODS). It went into effect on December 18, 2017, with further extensions until December 16, 2019, for fleets using older automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs).

What data does an ELD capture?

Commercial drivers must maintain a driver’s log or daily record for each 24-hour period. Drivers previously, would keep these records in paper form. However, the ELD mandate has made paper logbooks largely obsolete.

An ELD makes recordkeeping more efficient and automatically captures details like:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location details
  • Engine hours
  • Miles driven
  • HOS
  • Duty status

In addition to ELD compliance information, a telematics system like CalAmp Trucking Telematics application, can also provide the following data points:

  • GPS locations
  • Fuel consumption
  • Engine diagnostics
  • Engine fault codes
  • Driving behavior (harsh braking, hard cornering, tailgating)
  • Crash incidents

Monitoring driving behavior with telematics

These data points enable fleet managers to gain a holistic view of their fleet, improving efficiency, monitoring asset utilization, and even boosting driver safety.

For example, you can receive real-time alerts when a vehicle triggers an engine fault code or diagnostic trouble code (DTC). If this happens, you can ask the operator to drive to a service station or send someone over to assist.

How does an ELD transmit data?

In addition to recording data like hours of service, an ELD can also transmit data back to a fleet manager or a Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) inspector during a roadside inspection to ensure ELD compliance. When an inspector requests data, the driver connects the ELD to an FMCSA network and enters a validation code to start the transfer via a web service. The inspector finds the ELD file and downloads the data.

There are three main ways that an ELD transmits data:

  • Web services: An inspector may request a data transfer using web services. A driver connects the ELD to an FMCSA network and enters a validation code to start the transfer. The inspector finds the ELD file and downloads the data.
  • Bluetooth: ELDs may also transmit data via Bluetooth. A driver selects a Bluetooth data transfer option on their device and enters a code to pair it with an inspector’s laptop. Once connected, the official can find the ELD file and review it.
  • USB: If transmitting data via web services or Bluetooth isn’t possible, an inspector can connect a USB device to the ELD, download the relevant files, and review them on their laptop.

Transfers via web services are the preferred method during roadside inspections. However, your ELD should support other data transfer methods in case an internet connection isn’t available.

Who needs to comply with the ELD mandate?

The federal ELD mandate was put in place to improve driver safety and make it easier for drivers to track their Hours of Service (HOS). The FMCSA estimates that the ELD mandate will prevent 1,844 crashes and save 26 lives annually.

In addition to using an FMCSA-compliant ELD, drivers must have the following onboard the CMV:

  • User’s manual: Every ELD works differently. CMVs must have a manual that provides step-by-step instructions for operating the ELD.
  • Instruction sheets: CMVs must have instruction sheets that detail transferring HOS data to an inspection official. It must also have instructions for reporting ELD malfunctions and maintaining records during such instances.
  • Blank paper grids: If an ELD malfunctions, there must be a supply of blank paper grids for drivers to record their RODS for a minimum of 8 days.

The ELD rule applies to many CMV drivers, but there are some exceptions. If you fall into one of the following categories, you don’t need to install an ELD in your vehicle:

  • Short haul drivers: The FMCSA defines a short-haul driver as anyone who transports goods within a 150-mile air radius of their normal work reporting location. They must also go off-duty within 14 hours.
  • Pre-2000 vehicles: Vehicles manufactured in 1999 or earlier don’t have an engine control module (ECM), which is needed for an ELD. If you operate a vehicle that was made before 2000, it qualifies for an exemption.
  • Drivers with 8 days of RODS or less: Drivers who maintain RODS for 8 days or less within a 30-day period are exempt from the ELD rule. However, if a driver maintains RODS for longer, they’ll be expected to comply for the remaining period.
  • Towaway drivers: Towaway drivers who are transporting a CMV are not required to install an ELD in their vehicle. This is because the drivers aren’t actually operating the CMV that they’re transporting.
  • Agricultural and farm vehicles: Finally, farm and livestock vehicles aren’t required to have an ELD installed unless they travel beyond a 150-mile radius.
  • Size of Vehicle: Vehicles that are under 10,000 lbs. are not required to comply with the ELD mandate.

Even if a vehicle or driver qualifies for an ELD exemption, there are still regulations that you need to follow. For example, drivers who operate a pre-2000 vehicle are still required to record their duty status like hours of service and mileage on paper.

How can you use ELD to improve your fleet operations?

Even if you’re not legally required to have an ELD installed, there are still many benefits of ELDs. Here’s how an ELD and fleet management software like CalAmp’s can improve your fleet operations.

Maintain ELD compliance

The ELD mandate was designed to improve working conditions for commercial drivers and prevent fatigue by mandating the use of an ELD to comply with HOS regulations.

Failure to comply can result in a penalty of $1,388 each day the violation continues, which goes up to $13,885. Drivers will also be unable to legally drive until they’re compliant. Installing an FMCSA-certified ELD ensures that your company complies with the ELD mandate.

Improve driver safety

Driver safety is of the utmost importance. By combining an ELD with a telematics solution like the CalAmp Fleet Telematics application, you can receive alerts when drivers engage in risky driving behaviors like hard cornering, speeding, and tailgating.

Improving driver safety with ELD

Paired with an integrated video telematics solution, you can monitor driver activity and coach drivers on safer driving.

Assist with dispatch

The best ELDs are equipped with a built-in GPS tracker. Dispatchers can see where vehicles are in real-time, allowing them to give customers accurate ETAs.

Once a driver is finished with a job or delivery, you can log into the system and update their route. With real-time vehicle tracking, ELDs simplify fleet management and optimize route planning. They also eliminate the need to call drivers for check-ins.

Improve CSA score

The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) is a program that the FMCSA created to improve CMS safety and reduce accidents. CSA scores range from 0 to 100. Lower scores indicate a low safety risk, while higher scores are considered high risk.

Ideally, you want to keep your CSA scores as low as possible, as it can lead to lower insurance premiums and fewer audits. With the right ELD, you can monitor driving behavior and ensure that your drivers are following best safety practices. This can help you improve your CSA scores.

How to ensure ELD compliance

If you operate a CMV, there’s a good chance you must comply with the ELD mandate. Failure to comply can result in heavy penalties and leave drivers unable to drive.

The first step to ensuring ELD compliance is to choose the right ELD. According to the FMCSA, compliant ELDs must support the following functions:

  • Offer separate accounts: An ELD must offer an account structure that lets drivers and support personnel (non-drivers) create their own accounts.
  • Record driving time: An ELD must automatically record driving time at 60-minute intervals, including date, time, location, engine hours, and driver identification. It must also automatically switch to driving mode after a CMV reaches five miles per hour.
  • Annotations and edits: Drivers must be able to edit their logs, but original records cannot be overwritten.
  • Data transfers: An ELD must support data transfer via wireless web services or through Bluetooth and USB devices.
  • Graph grid display: If a data transfer fails, inspection officials must be able to view detailed log information through a graph grid.

Finally, manufacturers must certify that their ELDs meet all technical standards. They must also be registered with the FMCSA to fully comply with the ELD mandate.


ELDs are electronic devices that record information like driving time, number of miles driven, and location details. While there are exceptions, many CMVs must have these devices installed.

If your fleet needs to comply with the federal ELD mandate, you risk incurring heavy penalties by not deploying the technology. Fortunately, you don’t have to look far for a FMCSA-compliant ELD that meets all technical requirements.

CalAmp has partnered with assured Techmatics to deliver a driver-friendly and fully compliant ELD solution. apollo ELD makes it easy for drivers to manage their HOS logs, complete daily vehicle inspections, and more.

Combined with the CalAmp Fleet Telematics application, you’ll be able to meet ELD compliance regulations and gain real-time visibility into your fleet. Request a demo today to see our telematics solution in action, or contact our team for further assistance.

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