An electronic logging device (ELD) is a device or technology that automatically records a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver’s driving time and aids in the accurate recording of the driver’s hours of service, replacing the need for paper records of duty status (logs). Under federal rules, ELDs became mandatory for most interstate CMV drivers December 18, 2017. To be considered an ELD, the device must comply with the requirements of Part 395, Subpart B, particularly the technical specifications in Appendix A. Federal regulations for ELDs were published on December 16, 2015, with an effective date of February 16, 2016, and a compliance deadline of December 18, 2017. Under those rules, motor carriers and drivers may only use ELDs that are registered and self-certified with the FMCSA and listed on the agency’s website. Unlike logging software that may run on a standalone laptop, smartphone, or tablet, an ELD system has a tethered component, meaning a device — sometimes called a “black box” — attached to the vehicle’s electronic control module (ECM) to automatically gather engine-use data. The overall system may include a smartphone or tablet that receives data from the black box, displays it for enforcement (via digital display or printout), and forwards it to the motor carrier for auditing and storage. The ELD must also be capable of transmitting log data electronically to an enforcement official for auditing purposes.
Applicability. Interstate CMV drivers who are subject to the log requirements in §395.8 will need to use ELDs in place of other logging methods by the compliance deadline, with some exceptions. The ELD mandate applies to all types of “commercial motor vehicles” as defined in §390.5, including tractor-trailers, buses, certain pickup trucks, straight trucks, and so on, whether owned, leased, or rented (there is an exception for property-carrying vehicles rented for a period of 8 days or less as stated on the lease or rental agreement). In addition, the mandate applies to all types of CMV drivers, including those who drive for small or even single-unit fleets, drivers who do not hold a commercial driver’s license, and drivers working for private, “non-trucking” operations. Many in-state-only (intrastate) drivers will also need ELDs but the specific requirements, deadlines, and exemptions could vary from state to state. The ELD standards apply to individual drivers and their motor carriers. The fact that one driver needs to use an ELD does not necessarily mean that all drivers or all vehicles at that company must use ELDs. Among drivers for a particular company, some may need ELDs at all times, others may only need ELDs occasionally, while still others may be exempt.
Exemptions. The ELD rule allows limited exceptions to the ELD mandate, including:
- Drivers who operate under the short-haul exceptions may continue using timecards; they are not required to keep RODS and will not be required to use ELDs.
- Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than 8 days out of every 30-day period.
- Drivers who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations, in which the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered.
- Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000.
Grandfathered Devices. Drivers who were using a compliant, automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) as regulated under §395.15, by December 18, 2017, are allowed to continue using the AOBRD until December 16, 2019. By that date, the AOBRD must be updated to meet the new ELD standards or must be replaced. FMCSA also allows fleets, that had grandfathered AOBRDs in use prior to December 18, 2017, to add ELD-compliant devices that run AOBRD compliant (see §395.15) software to vehicles provided that those devices can be updated to ELD-compliant software prior to December 16, 2019.
Using Exceptions. Drivers who are eligible for an exception from an hours-of-service rule, such as the exceptions found in §390.3(f) or §395.1, will still be able to use the exception when using an ELD. The driver would need to add a note to the ELD record to explain the exception being used.
Usage Requirements. The following is an overview of the requirements for using ELDs:
- Data recording — ELDs must automatically record date, time, geographic location (accurate to a one-mile radius), engine hours, vehicle miles, driver/user ID, vehicle ID, and motor carrier ID. Data must be recorded at power-up and shutdown, every change in duty status, at least every hour while the vehicle is moving, whenever a user logs in/out, and when an ELD detects or clears a malfunction or diagnostic event.
- Roadside inspections — During an inspection, drivers must be able to display or print their logs for inspection. Upon request, drivers must
- also transfer their ELD records electronically to the enforcement official for on-the-spot auditing, including logs for today and the prior seven days. There are two acceptable methods for doing this: either a long-distance “telemetric” option (wireless email or web service) or using a local transfer method (USB 2.0 or Bluetooth® technology). A device can use just one of the two options but must be capable of both transfer methods within that option.
- In-vehicle information — Drivers need to have an information packet containing an ELD user manual, an instruction sheet describing how to transfer data (including step-by-step instructions for getting the driver’s records to an enforcement official), an instruction sheet describing what to do when an ELD malfunctions, and enough blank paper logs to last at least eight days.
- Personal use and yard moves — ELDs may be configured to allow drivers to be “off duty” when driving the vehicle for personal use, or “on duty/not driving” when driving the vehicle in an area that is not open to public travel (yard moves). A driver using one of these special categories has to select that category on the ELD before driving, and de-select the category when done. When prompted, the driver must add a note to the ELD describing the activity. The rules do not place a limit on how long these categories may be used. When a driver is using a vehicle for authorized personal use, engine hours and vehicle miles will not be recorded and the location will be recorded with a 10-mile accuracy.
- Driver input — Drivers have to manually input information when prompted by the ELD and required by the motor carrier, including any notes, a location description if needed, and comments needed when transferring data to an enforcement officer. Drivers also have to input or verify the power unit number, trailer number(s), and shipping document number, as applicable.
- Malfunctions — If an ELD malfunctions, the driver must notify the motor carrier in writing within 24 hours; reconstruct his or her logs for the current day and the previous seven days on paper, unless the records are retrievable from the ELD; continue to manually prepare logs until the ELD is fixed; and provide those logs to enforcement upon request. A motor carrier must repair or replace a malfunctioning ELD within eight days unless an extension is requested.
- Harassment — Motor carriers may use ELDs to monitor their drivers’ productivity but they may not use ELD data to harass their drivers. Harassment occurs when a carrier uses ELD data in a way that the carrier knew, or should have known, would result in the driver violating an hours-of-service rule or the prohibition on driving while ill or fatigued. Drivers who believe they were harassed can file a written complaint to the FMCSA within 90 days.
- Log review, editing, and submittal — Drivers have to review their ELD records, edit and correct inaccuracies, enter any missing information, and certify that the information is accurate each day, and then must submit their ELD records to the motor carrier within 13 days. If any edits are needed after an ELD record has been submitted, the driver has to make the edits through the ELD and then re-certify the record. Changes or additions to a record have to be explained. After reviewing a driver’s submitted logs (but not before they have been submitted), the motor carrier can request edits to ensure accuracy. The driver must confirm or reject any proposed changes, make the appropriate edits, and re-certify the record. No one may alter or erase the original information collected concerning a driver’s hours of service.
- Driver access to logs — Drivers must be able to access their own ELD records for the past six months. If the records are retrievable on the ELD, then the driver must be able to access them without having to go through the motor carrier. Otherwise, carriers must provide drivers with access to and copies of their own ELD records on request.
- ELD account management — Motor carriers are required to manage their ELD accounts, including creating, deactivating, and updating accounts and ensuring that properly authenticated individuals have ELD accounts with appropriate rights. Each user must have a unique ELD username, and driver accounts must include each driver’s name, license number, and licensing state. If someone operates an ELD-equipped vehicle without logging in, the ELD data that gets collected has to be stored in an “unidentified driver” account. When a driver logs in to that ELD, the driver will be prompted to review any unassigned driving time and must indicate whether that time belongs to that driver. Motor carriers have to make sure that “unidentified driving” records are reviewed and must assign the time to the correct driver or add notes to explain why the time is unassigned.
AOBRDs. As noted above, drivers who were using a compliant automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) by December 18, 2017, are allowed to continue using the device until at least December 16, 2019 — four years after the ELD rule was issued. By that date, the AOBRD must be updated to meet the ELD standards or must be replaced. The standards for AOBRDs are found in §395.15.
Non-AOBRD/ELD Devices. There are many logging “apps,” laptops, smartphones, and other stand-alone digital devices on the market that can be used to create digital logs. However, without being tethered to the vehicle, these devices are not regulated as AOBRDs or ELDs, and may only be used when a paper log would be allowed, such as a driver in a vehicle with a model year 1999 (per the VIN on the registration) or older.
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