The ELD Mandate

In December 2015 the FMCSA issued its final rule on Electronic Logging Devices. Commonly known as the ELD Mandate, this rule dictates that almost all commercial drivers who are required to keep Hours of Service logs are now required to use electronic logs. The rule itself is over 500 pages long, so we will hit the most important highlights here. We’ll start with the short version, and then get into more detail below…


  • Every driver who is currently required to keep Hours of Service logs must now use ELDs (with a few rare exceptions, see below). There is no exception for small fleets or independent drivers.
  • Fleets using paper logs must switch to ELDs by December 2017
  • Fleets using an existing AOBRD version of electronic logs will have until December 2019 to update to an ELD compliant system.
  • ELDs are required to connect to the vehicle’s ECM and automatically detect motion and log Driving time.




When do you have to comply with the ELD Mandate? The answer is pretty simple, but it depends on how you were keeping logs before the December 2017 deadline:

  • Drivers and fleets who were running paper logs have to be completely switched to ELDs by December 18, 2017.
  • Those who were already using an existing electronic log system under the previous regulations (known as AOBRDs) will be given an extra 2 years, and will not have to upgrade to ELD compliant devices until December 16, 2019

Who has to use ELDs?

The mandate is pretty close to universal. If you are required to keep Hours of Service logs, then you are most likely required to start using an ELD. But there are a few exceptions…

  • Short-haul drivers who work within a 100 (or 150 for non-CDL) air-mile radius (as defined by FMCSA 395.1).
    • These drivers are not currently required to keep a log, and instead are permitted to use timecards. So they do not need to use an ELD.
    • Note however that short-haul drivers who occasionally go beyond the 100 air-mile radius are required to keep an Hours of Service log for that day and should pay attention to this next exception rule.
  • Drivers who are required to keep HOS logs no more than 8 days out of any 30 day period
    • For example, if the short-haul driver mentioned above does occasionally go beyond the 100 air-mile radius, he is required to keep logs instead of a timecard for those days. He can normally do this using a paper log, not an ELD. BUT, if these cases become more frequent and he ends up needing to use a log for more than 8 out of any 30 days, then he is required to switch to an ELD.
    • This rule is a bit confusing, and requires some planning in advance. If a driver is likely to ever be close to the 8 days out of 30 limit, it is best to go ahead and equip an ELD. But if the need for logs is very rare, they can safely continue to use timecards with paper logs for the few exceptional days.
  • Driveaway-towaway operations
    • When the vehicle being driven is itself the product being delivered, an ELD is not required.
  • Trucks manufactured before model year 2000
    • Older truck engines do not always have the ECM capabilities required by ELDs, so anything prior to model year 2000 has been given an exception to the ELD rule.
    • Note that some pre-2000 model trucks do have ECM capabilities, and there is nothing in the rule to prevent you from outfitting those vehicles with an ELD if you want to.

Note that there is NO exception given for individual owner operators or small fleets. Every fleet, no matter the size, will have to start using ELDs, unless they fall into one of the few categories above.

How ELDs work

The mandate describes a lot of specific technical requirements that a device must meet in order to qualify as an ELD. Manufacturers are required to self-certify that their devices meet the ELD standards. When they do so, the device is added to the FMCSA’s list of accepted ELDs. Note that this qualification is self-certified, so it’s important to learn about the mandate requirements for yourself and vet all your potential ELD providers to make sure they really do comply with the standards. This site, and our expert consultants can help you with this process.

Here is some of the key functionality that all ELDs are required to provide:

Connect to the ECM An ELD must connect to the truck’s engine computer (ECM). The primary reason for is so the ELD can detect when the truck is being driven, and put the driver into Driving status automatically. Solutions that run only on a smart phone using GPS to detect motion without any connection to the ECM are NOT a valid ELD.

Fix mounted display While the truck is in motion, the display unit of the ELD must be securely mounted where the driver can easily see it. A loose display device in a driver’s pocket or in the glove compartment is not allowed. Most ELD vendors provide some sort of mounting hardware with their product.

Automatic Duty Status changes There are a few scenarios in which the ELD must automatically change the driver’s duty status:

  • As soon as the truck moves over 5mph, the ELD will switch to Driving status. There is no distance or time buffer.
  • While in Driving status, if the truck stops for 5 minutes the ELD will ask the driver if they want to switch to On Duty or remain in Driving status. If the driver doesn’t respond within 1 minute, the ELD will automatically switch to On Duty status.

Special Duty Statuses The ELD must give the driver the ability to use a couple of special duty status modes for certain situations:

Personal Conveyance – When the driver is using the vehicle for personal transportation, they are not required to log Driving time. The exact requirements for Personal Conveyance are somewhat tricky, but the ELD must provide the driver a way to switch to Personal Conveyance mode in such situations. Driving while in Personal Conveyance mode is counted as Off Duty time, but must in some way be visible to enforcement officers and auditors when they review the logs.

Yard Moves – When driving within a facility or lot of some kind, the driver may put the ELD in Yard Move mode, which will allow them to move the truck while logging On Duty time rather than Driving time.

Unidentified Driving If the truck moves without a driver logged into the ELD, the driving time will be recorded as “Unidentified”. This could happen for a variety of reasons such as the driver forgot to log in, or a mechanic was moving the truck. Any unassigned driving must be presented to the driver the next time they log in. They will have the option to confirm that the driving time belongs on their log, or to rejected it as belonging to someone else (like a mechanic). Back office staff will also have the ability to review all instances of unassigned driving and assign it to the appropriate person.

Transmitting Logs to Law Enforcement The ELD must be able to send logs to law enforcement officers during an inspection. There are two basic categories of transmission (Telematics and Local), and each of those categories contains two methods of sending the log info:

  • Telematics – log data is sent via Email or Web Services
  • Local – log data is sent via Bluetooth or USB

An ELD is required to support BOTH methods in at least one of those two categories. So if your ELD vendor chooses the Telematics option, they will need to support sending logs via Email AND Web Services. Law Enforcement agencies are required to support one method from each category. So for example, the state of Illinois might choose to receive logs via Email and USB. These requirements ensure any law enforcement officer will have a method to get logs from any ELD, no matter which of the methods they’ve each chosen to adopt.

In addition to these transfer methods, ELDs must also be able to display log information visually to an officer. This can be done via an electronic screen display, or a paper print out.

ELD Malfunctions

Like any technology, ELDs will sometimes malfunction and need to be repaired. When this happens, the driver is required to switch immediately to paper logs. So drivers must have a blank paper log book with them at all times. The driver has to begin a paper log, and recreate today and the past 7 days of logs, unless the prior logs can be recovered from the ELD or back office system for him. Carriers are required to get a malfunctioning ELD fixed within 8 days, or apply for an extension with FMCSA if more time is needed.

Supporting Documents

Carriers are required to retain (for six months) certain supporting documents that verify a driver’s log. For each driver on each day, they must retain up to 8 supporting documents. “Up to 8” means that not all days need to have 8 supporting documents, but the carrier must retain all that a driver sends them for that day, up to 8 documents. If the carrier receives more than 8 documents from a driver for a given day, they must keep at least the first and the last of that day (and 6 others of their choosing) but they are not required to retain any more than 8. Most carriers will likely find it easier to just retain all supporting documents they receive, rather than pick and choose ones to discard beyond 8.

Types of valid supporting documents include:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, or equivalent documents that indicate the origin and destination of each trip
  • Dispatch records, trip records, or equivalent documents
  • Expense receipts
  • Electronic mobile communication records, reflecting communications transmitted through a fleet management system (FMS)
  • Payroll records, settlement sheets, or equivalent documents that indicates payment to a driver

Each supporting document should contain the following 4 pieces of information:

  • Driver name, ID, or some means of linking the document to the driver
  • Date
  • Location (including name of nearest city, town, or village)
  • Time

Harassment and Coercion

The original ELD mandate from 2011 was struck down in federal court because it was argued the rule did not sufficiently prevent ELDs from being used to harass drivers and coerce them to break hours of service regulations. As such, the new rule has taken several steps to address these issues:

  • Carriers and brokers are subject to a $16,000 penalty if they are shown to have coerced a driver to violate hours of service regulations.
  • The driver owns his or her logs. They are able to make edits to the log themselves, with the exception of editing Driving time. And any edits made by the back office must be approved by the driver before taking effect.
  • The ELD must have a mute function that allows noises to be shut off while the driver is in Sleeper Berth or Off Duty status. This is to prevent carriers from disturbing drivers while they are trying to get their rest.
  • While in Personal Conveyance mode, GPS accuracy of the ELD system will be limited to a 10 mile radius. This is to give the driver some privacy of location while using the vehicle on personal time. During the normal on duty working day, GPS must be at least accurate to within 1 mile.

Got all that??

It’s a lot of information, and the actual rule is much, much longer. If you have questions or want some advice, please feel free to Contact Us

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