What Is ELD and Why Do Truckers Need It?

What Is ELD and Why Do Truckers Need It?

Man logging trucking data on a tablet.While trucking can be an exciting and rewarding career, it can also mean long days and requires taking the proper precautions to avoid dangerous road conditions. To promote trucker safety and prevent accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that truckers abide by the “14-hour rule,” which says that drivers cannot operate a commercial vehicle for longer than 14 hours at a time. In order to make sure that carriers and trucking companies abide by that rule, the FMCSA also recently began requiring electronic logging devices for most commercial vehicles in the US.

If you’re wondering what an ELD is, what it records, and which drivers need one, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about ELD trucking regulations.

What is an ELD?

You might be wondering what does ELD stands for: an electronic logging device (ELD) is a piece of hardware installed in a commercial vehicle that logs the hours of service (HOS) that a driver travels in a day, among other pieces of data, to ensure the safety of both commercial drivers and others on the road. ELD data is recorded directly from the vehicle’s engine through a device connected to a vehicle’s engine, which reports driving data automatically to the driver’s HOS logs whenever a commercial motor vehicle moves faster than five miles per hour. The vehicle is considered stopped if its speed is zero miles per hour and stays at zero miles per hour for three consecutive seconds.

ELD devices also have an interface with which drivers can interact directly, and many feature an ELD app that offers other features intended to help drivers stay compliant. While it is not a federal requirement, some ELDs also come equipped with functionalities to warn drivers when they reach their HOS limits. 

Most ELDs rely on MOBI to track drivers and capture data about their journeys. While there are many ELD devices to choose from, with many offering other functionalities, such as GPS, all drivers must use an FMCSA-approved device. A complete list of approved devices can be found on the FMCSA website. Though the FMCSA estimates that the average cost of an ELD is around $419 per truck, there are lower-priced options available with monthly service fees as low as $15. The best ELD devices are naturally more expensive, and can cost as much as $899. However, they offer all the mandatory ELD compliance features, plus valuable additional tools for truckers such as voice command, diagnostic tools, touchscreen, and turn-by-turn navigation.

What is the ELD mandate?

The FMCSA ELD mandate went into effect in 2017. It was passed to improve commercial drivers’ working conditions and increase public road safety. Starting in December 2017, vehicles subject to ELD standards were required to begin recording and reporting their HOS via ​​electronic logging devices and a virtual ELD logbook that replaced the old paper logbooks. HOS data is collected directly from a commercial vehicle’s engine and transmitted directly to the virtual logbook.

What information does an ELD capture?

To ensure that commercial drivers are operating under safe working conditions, the FMCSA mandates the collection of an assortment of data from vehicles through their ELD requirements. According to the FMCSA website, the Department of Transportation electronic driver logs automatically collects the following information: date, time location information, engine hours, vehicle miles, and identification information for drivers and other authenticated users, vehicles, and motor carriers. Electronic driver logs also capture safety information, such as harsh braking and collisions. The FMCSA states, “Location data must be recorded by an ELD at 60-minute intervals when the vehicle is in motion, and when the driver powers up and shuts down the engine, changes duty status, and indicates personal use or yard moves.”

However, there are a few pieces of data that the FMCSA does not require for ELD trucking compliance. ELD standards do not require specific street addresses, and electronic devices do not record this information. Instead, the ELD logbook converts “automatically captured vehicle position in latitude/longitude coordinates into geo-location information that indicates the approximate distance and direction to an identifiable location corresponding to the name of a nearby city, town, or village, with a state abbreviation.”

Furthermore, electronic logging devices are only required to capture data about compliance with HOS regulations, and it is not legally required for ELDs to record information about “vehicle speed, braking action, steering function or other vehicle performance parameters.”

For drivers who work in teams, each team member must be logged in to ELD trucking systems at all times. Co-drivers cannot switch driving roles within the ELD mandate log in while the vehicle is in motion. In addition to automatically recorded data, drivers can save their HOS information using an Excel spreadsheet, printout, notebook or other software that comes with their electronic logging device. The driver not operating the vehicle may manually update their information while the vehicle is in motion.

Why do truckers need ELD?

Trucking is a challenging job that requires long hours and often involves dangerous working conditions. In fact, according to the United States Department of Labor, workers in the trucking industry experience the most fatalities of any occupation in the US. Trucking industry fatalities accounted for 11% of all worker deaths in the country in 2017. And 75% of these deaths were due to “transportation incidents,” per the OSHA website.

To protect truckers’ safety, the FMCSA has instituted protections that state drivers cannot operate for more than 14 hours after coming on duty and must be provided with 10 hours of off-duty time between each shift. Because truckers can work in teams, those safety standards do not necessarily mean that trucks must be idle 10 hours a day.

Still, e-logs for truckers ensure that drivers are not overworked, which can lead to dangerous conditions. The FMCSA estimates that the ELD mandate will save lives, prevent accidents, and save money each year by reducing collisions. The organization estimates that ELD devices for trucks will help avoid 1,844 crashes, prevent 562 injuries, and save 26 lives each year.

In addition to helping save lives and prevent injuries due to crashes, the ELD trucking mandate also holds employers accountable. Reporting time on the road through an electronic logging device connected directly to a vehicle’s engine makes it much more difficult for employers to enforce unsafe and unreasonable demands on workers. The FMCSA has found that HOS violations have decreased dramatically since implementing ELD standards.

Who is required to have an ELD?

Nearly every driver who operates a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) used for hire to move goods or passengers interstate is subject to the ELD mandate. The FMCSA states that vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds or “have a gross vehicle weight rating or a gross combination weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds” must be equipped with an electronic logging device. However, ELD compliance doesn’t just apply to vehicles intended to haul freight. Any vehicle designed to carry nine or more passengers (including the driver) for hire or vehicles designed to carry 16 or more non-paying passengers (including the driver) must also meet ELD standards. And finally, any vehicle that hauls enough hazardous material to require warning signs must prove ELD compliance. Who is required to have an ELD?

What are the ELD mandate exemptions?

There are a few exceptions to ELD compliance rules. Though they may still be subject to the 16-hour rule, drivers who use paper logs rather than an electronic logbook for truckers for no more than eight days during a 30-day period are not subject to ELD requirements, along with driveaway or towaway drivers where the vehicle is either a commodity or if the vehicle transported is a motorhome or a recreational vehicle. However, in the latter instance, at least one set of wheels on the transported vehicle must remain on the surface of the transport vehicle. Drivers of vehicles made before the model year 2000 do not need to be equipped with electronic logging devices either.

A few agencies are also offered exemptions to the ELD mandate by the Department of Transportation. These exemptions include the Truck Leasing and Renting Association, the Motion Picture Association, and the United Parcel Service. However, vehicles and organizations included in ELD mandate exemptions may still be equipped with electronic logbooks for truck drivers by their individual employers.

What is the ELD required paperwork?

It’s a well-known fact that truck driving means completing and storing quite a bit of paperwork. And while electronic logbooks for truck drivers do reduce a bit of that paperwork– namely, the paper logs that carriers and owner-operators relied on before the advent of electronic logging devices–new technology doesn’t mean the end of paperwork entirely. Carriers and owner-operators still need to keep hard copies of some documents in their vehicles at all times. Failure to comply could result in penalties during DOT inspections. The documents required to prove that a vehicle complies with FMCSA regulations are called ELD mandate paperwork. This paperwork includes an FMCSA-approved ELD user manual, instructions on how to transfer ELD data to an authorized official, instructions on what to do if an ELD experiences a malfunction, and eight days of blank records of duty graph-grids to remain compliant should the ELD malfunction.

If you want to make sure you’re compliant without the hassle, let DAT CleanFleet help ensure you’re always up-to-date on federal regulations so that you can get on the road worry-free. Contact us today and let DAT’s solutions help you with all your compliance-related needs!

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