5 Things You Need to Know About ELDs

Fleets prepared to make the necessary changes to every facet of their operation will be more successful transitioning to e-logs.

April 2016, - WebXclusive

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

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Printing is one of several ways e-logs can be presented to enforcement officials at roadside. (Photo courtesy Continental VDO.)
Printing is one of several ways e-logs can be presented to enforcement officials at roadside. (Photo courtesy Continental VDO.)

Electronic logging devices to track driver hours of service become mandatory in December 2017. Everything you need to know about compliance is spelled out in the final rule, but here's a quick look at some of the more common sources of confusion – and a few things you'll need to consider that are not spelled out in the text of the rule. A couple of these points will be of particular interest to really small carriers and independents.

1. Self-certified doesn't mean compliant.

FMCSA has left it up to suppliers to certify that devices they offer meet all the requirements of the rule. The agency offers a rather lengthy checklist to help suppliers but does no verification of its own. The onus is on the vendor to self-certify their product, says Joel Beal of JBA Telematics. “It's the honor system,” Beal explained in a recent webinar, “because FMCSA says they don't have the budget to check all of the product that's coming to market.”

It's still early days, but Beal says there are already what appear to be some non-compliant devices on FMCSA's list of self-verified devices. He recommends asking the vendor to supply all the documentation they used in the self-certification process as well as all the driver documentation.

“For example, if you operate under the California agricultural exemption or the oil field exemption or into Canada [a Canadian ELD rule is forthcoming], make sure the device you choose fits with and can comply with the rules you operate under,” Beal advises.

2. The required supporting documents.

This requirement could prove to be a burden to some carriers because it takes us back to the retention of paper, or it will require the manual conversion of a paper receipt to some form of digital image. Drivers are required to retain all related documentation for a period of eight days, but receipts must be submitted to the carrier no later than 13 days after the document comes into the driver's possession. The final rule states this requirement is to verify on-duty not driving time.

The rule says carriers must retain each supporting document generated or received in the normal course of business, and goes on to say that carriers need not retain more than eight supporting documents. Among them must be the earliest and the latest time indications of all the documentation.

Supporting documentation can include dispatch records, trip records, expense receipts related to on-duty not driving time, payroll records, settlement sheets, etc. They must include appropriate data to link the record to a driver and a date and trip as well as the time, location, etc. Such documents must be retained for six months.

3. There are (a few) exemptions.

The list of operations exempt from using electronic logs under the new federal mandate is short – three to be precise.

  • Drivers who are on time cards, typically those that operate within a 100-air-mile radius of the terminal. Some casual drivers are exempt as well, provided they work no more than eight days out of 30.
  • Drive-away and tow-away operations, typically those that deliver or ferry new or used trucks from factories to dealers or customers.
  • Trucks manufactured for model-year 1999 or earlier, which may not have the electronic infrastructure to support ELDs.    

4. What happens during Inspections.

At roadside, inspectors will be looking for a certification sticker supplied by the manufacturer and the handbook explaining how the ELD is used. When asked to produce the log, the driver may electronically transfer the information to the officer via email using an identifier unique to that inspection request, or via bluetooth or USB file transfer. The driver may also hand the officer printed copies of the logs if a printer is available. A fourth option is handing the device to the inspector if it is not tethered to the vehicle or if the cable is long enough to reach outside the truck.

In a facility audit, inspectors can demand six months of logs, in which case the carrier can display the logs on screen or in printed form. Inspectors can also ask to see any edits performed on the logs, meaning they will need the originals of all electronic records of duty status. They will also ask to see supporting documents (see number 2). 

5. Interoperability of different devices.

Managing owner-operators’ use of ELDs could be among the biggest challenges here, but it's certainly not the only one. Allowing each owner-operator to use the ELD of his or her choice could require a lot of back-end infrastructure on the carrier’s part. On the other hand, requiring owner-operators to acquire and use your choice of ELD could pose some hiring and retention strife. Depending on how you manage it, management's decision could impose significant cost on one party or the other.

Your approach also runs the risk of compromising the arm's-length carrier/owner-operator relationship. In the replies to various comments contained in the full document, FMCSA says, “the independent contractor relationship is outside the scope of this rulemaking,” so you're on your own on this front.

In a broader context, there may be reasons one brand or type of ELD might suit one division of the company better than another, or in the event of a merger or acquisition, there could be significant cost associated with “retooling.”

Learn more about living with ELDs in the April issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.


  1. 1. Jeff Dewane [ April 07, 2016 @ 04:46AM ]


  2. 2. Carlton [ April 07, 2016 @ 06:01AM ]

    This is the day I and others I work with will quit. I cannot operate this stuff and I have all the expense I need. I hop the ATA and big trucking companies are happy with putting us small carriers out of business. THANKS to all lobbist and politicians for putting us out of work.

  3. 3. Jeff Newman [ April 07, 2016 @ 01:01PM ]


    The telematics (ELD) units are simple for the drivers to operate and quick to learn. It is to make life easier for everyone. The back office will need the most training but again, once you have a reputable company training and continuing to help you on-going, your return on investment is fast.

  4. 4. Mike Welch [ April 07, 2016 @ 04:18PM ]

    This is nothing more than special interest pushing for this mandate.
    If there was any statistics to back this need, I would be all for it. If the truth was part of this rule, it would have been thrown out a long time ago.

    I believe the ppl running these electronic logs have already proved the end result. Lets look at some statistics on carriers with and without. Who is having the issue with safety? None of us are perfect. The majority of us have a record to show this is no more than the government sticking their nose in for more control.

    Over 2 million miles and now I need a computer to tell me when I need to sleep. I need a computer to tell my family I will not be home for a weekend camping trip. Sorry kids, I ran out of hrs 2 hrs from home.

    I'm here to tell anyone reading this. I will be heading to the house, regardless what the perfect computer is allowing! Oh, and by the way. The law makers of this awesome idea would be parked right along side of me at the campground if they had the same situation for their family to deal with.

    Your sitting at a truck stop in Gary, IN outside of Chicago. It's winter time, snow storm is hitting right before morning rush. You are wide awake at 2 am, no traffic, no snow, your electronic log will allow you to leave to head up through town @ 6 am. Lets talk safety! 1 thing your not talking, that would be commonsense!

  5. 5. Steven C. Hacker [ April 08, 2016 @ 02:31AM ]

    There is a little misconception in #3 "Exemptions" that is not explained in this story. Companies and Drivers who are on time cards ARE required to use ELD's when there are any drivers that go outside of the 12 hour/100 air-mile radius for any "8 days in any 30-day period". In essence, if you have drivers that are consistently going over the 12-hour period or 100 air-mile radius, where currently a log would have to be completed, an ELD will be required. Meaning that most operations will need the ELD (i.e. Sanitation/Trash collections, LTL local drivers, etc.).

  6. 6. Ron Dunaway [ April 08, 2016 @ 05:28AM ]

    A computer will NEVER have common sense. Isn't Swift on ELD's, just read that 1 in 10 drivers have had accidents. ELD's DON'T replace common sense!!

  7. 7. Ron Dunaway [ April 08, 2016 @ 05:31AM ]

    Swift transportation has been on ELD's for some time, 1 in 10 have accidents. ELD's DON'T replace common sense!!

  8. 8. Cliff Downing [ April 09, 2016 @ 08:03AM ]

    While this is foreboding to many, it is not much of a problem in practice. I have seen no appreciable evidence one way or another that ELD's have had any effect on accident frequencies. it is disingenuous to compare the mega carrier accident rates to others, simply because those type of carriers typically have low experienced, relatively new drivers to the field, whose accident frequency in inherently higher anyway. Accident frequencies of those type of operations was higher than the norm even before they opted for E-logs. I opted to have electronic logs installed on my personal truck by the smaller carrier I am with, 4 years ago. The cost to me was no more than the same $10 a week for the non e-log Qualcomm, no deposits, installation fees, nothing. As for trip planning, yes, one is going to have to be more proactive in that regard. Weather issues can have an effect, but thankfully to all the technology we have on smart phones, laptops, etc, one can usually keep problems to a minimum. I research weather before I even leave as part of my route planning. I have continual traffic condition updates, statewide for each state, that not only shows traffic problems, but alternative routes to avoid. If one has the will to make things work out, they can.

  9. 9. Kevin [ April 13, 2016 @ 06:35AM ]

    Since forced to go to EL my revenue has dropped in half and I am about to loose my trk for all the BS and setting from the company I am leased to! How can I turn this around before I loose everything?

  10. 10. Kathy [ April 14, 2016 @ 06:29AM ]

    As with anything, if you put all your eggs in one basket, you are going to have problems. I can't speak to Swift's problems but Werner Enterprises has been using Electronic logs longer than anyone and their drivers swear by it.

    Werner also has a good safety program because their accident rate is incredible considering they have over 10,000 drivers and ran 952,452,762 miles in 2015.

    So life is what you make of it. Some of my company's biggest complainers about electronic logs have completely turned around on the subject and really like it. They say since dispatch always knows where they are they are getting better dispatch and more loads.

    It takes more planning of your day by the driver but shouldn't you always have been planning your day? After all it is your job.

    We have also seen a significant improvement in our CSA scores and no I don't work for Werner.

  11. 11. RUSS [ April 14, 2016 @ 10:31AM ]

    The reason is Werner Started all this crap long time ago. ... with the driver mill. They were having drivers get out of their trucks and walking away...

    ELDs will not make anyone safer. Its the person driving the truck that makes it safe or not.

    I don't see anywhere any exception for LTL and muti load haulers. I can see where fresh foods are going to get real expensive. You are going to have to put teams ( THAT YOU CAN"T FIND NOW ) to do this work....

  12. 12. JPMINN [ April 14, 2016 @ 11:26AM ]

    I have a one truck operation. My own authority. I drive 300 miles a day, 5-6 days a week. Why does someone like me need and ELD?

  13. 13. Maza_Y [ April 14, 2016 @ 02:36PM ]

    I haul containers back and forth from NJ, NY piers, workers inside piers are nasty, lousy, lazy human beings. All because they are covered by the union., that's ran an operated by legalized Italian MOB. Sometimes I spend half a day dropping or picking up a container, all because the lazy workers feel like they can play games, watch movies on their phones, sleep etc.. in their cranes. I feel like there is no way to turn the ELD rule around, but I bet it will have an affect on the union and it's lazy crew. Have a good day.

  14. 14. sherry [ April 14, 2016 @ 03:08PM ]

    My husband has been an owner/operator since 1980 and when this goes into affect he is done.The bright people in Washington do not take into consideration that drivers loose alot of time sitting waiting to load and unload or traffic jams,accidents I could go on but it is not going to make any difference.Until you truck drivers start sticking together, like they used to, the government is always going to be in your pocket taking a little here a little there till you have nothing and are working twice as hard just to survive.Are any of you members of OOIDA if not you should be, that is one group that is fighting for all of you..As soon as congress passed this bill OOIDA had their lawyers filing a lawsuit against it the very next day. They got it blocked the last time.This time around they are demanding studys showing that driver fatigue, and not the fact that drivers are not being properly trained, are the cause of most accidents.Only when store shelves start going bare because loads can't be delivered on time because a driver is sitting along the roadside because he was told to take a nap, will the public get it ! And I have one last question, were are all of you going to park when your black box goes off and you have very little time to find a spot, you fight now for spots in a truckstop?

  15. 15. Mr. Obvious [ April 15, 2016 @ 04:41AM ]

    From what I'm seeing, the people that are complaining, are the ones that are lying on their log book anyways. What's wrong can't run two logs now? HOS are HOS, if one actually followed the HOS law, then what has changed? For me, I went from paper to an ELD, and I prefer it over paper! Training? For what? It is simple and does all the work for the driver and the office. Yes, I have my own company,authority, and trucks, and am an interstate carrier and possible sitting beside you at the truck stop. To all the ones quitting, all I can say is thanks for giving me more opportunities, if you can't adapt get out, BYE BYE!

  16. 16. Lee Lenard [ April 15, 2016 @ 12:42PM ]

    Mike Welch is right.....takes the common sense and safety out of driving especially when out of the ordinary circumstances occur. I drive in two systems, have for past 7 years with ELD and in the second system with paper logs.....I know and realize I am a much safer driver with paper log because there is that few minutes of fudge factors of not having to count down to minutes. Just today, ELD says have to take break in 20 min or go into violation.......someone please tell me where to take a break on I-75 or I-285 in morning rush/crash hour in Atlanta! Yes had to run 65-70 mph thru a 55 mph construction zone with active workers, ran two red lights and cut off couple cars @ shopping center just to get stopped with 1 minute left.....with log book I would never never dare or need to do this.

  17. 17. Richard [ April 20, 2016 @ 09:24AM ]

    Lee, I am sorry but you just added to the filthy governments power.
    What ypou and every trucker should do is STOP when your ELD says you must.
    Hopefully you are carrying oxygen to a medical care facility that is running low and this caused a huge problem.
    This would rest on the shoulders of the stinking government, not yours.

  18. 18. Rock in Velvet [ June 09, 2016 @ 02:05PM ]

    As dreams go, this is a great one, but like the national shutdown, most drivers couldn't risk getting a reprimand and a lecture, " what the blazes is the matter with you?". Or getting canned. Fair pay for a fair day, the same hours (11) every day and non-driving hourly pay. That would result in more safe drivers than all the spying and robotic controls you can imagine, because, you see the system itself is broke. The article mentioning that with all this hourly data, they can dispatch you better is just silly. If I say I will be in SLC on Monday,, how much more verification do you need? This seems to revolve more on dispatchers, Our hats off to the good ones, which are few and far between, but many are untrained ex-hairdressers or minimum wagers. We still see this whole issue as bringing a gun to a knife fight. And the subject and the rules of the fight are still unclear. Is it HOS? Why? If so, why hook to the engine, why say eat your veges, go beddy-bye now. Why don't the elogs stop the real problem which is unpaid hours and erratic pay per day? And perhaps it's time to bring in the Truck stops and the law to sit at the table with the drivers and come to an understanding. Drivers snack too much & diners are getting too expensive. Pushing drivers to artificial deadlines creates traffic issues. Blue plate speci

  19. 19. Rock in Velvet [ June 09, 2016 @ 02:54PM ]

    (to finish) Blue plate specials, reasonable salaries and even houred days would go a longer ways towards safety than all the digital gods could ever hope to force with their machines. Let's start a dialogue on this. What can we do to create this better world, this world of the best profession a gypsy could want.

  20. 20. RICK [ July 04, 2016 @ 04:22AM ]

    They will not let us use smartphones because they"the government" will be making a boat load of cash off of the certain devices they choose to make you use. They are THEIVES. ALSO, GO TRUMP!!! There is no other choice and we need someone to stop these scumbag theives and crooked foreigners from coming here and causing problems. He's the only one with the BALLS to stand up to these pricks. The rest of them want to give them a welfare check and a drivers license.

  21. 21. NEW WORLD ORDER MUST DIE [ July 22, 2016 @ 08:31AM ]

    electronic log books not about safety but about control.
    ELD it is anti safety because now drivers will be drive even if they want to sleep and it will be many speeding violations

  22. 22. Red Man [ April 28, 2017 @ 03:25AM ]

    Mr obvious, it's obvious that your an idiot. I industry has many different types of operations and the exact same rules won't work for a pruduce hauler that will work for s dry freight drop and hook operation. The produce hauler for example sits many many hours waiting to get loaded or unloaded. A great deal of this time is actually off duty or sleeper birth. Do you thinks it's right that this should go against his 14. No it's not. I'm not saying that the industry doesn't need to go electronic. I just believe that we should be able to split our rest periods as we did in the past. Drivers actually can produce more and get more rest. FACT

  23. 23. John J Randulic [ November 27, 2017 @ 12:02PM ]

    I am an owner operatorof my Own Semi and I am leased with a great company, but when it comes down to me by law that they make me put an ELD system in my Own Semi I don't tthink that's right . I should have a choice in the matter not told I have to put one in my Truck I own ! I do not run this companies truck I own my truck and I'm leased with the co. I'm a Long time truck driver that has driven for many years with a clean record and this is not how I want to see my career end up. Who ever came up with this idea must not have been a truck driver. This will cause more problems than they know !!!

  24. 24. John J Randulic [ November 27, 2017 @ 12:14PM ]

    I have one thought for the one comment from Mr Obvious ... Getting Told everyone has to use the ELD and you thinking the ones are cheating on their paper work because they are the ones complaining about it you must like to be told what to do is how I see it ! are not speaking for all of us that probably been on the road driving truck longer than you have . So do us all a favor don't put down a fellow trucker you don't know !


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