The Best ELD Devices for commercial drivers
WHAT IS AN ELD?
An electronic logging device (ELD) is intended to replace (but not completely replace) driver logbooks in trucks. Although truckers are required to keep a paper logbook in the truck for use in the event of ELD failure, the ELD will be the primary method of recording driver logbooks in the future.
Most truckers prefer this method; tracking hours and miles driven, which must be recorded by hand daily or weekly, can be tedious. Having a machine do it makes the task easier and more accurate, allowing the trucker to focus more on reaching his destination rather than calculating numbers for DOT and FMCSA.
WHAT DOES AN ELD DO?
In addition to doing the heavy lifting of recording driving data, compliant ELDs send information to FMCSA to report potential violations. This not only motivates truckers to drive more safely, but also increases agency revenue from fines! It's easy to see why FMCSA wants trucks to be equipped with these electronic logging devices.
Data collected by a certified ELD includes, but is not limited to, whether the engine is currently on, the time since the engine was last turned off, whether the vehicle is currently moving, vehicle speed, miles driven, and status changes (are the miles driven on or off?).
As with any rule, certain exceptions and exemptions apply. The four main ones are as follows:
- Drivers who tow other cars.
- Drivers whose vehicles have engine models prior to 2000. As the years go by, there are fewer and fewer of these engine models. Since older trucks tend to break down more often, buying an older truck to avoid having to comply with FMCSA ELD requirements is a foolish decision.
- Drivers who are not required to keep a service log. 49 CFR § 395.8 defines this as "a private passenger carrier (non-commercial)."
- Drivers who maintain a record of service for less than nine days in a 30-day period. If your driver maintains eight days of RODS between May 5 and May 16, he or she will not be able to have another day of RODS without needing an ELD before June 6. This exemption is for those who do not transport often. Since not hauling means not making money, chances are this exemption will not apply to you.
There was an exemption for automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) installed prior to December 2017, but this exemption has been removed as of December 16, 2019. To avoid fines, AOBRDs are no longer a viable substitute for an FMCSA compliant ELD.
WHICH ELDS ARE FMCSA COMPLIANT?
An ELD that is not FMCSA compliant is virtually worthless because you may very well be fined. Fortunately, FMCSA has a list of registered and revoked devices. These lists are updated without notice, so make sure you bookmark them and check them often.
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW
While the first concern when purchasing an ELD is to make sure it complies with FMCSA regulations, an ELD can do more than that to compete with you.
Some ELDs may be advertised as easy to install or come with other benefits, such as a phone app that can help you find your truck parked at a truck stop. Others may offer little or no upfront costs, have no monthly fees, or offer different tiered plans that allow a company to upgrade as their fleet grows.
With the different benefits and plans offered by companies, it's worth researching and trying demos when they are available.