With changes in technology come changes in regulation. The trucking industry is no different. By December 2019, all non-exempt trucks must have an ELD certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In this article, we will talk about ELDs, their purpose, exemptions, and more important information.
What is an ELD?
An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is intended to be a substitute (but not full replacement) for driver logbooks in trucks. While truckers are required to keep a paper log in the truck to use if an ELD fails, an ELD will be the primary method of recording driving logs moving forward.
Most truckers will prefer this; tracking hours and miles worked to be recorded by hand daily or weekly can be bothersome, and having a machine do it makes it easy and more accurate so a trucker can spend more time focusing on getting to their destination rather than crunching numbers for the DOT and FMCSA.
What does an ELD do?
Aside from doing most of the heavy lifting in recording driving data, compliant ELDs send information to the FMCSA to report possible violations. This not only helps motivate truckers to drive more safely, but it also increases agency revenue through fines! It is clear why the FMCSA would want trucks to have these electronic recording devices.
Data a certified ELD collects includes (but is not limited to) if the engine is currently turned on, how long it has been since the engine was last turned off, whether the vehicle is currently in motion, the vehicular speed, miles driven, and duty status changes (are the miles driven on duty or off duty?).
As with every rule, some exceptions and exemptions apply. The four major ones are:
- Drivers who tow other cars.
- Drivers whose vehicles have model engines from before 2000. As the years pass, these model engines are decreasing in circulation. Considering how older trucks have a tendency to break down more often, purchasing an older truck to avoidg having to deal with FMCSA compliance regarding ELDs is a foolish decision.
- Drivers who are not required to maintain Record of Duty Status. 49 CFR § 395.8 defines this as “a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness).”
- Drivers who maintain a Record of Duty Status for fewer than nine days in a rotating 30-day period. If your driver maintains eight RODS days from May 5th to May 16th, the earliest they can have another Record of Duty Status day and not require an ELD is June 6th. This exemption is for people who do not haul often. Since not hauling means not making money, there is a very good chance this exemption would not apply to you.
There was an exemption for Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) installed before December 2017, but that exemption has been removed as of December 16th, 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 essentially worthless as you can very well still be fined. Fortunately, the FMCSA has a list of registered and revoked devices. These lists update without notice, so make sure to have them bookmarked and check them often.
Other Things to Know
While the primary concern when getting an ELD is to make sure it is compliant with the FMCSA regulations, an ELD might do more than that to compete for your business.
Some ELDs might advertise as easy to install or come with other perks such as a phone app that can help you find your parked truck at a truck stop. Others might offer little to no upfront costs, may have no monthly fees, or may have different tiered plans for a company to upgrade as their fleet size expands.
With various perks and plans different companies offer, it pays to do your research and to try demos when available.
The Best ELD Devices
Here is our list of our personal favorite ELDs for commercial drivers.
Keep Truckin’s Electronic Logging Device gets our top pick for all ELDs. Not only does it fulfill the ELD mandate compliance all trucks now require, but it comes with a plethora of additional perks and options.
Such perks and options that you may have never thought of include tracking hours of service (HOS), easy International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) information, a wi-fi hotspot in every truck, and 24/7 customer support in the chance that you or your driver needs it. They allow you to try it for free, and the starter plan costs $20 per vehicle per month, with the Pro plan costing $35 per vehicle per month. Theoretically, you can save money on your drivers’ cell phone bills by purchasing the Pro plan and having your drivers make wi-fi calls instead of paying for direct cellular service. While doing this may make some calls inconvenient, it would make the ELD more than pay for itself with this feature alone.
The KeepTruckin ELD goes above and beyond expectations, making it a perfect fit for small fleets and large fleets alike.
This ELD also doubles up as a fleet management system, providing you with real-time document management and tool for accident investigation to help vindicate you or your drivers from fault. Their fleet management system known as Safety allows you to track various aspects of your fleet, such as the specified roles and assigned vehicles of each driver.
With an easy to use web dashboard and even easier installation (the ELD comes with 6 pin and 9 pin adapters to ensure your truck is compatible, no matter the make or model), Gorilla provides a great electronic logging device with perks that mid-sized and larger fleets will no doubt appreciate.
We love this device primarily for its simplicity. All you have to do is plug it into your J-Bus port, attach it to the phone of choice via Bluetooth, agree to the terms of the DriverConnect app of $19.95 per month, and you are good to go.
It also has a range of gauges to track different aspects of truck health. Oil pressure, average miles per gallon, vehicle speed, and battery voltage are just a few of the statistics this ELD solution gives as a bonus.
One of the best ELD solutions for smaller fleets, the DashLink is direct in its upfront cost of zero. It also manages Hours of Service and attempts to proactively warn drivers of potential violations before they happen. It converts log data into easy to read reports to help you or your driver ace any DOT or FMCSA inspections. It lacks features that larger fleets may desire, but the company offers free demos so you can accurately determine whether or not the lack of certain features will deter you from using them and subscribing to their service.
Whereas DashLink has no upfront cost but instead a monthly fee, Blue Ink takes the opposite approach with its ELDs: you pay a (relatively expensive) upfront cost of $295 per unit, and you are free to use them until the end of time (or until the FMCSA or DOT updates its regulations). Compared to the costs of other ELDs on this list, you will start saving money with the Blue Ink ELD in 25 months, just a little over two years.
Blue Ink ELDs have a handful of nice features. It has a variety of back-end fleet management tools, such as the ability to know the logbook of each individual truck in your fleet and to edit logbook errors where necessary. It also has live customer support with a dedicated account rep to answer any questions that you may have.
At the same time, however, this ELD does lack some of the cooler features most of the monthly subscription ELDs offer. It does not have engine error reading, easy IFTA reporting, nor does it have live location tracking. For these, you need to upgrade to their full-service plan, but for $30 per vehicle per month, it defeats the original benefit of this ELD, which is to pay once and be done with it.
To make truckers drive more safely and to collect additional revenue when they don’t the FMCSA is using technology and driving habits to track driving habits better. While there are exemptions to having an ELD, they are rare circumstances that become rarer with each passing year, and it makes more sense to use your energy to be compliant with the regulations than to work around it via exemption.
It is in each fleet owners’ best interest to get a compliant Electronic Logging Device for each truck, not just for regulatory compliance, but also for perks that make managing truck fleets easier for everyone involved. Which ELD you obtain is ultimately up to you. Research and navigate the interfaces via free demonstrations most of them provide and dive right in.
Whatever compliant ELD you get, you may need a truck to go with it. Topmark Funding offers financing for owner-operators and fleet owners alike, regardless of credit, for most truck financing solutions.
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