The complete guide to the FMCSA’s ELD mandate

The complete guide to the FMCSA’s ELD mandate

Most commercial motor vehicle drivers now have to comply with the FMCSA’s ELD mandate.

But what is the ELD mandate? Who must comply with the ELD mandate? And what are the ELD compliance requirements?

Drivers often have so many questions.

Understanding the ELD mandate in its entirety can be complicated. Although it has many moving parts, having a full grasp on the ELD mandate and ELD mandate compliance requirements is important for commercial drivers to remain compliant.

In this detailed blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about the ELD mandate. Specifically, we will talk about:

What is the ELD mandate?

The FMCSA ELD mandate is a federal law. It says that commercial motor vehicle operators who are covered by the mandate have to use compliant ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices). Some CMV operators are exempt, but most are required to comply with the ELD mandate.

The FMCSA works in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT), and the primary goal is to improve road safety and reduce the number of accidents that happen throughout the United States.

The main purpose of the ELD mandate is to create a safe environment for commercial drivers, reduce driver fatigue, enforce Hours of Service rules, and minimize road accidents.

According to the FMCSA:

“[FMCSA] announced the adoption of a Final Rule that will improve roadway safety by employing technology to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue.”

What is an ELD?

An ELD or Electronic Logging Device is electronic hardware that is attached to a commercial motor vehicle engine to record driving hours. The driving hours of commercial vehicles are typically regulated by a set of rules known as the Hours of Service or HOS rules.

An ELD monitors a vehicle’s engine to obtain data on whether or not the engine is running, if the vehicle is moving, how many miles have been driven, and the duration of the engine operation.

What is ELD compliance?

In general, regulatory compliance means conforming to a rule. In this case, ELD compliance refers to the complying with the FMCSA’s ELD mandate.

ELD compliance means non-exempt commercial drivers need to have an FMCSA-compliant ELD solution and conform with other key ELD mandate requirements.

If a non-exempt driver does not have an ELD when required, he/she can be put out-of-service for 10 hours and may also face ELD violations and hefty fines.

In addition, drivers can also be put out-of-service for using an unauthorized or non-compliant ELD solution and/or falsifying logs.

ELD mandate compliance: Rules and regulations

When the FMCSA implemented the ELD mandate, four main requirements for compliance were defined. The ELD mandate final rule:

  • Established which drivers must comply with the ELD mandate
  • Set design and performance standards that available Electronic Logging Devices must meet in order to be compliant
  • Identified the supporting documents that drivers and carriers are required to keep
  • Protected drivers from harassment by detailing all of the required steps drivers need to take in order to comply

ELD compliance requirements

The ELD mandate requires ELDs to do the following:

  • Connect to the vehicle’s engine to record whether or not it is in motion
  • Give the driver the option to log on and select one of the following non-driving duty statuses: On-duty, Off-duty, or On-Duty, Not Driving.
  • Supply data in a standardized format that can be transmitted to law enforcement in several prescribed ways, including wireless web services, USB, and Bluetooth
  • Graphically show a Record of Duty Status (RODS), so the driver can quickly see the hours driven in a day
  • Be provider-certified, ensuring that the ELD meets the required technical specifications

According to the ELD mandate, an Electronic Logging Device must be in the FMCSA’s list of self-certified ELDs to be compliant. The list is updated regularly by the FMCSA.

ELD mandate timeline: When did the ELD mandate take effect?

The idea of a mandate actually began in 2012.

In March 2014, the FMCSA released its ELD proposal, and on December 16, 2015, the ELD final rule was published by the FMCSA.

The ELD rule was then implemented in three phases:

  1. Phase #1: Awareness and Transition. This phase refers to the period between February 16, 2016, to December 18, 2017. During this phase, motor carriers were encouraged to install ELDs on a voluntary basis.
  2. Phase #2: Phased-in Compliance. The second phase (from December 18, 2017, to December 16, 2019) required non-exempt drivers to install compliant Electronic Logging Devices. Drivers could also use AOBRDs and remain compliant if AOBRDs were installed and in-use before December 18, 2017.
  3. Phase #3: Full Compliance. The third phase (after December 16, 2019) requires all non-exempt commercial drivers to use compliant ELDs. AOBRDs no longer help compliance with the ELD mandate.

You can also see the ELD mandate timeline in this graphical representation.

ELD Mandate Timeline

AOBRDs and the ELD mandate

According to the ELD mandate timeline, non-exempt drivers can no longer use AOBRDs (Automatic Onboard Recording Devices) to remain compliant with the mandate.

AOBRDs were only applicable until December 16, 2019. Now, all qualifying drivers must use compliant ELD solutions.

In case you’re interested, there are many differences between AOBRDs and ELDs.

Who does the ELD mandate apply to?

There is no difference between the ELD mandate for truckers and the ELD mandate for owner-operators.

The ELD mandate applies to most motor carriers and drivers who are currently required to maintain Records of Duty Status, commonly referred to as RODS, as per Part 395, 49 CFR 395.8(a).

However, there are certain ELD mandate exemptions.

ELD mandate exemptions: Who is exempt from the ELD mandate?

Although the FMCSA’s final ELD rule applies to most commercial motor vehicle drivers, there are a few exemptions. The ELD mandate does not apply to:

  • Drivers who drive vehicles with pre-2000 engines
  • Drivers in certain Driveaway-Towaway operations
  • Drivers who are not required to maintain a Record of Duty Status (RODS)
  • Drivers who only maintain RODS for 8 days or fewer in a rolling 30-day period
  • Insect and livestock transporters

ELD compliance for local drivers

Not every trucker is an interstate, long-haul driver. For example, local delivery service drivers, plumbers, electricians, and their counterparts also do quite a lot of driving.

Local fleets are not necessarily subject to the mandate, but in some scenarios, even local truckers are required to install Electronic Logging Devices and comply with the ELD mandate.

For instance, if you are a short-haul driver who has to maintain RODS for more than 8 days in a 30-day period, you need to comply with the ELD mandate.

Learn more about the short-haul exemption.

Note: The FMCSA has recently updated the short-haul exemption rule. Make sure to read the updated guidance.

Apart from that, drivers should also be aware of the intrastate rules that apply to them. For instance, there is an exemption in Florida for intrastate truckers hauling agricultural products within a 150 air-mile radius.

The use of ELDs for non-exempt intrastate drivers in Florida became mandatory from Jan. 1, 2020. Similarly, Texas mandated the use of Electronic Logging Devices for intrastate drivers by Dec. 17, 2019.

Short-haul and other drivers who are exempt from the ELD mandate can still benefit tremendously from installing ELD devices. Many fleet management solution features can help a local fleet run more safely and efficiently. For example, GPS tracking and driver workflow management work in tandem to help you simplify operations and dispatch the right driver and vehicle to each new job.

There are many ELD benefits for fleets of all types and sizes.

ELD mandate and the Hours of Service rules

In the past, paper logs or electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) were used for HOS tracking. Even though an EOBR-style log improved the accuracy of the data when compared to paper logs alone, the lack of a consistent format required that the logs had to be re-done to a parallel “paper” format for review and enforcement. This effort required an enormous waste of time, and consequently, money.

The Record of Duty Status (RODS) definition within the ELD legislation defined a constant format for the enforcement personnel to review. That need for consistency became one of the primary drivers of why the ELD Mandate was created. In addition, it’s important to remember that the mandate itself did not change the Hours of Service rules. Rather, the mandate facilitates enforcement.

The FMCSA regulates the number of hours commercial drivers may drive per day and/or per week. These rules are commonly referred to as Hours of Service rules or HOS rules.

These Hours of Service rules also encompass other restrictions, such as taking mandatory rest breaks. The concept behind these HOS rules is to regulate the number of hours driven to minimize conditions such as drowsiness and driver fatigue.

The FMCSA has estimated that the implementation of the ELD mandate can help avoid 1,844 crashes and 562 injuries annually. It is also expected to save 26 lives each year.

Although Hours of Service were always enforced, the ELD mandate and its implementation is expected to increase Hours of Service compliance. Studies revealed that Hours of Service compliance has improved after the ELD mandate.

It is important to note that the ELD mandate itself did not introduce or change any Hours of Service regulations. The ELD rule is just a way to enforce the existing Hours of Service more strictly.

Having said that, Electronic Logging Devices and the data these ELD devices collect are now becoming a catalyst for improving the existing Hours of Service rules. The trucking industry now finally has the insights it needed to see which HOS regulations need improvement.

Personal Conveyance and the ELD mandate

In the trucking industry, Personal Conveyance refers to the movement of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for personal use while the driver is off duty.

Personal Conveyance rules are covered in the ELD mandate, and some of those rules have been updated. The updates gave drivers a little more flexibility when it comes to off duty time, but drivers should be aware of some caveats.

Below are examples of what the FMCSA does not qualify as Personal Conveyance:

  • Moving a commercial motor vehicle to enhance the operational readiness of a motor carrier
  • Continuation of a trip in interstate commerce to fulfill a business purpose, such as bobtailing, retrieving another load, or repositioning a commercial motor vehicle at the direction of the carrier
  • Time spent driving a passenger-carrying CMV while passengers are on board
  • Time spent transporting a commercial motor vehicle to a facility to have maintenance done on the vehicle
  • Time spent driving to a location to obtain rest after being placed out of service (unless otherwise directed by an enforcement officer at the scene)
  • A trip to the terminal after loading or unloading from a shipper or receiver

Calling one of the above scenarios a Personal Conveyance could result in citations and/or fines.

On the flip side, below are some examples of what the FMCSA does consider acceptable uses for Personal Conveyance:

  • Commuting between the driver’s work and home
  • Time spent traveling to a nearby, safe location to obtain required rest after loading or unloading
  • Time spent traveling from a truck stop or motel to restaurants or entertainment facilities
  • Moving a CMV at the request of a safety official during the driver’s off-duty time
  • Time spent transporting personal property while off-duty
  • Time spent traveling in a motorcoach without passengers to a truck stop, motel, restaurant, or entertainment facility, and back, if the driver is off duty
  • Authorized use of a CMV to travel home after working at an offsite location

It is important to remember that Personal Conveyance is not mandatory; it is optional. Carriers can configure their ELDs to allow drivers to log Personal Conveyance, but they are not required to do so.

Learn more about Personal Conveyance here.

ELD compliance checklist

So, how can you ensure ELD compliance and compliance with the FMCSA’s ELD mandate?

The FMCSA has compiled a checklist to assist you with ELD compliance. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Know if you are subject to the ELD Rule
  • Understand when you must use an ELD in your vehicle
  • Understand how you are protected from harassment and coercion, and how to file a complaint
  • Keep ELD user instructions/manual and supplies in your vehicle
  • Submit supporting documents

Supporting documents to comply with the ELD mandate

The FMCSA recommends that drivers should have the following supporting documents:

  1. Bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, or equivalent documents that indicate the origin and destination of each trip
  2. Dispatch records, trip records, or equivalent documents
  3. Expense receipts related to any on-duty, not-driving time
  4. Electronic mobile communication records, reflecting communications transmitted through a fleet management system
  5. Payroll records, settlement sheets, or equivalent documents that indicate what and how a driver was paid.

These five categories of supporting documents may be needed to verify a driver’s Record of Duty Status in normal circumstances.

Additionally, the FMCSA recommends that each supporting document must contain the following information:

  • The name of the driver or a carrier-assigned identification number on the document or on another document that allows the carrier to link the first document to the driver. The vehicle unit number can be used if that number can be linked to the driver
  • Date
  • Time
  • Location (including the name of the nearest city, town, or village)

Note: Electronic mobile communication and payroll records can be maintained electronically. Drivers are not required to have physical copies of these records.

Canadian ELD mandate

The Canadian ELD mandate that requires commercial motor vehicle operators and bus drivers to use Electronic Logging Devices to log Hours of Service will go into effect in Canada on June 12, 2021.

The Canadian ELD mandate, much like the FMCSA ELD mandate in the United States, will require commercial vehicles to capture Hours of Service with an ELD instead of on paper logs.

The Canadian ELD mandate was passed to ensure that drivers have a safe work environment and to create an easier system to track and manage records of duty status. Just like in the U.S., the ELD mandate in Canada is designed to increase road safety.

It is recommended that non-exempt drivers in Canada start the ELD implementation process as soon as possible. As the ELD implementation deadline comes closer, supply-chain issues may render some Canadian fleets non-compliant.

How an operator can save time and money

One of the most important things to remember about the ELD Mandate is that ELDs can help fleet operators save time and money while increasing safety on the road. It’s not just another government-mandated rule for rules’ sake.

In trucking, as in virtually every other industry, time is money. Finding the best ELD solution can help you save both time and money in the following ways:

  • Fewer HOS violations
  • Time saved managing logs
  • Lower insurance rates
  • More on-road efficiency
  • Lower crash rates
  • Fuel cost savings by monitoring bad driving behaviors and extra idling
  • Faster roadside inspections

ELD solutions and their benefits

When you shop for an ELD solution, the most crucial consideration is the technology behind the device.

ELD mandate enforcement is active nationwide. Being found out of compliance could leave a driver and a vehicle idle. The best ELD compliance solution will not only keep you on the right side of the law, but it could also save you money and valuable time.

When comparing ELD compliance solutions, you should look for the following features:

  • Bluetooth and USB capabilities, which can help ensure compliance even when cellular reception is not present
  • Automated IFTA reports. A feature-rich ELD solution can help automatically calculate the distances driven and fuel purchased by jurisdiction, making IFTA reporting easy and accurate.
  • HOS alerts that give drivers timely alerts for upcoming Hours of Service violations.
  • Inspection reports. Your ELD should generate daily electronic driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) and alert the fleet of any defects. KeepTruckin also allows you to create customizable vehicle inspection reports.
  • Instant messaging lets your back office know of any problems, where the driver is headed, and any other details you need to communicate on the fly.
  • GPS tracking. GPS tracking can help increase visibility into operations, improve productivity with route optimization, and improve customer service by telling you when the vehicle is due to arrive at its destination.
  • Reliability. The ELD solution you pick should be reliable to ensure compliance. Choose a device made by a company that is well-established in the industry. Look for a system that has positive user reviews online.
  • Customer service. Expert 24/7 customer service is crucial for truck drivers on the road.

KeepTruckin: Your ELD compliance solution

If you’re looking for a feature-rich, affordable, and easy-to-use ELD compliance solution, try KeepTruckin.

Over 500,000 drivers and 65,000 companies trust KeepTruckin for their regulatory, compliance, and fleet management needs. You can request a free demo today.

If you have any questions, call us at 855-434-3564.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the ELD mandate

Q: Does the ELD mandate apply to me?

A: If you have to maintain RODS, then most likely, yes. The ELD mandate applies to most commercial motor vehicle drivers who are required to maintain Record of Duty Status. Some of the ELD exemptions are for:

  • Drivers who drive vehicles with pre-2000 engines
  • Drivers in certain Driveaway-Towaway operations
  • Drivers who are not required to maintain a Record of Duty Status (RODS)
  • Drivers who only maintain RODS for 8 days or fewer in a rolling 30-day period

Q: Is the ELD mandate a law?

A: Yes. It is a federal law (written by the FMCSA and enforced by DOT and other law enforcement) and is subject to the same enforcement as other federal laws.

Q: Is the ELD mandate for older trucks?

A: Commercial drivers who drive commercial vehicles with pre-2000 engines are exempt from the mandate. However, if they acquire a vehicle with an engine newer than 2000, they must be in compliance with the mandate.

Q: Who is responsible for ELD compliance? Company or drivers?

A: Both drivers and carriers are responsible for ELD compliance. The ELD mandate applies to both motor carriers and drivers who are currently required to maintain records of duty status (RODS) per Part 395, 49 CFR 395.8(a).

The rule applies to commercial buses as well as trucks, and to Canada- and Mexico-domiciled drivers when they operate in a jurisdiction where ELDs are required.

Q: Are vehicles with Hazmat loads required to comply?

A: Yes. A legally labeled Hazmat loaded vehicle is generally subject to the ELD Mandate.

Q: How long must a carrier keep ELD record of duty status data?

A: According to the FMCSA, A motor carrier must retain the ELD record of duty status (RODS) data and back-up data for six months. The back-up copy of ELD records must be maintained on a device separate from that where original data are stored. Additionally, a motor carrier must retain a driver’s ELD records in a manner that protects driver privacy.

Q: Is it the carrier’s responsibility to make sure that they are using a registered ELD device?

A: Yes. The motor carrier is responsible for checking that their ELD device is registered and compliant. This includes checking both the registration and revocation list periodically.

Here is the list of registered and revoked ELDs.

Q: If I am stopped for a roadside violation, and I don’t have the required ELD, what will happen?

A: According to the FMCSA, the inspector can cite you for failing to have the proper record of duty status, and can place you out of service for ten hours (eight hours for a passenger carrier), in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) North American Standard Out-of-Service (OOS) Criteria.

At the end of the OOS period, you will be allowed to complete the current trip to its final destination using paper logs.


Disclaimer: The information being presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal or other professional advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

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