As the ELD mandate deadline grows closer, we are trying to answer as many questions as possible regarding the ELD mandate and its implementation.

The ELD mandate deadline is December 18, 2017, and drivers and carriers need to prepare before that. After the deadline, they will be cited and fined for not having compliant electronic logging devices.

Moreover, the road to compliance is a time-consuming one. Finding a reliable and compliant ELD provider, installing electronic logging devices, and training your drivers and staff to use them require a lot of time. If you haven’t installed ELDs yet, you are already late, so it is important to start the process of implementing electronic logging devices now.

Despite the urgency, many carriers are struggling with understanding the ELD mandate. They have questions.

For example:

  • Does a free e-log mobile app make them compliant?
  • What is the difference between ELDs and AOBRDs?
  • If AOBRDs extend the ELD mandate deadline by two years, should they buy AOBRDs now?
  • Instead of installing ELDs, can they just download e-log mobile apps from app stores?

In this blog post, we explain the differences between e-log mobile apps, ELDs, and AOBRDs. Moreover, we also explain whether or not it is a good idea to buy AOBRDs now — and, if not, what you should do instead.

Let’s begin.

E-log mobile apps

Before we jump into the discussion between ELDs vs. AOBRDs, let’s first clarify the confusion surrounding e-log mobile apps.

Bring Your Own Device (or BYOD) based ELD systems leverage drivers’ mobile devices to display hours of service/RODS information to safety inspectors. In other words, a BYOD-based ELD system does not require an in-cab fixed device; the drivers’ smartphones do the job perfectly.

Motive also offers a BYOD-based ELD system. It is one of the reasons why Motive ELD is the most cost-effective ELD solution in the market.

Some carriers and truckers are confused between e-log mobile apps and ELDs. These are some of the questions we usually come across:

According to the FMCSA, an ELD must be an engine-connected device, which directly records the HOS/RODS information. An e-log mobile app cannot do that job.

However, the e-log mobile apps are also essential in BYOD-based ELD systems as they display the information on the mobile devices — the same information that the engine-connected ELD records.

So, in other words, the ELD connects to the engine of the vehicle and records the necessary information. Then it sends the information to the drivers’ mobile devices, where the safety inspectors can check the driver’s HOS/RODS data.

In short, a free e-log mobile app isn’t enough to comply with the FMCSA’s ELD mandate. There needs to be an ELD (a hardware device) that directly connects to the engine of the vehicle and is tamper-resistant.

Let’s explain ELDs in a bit more detail.

Electronic logging devices or ELDs

In the final ELD rule, the FMCSA introduced a new class of hardware devices to record the necessary information. The devices, known as ELDs or electronic logging devices, are defined in §395.20.

ELDs are mandated to be synchronized with the ECM of a commercial vehicle and automatically record the required information, e.g., duty status, engine hours, vehicle miles, location, etc.

According to the FMCSA’s ELD mandate, CMVs that are not exempt will require compliant ELDs by December 18, 2017. E-log mobile apps are often free, but they don’t make you compliant. You will also need an FMCSA-registered ELD that meets the compliance standards.

AOBRDs or automatic on-boarding recording devices

An automatic onboard recording device (or AOBRD) is also a hardware device that connects to the engine of a vehicle. It works similarly to ELDs except it records and presents less data than ELDs do. The major difference between ELDs and AOBRDs is the amount of data each device records. AOBRDs were introduced before ELDs.

There are also some technical differences between AOBRDs and ELDs. Here are some of the major differences between the two devices:

Data recording

AOBRDs record date and time, engine hours, vehicle miles, drive times, location, and duty status.

On the other hand, ELDs record much more than AOBRDs, e.g., date and time, engine hours, vehicle miles, locations, identifying information on drivers, motor carriers, and vehicles, including duty statuses, logging in and out, engine on and off, and malfunctions.


AOBRDs automatically record locations during each change of duty status. It can also be entered manually.

ELDs automatically record locations during changes in duty status, whenever the engine is turned on or off, at the start and end of personal conveyance and yard moves, and 60-minute intervals while driving.

Learn more about the FMCSA personal conveyance rules.

Edit history

AOBRDs record the person who made an edit and the time of editing. It does not readily display edit history.

ELDs record who made an edit and when. Also, annotations are an important part of edit history in ELDs, as all edits require annotations and automatically recorded events can only be annotated, not changed.

Driving time

In AOBRDs, driving time can only be edited when attributed to the wrong driver.

In ELDs, you cannot edit driving time.

Method of communication

The communication method for AOBRDs is not properly addressed in the regulations. So it mainly focuses on the interface between the AOBRD system and printers.

On the other hand, there are clearly defined laws regarding the method of communication for ELDs. At the very least, ELDs must be able to transfer data via wireless email and wireless web services. For local transfer, ELDs must transfer data via USB and Bluetooth.

Further reading: Cellular vs. Bluetooth: How Motive ensures 100% compliance

ELDs or AOBRDs: which one should you buy?

As you know, the ELD mandate is about “ELDs”, not AOBRDs.

Technically, as per the “grandfather” clause, you can buy AOBRDs and extend the deadline for 24 months, but it is not a financially viable decision. After December 2019, you will have to replace AOBRDs with compliant ELDs anyway.

If you buy AOBRDs now, you’d be investing in a technology that you know for sure is going to become obsolete. Instead, why not invest in ELDs that will keep you compliant, even after 2019?

Additionally, based on the technical differences, it is clear that ELDs hold a significant advantage over AOBRDs. AOBRDs is now an outdated technology that the FMCSA is retiring and replacing with ELDs.

ELDs collect additional data, provide better accuracy, enable greater accountability, save drivers from harassment, give fleet managers plenty of options to maximize profits and reduce administrative burdens.

With features such as idle-time tracking, log auditing, GPS tracking, and automated IFTA calculation, fleet managers can save thousands of dollars in administrative tasks and reduce the cost of operations. Similarly, with features such as driver scorecards and vehicle diagnostics, you can improve the safety of your fleets and ensure smoother operations.

But if you must buy AOBRDs

Let’s suppose, for some reason, you must buy AOBRDs, despite the disadvantages of buying new AOBRDs over ELDs.

Then there’s a better solution.

Instead of buying new AOBRDs, you should buy ELD solutions that are also capable of working as fully compliant AOBRD solutions. By doing so, you get the following advantages:

  • You extend the ELD mandate deadline by two years, until December 16, 2019.
  • You get the flexibility of AOBRDs until 2019.
  • After December 16, 2019, you won’t have to buy new ELDs. You could continue using the same devices and be 100% compliant with the ELD mandate and the FMCSA regulations.

But how does an ELD work like an AOBRD?

Let us explain.

You can use Motive ELDs as AOBRDs until December 2019. We have designed Motive ELDs in a way that you can easily shift them from ELD to AOBRD to ELD with just a couple of clicks.

All you have to do is to turn on a few settings in the Motive Dashboard for Fleets.

After December 16, 2019, you can simply turn off these settings and continue using the devices as fully compliant and FMCSA-registered ELD solutions.

With this efficient method, you won’t have to purchase two different devices. All you need is the Motive ELD solution.

Request a free demo today.