What is an electronic logging device? What is a self-certified ELD? What are the key requirements of an ELD device?

In this detailed blog post, we’ll answer all these questions about electronic logging devices and more.

What is an electronic logging device (ELD)?

An electronic logging device, or ELD, is a hardware device connected to a vehicle’s engine electronic control module. It’s often connected through the diagnostic port. The ELD pairs with a display, often through a smart device application. It automatically track a driver’s driving time and keeps the record of duty status (RODS).

An electronic logging device monitors the driver’s driving time and Hours of Service (HOS) compliance. It allows for more accurate recordkeeping and easier fleet management.

To ensure compliance with the U.S. ELD mandate, ELDs must be FMCSA-registered and self-certified. If not, ELD users remain non-compliant even if the device is installed in their vehicle.

What information does an ELD record?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lists data elements that ELDs document at specific intervals. They include: 

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location details
  • Engine hours
  • Miles driven
  • Identification information of the driver, aka authorized user, motor carrier, and vehicle
  • Engine power status
  • Vehicle motion status
  • Duty status

What are the key functions or features of ELDs?

Compliant ELDs should have the following functions. They should

  • Offer separate user accounts for drivers and non-drivers (fleet manager’s administrative personnel/ELD users);
  • Automatically log all driving time at least 60-minute intervals. Include date, time, location, miles driven, engine hours, and driver identification.
  • Secure and maintain integral synchronization with the engine control module to automatically document vehicle motion status, engine power status, and other related information.
  • Synchronize ELD time with the coordinated universal time (UTC).
  • Track location with an accuracy of a one-mile radius during on-duty driving times.
  • Decrease location accuracy to a 10-mile radius when the vehicle is driven for permitted personal use.
  • Require drivers to examine the unidentified trips and either claim them or indicate that they aren’t attributable to them.
  • Give drivers access to electronic or print copies of their ELD records whenever needed.
  • Keep information for the current 24-hour period and the prior seven consecutive days.
  • Prevent tampering or erasure of data originally gathered for the driver’s ELD records.
  • Present all necessary standardized data to safety officials when requested. You can present it through a screen display or a printout with these elements:
    • Daily header;
    • Graph grid showing changes in driving duty status (if printed, must be at least 6 inches by 1.5 inches), and
    • Detailed daily log information.
  • Support either of the two electronic data transfer options:
    • Telematics: Via email and wireless web services, or
    • Local transfer: Through Bluetooth and USB 2.0.
  • Prescribe driver certification and annotation for revisions to the records by the driver or other ELD users.
  • Require authentication of driver logs at the end of every 24 hours.
  • Allow volume adjustments or provide a mute option for any audio feature.

What are the electronic logging device requirements?

The FMCSA established three primary requirements for electronic logging devices.

1. ELDs must follow the defined technical specifications in the ELD regulation.

Examples of these technical specifications include

  • Powering on. ELD devices must be powered on, become completely operational within one minute of the vehicle engine’s receiving power, and stay powered for as long as the engine is on.
  • ELD-vehicle interface. The hardware needs to be synchronized with the truck’s engine. To comply with the ELD mandate, it should automatically track the engine’s power status, miles driven value, the vehicle’s motion status, etc.
  • Data transfer. Wireless via Web Services. ELDs must follow these standards: Web Services Description Language (WSDL) 1.1, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) 1.2, Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 5th edition.

Wireless via Email. ELDs must attach a file to an email sent through RFC 5321 Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to specific email addresses shared with the ELD vendors in the technology registration process, among others.

2. ELDs must be in the FMCSA’s list of self-certified ELDs

A compliance ELD should be listed in the FMCSA’s list of self-certified ELDs, along with the following details.

  • Company name of the ELD manufacturer or vendor;
  • Name of person authorized by the technology provider to validate its ELD compliance with the functional specifications of the ELD mandate and certify it;
  • Registrant’s address, telephone number, and email address.

What electronic logging device should I use?

The specific ELD model you’re considering must be on the FMCSA’s list of self-registered ELDs.

Providers on this list self certified their devices’ compliance with the required technical specifications and registered each model with the FMCSA.

Take the time to research your potential ELD vendor. Check its products, customer support, and other aspects with the Better Business Bureau and relevant user reviews.

Upon contacting an ELD provider for a product demo, the vendor should exhibit how its device works, what its different features are, and how it helps with FMCSA compliance.

Although many ELDs belong to a fleet management system (FMS) or involve FMS functionalities, ELD regulation doesn’t require these aspects. The ELD mandate primarily calls for ELDs to follow the FMCSA requirements.

What is the electronic logging device mandate?

Also known as the ELD final rule, the ELD mandate is part of the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The rule requires certain motor carriers to install and use FMCSA-registered ELDs.

According to the FMCSA, the ELD rule is meant “to help create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share RODS data.”

Check out this page for a better understanding of the ELD mandate.

How to use an electronic logging device

The CMV driver should only have one account with a motor carrier with a unique identification number and password.

An owner-operator carrier must have one account as a driver and another one for administrative responsibilities, such as creating user accounts.

After logging into the ELD, the driver must review any unidentified trips. The driver should either claim unidentified trips that are attributable to them or reject events that aren’t. Then a carrier should annotate any unclaimed events to explain why they remain unidentified.

When the driver isn’t on their driving duty period, the driver should indicate the off-duty status or annotate their logs later on.

If drivers are on sleeper-berth hours, they should also display a sleeper berth status or annotate their ELD records later.

Check out this FMCSA’s guidance for more information on using ELDs.

The FMCSA’s list of self-certified ELD devices

Here is the list of FMCSA’s self-certified ELDs.

According to the final ELD rule, the ELD solution you choose must be in the self-certified list.

How much do electronic logging devices cost?

According to the FMCSA, ELD prices can range from $165 to $832 annually per vehicle.

ELD manufacturers can charge different prices for their products. Prices usually range from $20 per month to $50 per month. Some ELD manufacturers also charge a one-time hardware fee.

When making a decision, consider the different features of the ELD solution, the company’s customer support, and the user reviews.


After Dec. 16, 2019, only FMCSA-registered ELDs can be used to comply with the ELD mandate. AOBRDs and EOBRs no longer work. However,, here are some of the big differences between AOBRDs, ELDs, and EOBRs.


AOBRD stands for “automatic onboard recording device.” It’s an electronic, mechanical, or electromechanical gadget attached to a vehicle. It records a driver’s duty status information automatically and accurately as required by FMCSA.

AOBRDs were used to comply with the FMCSA’s ELD mandate until Dec 16, 2019, if certain conditions were met. However, AOBRDs no longer meet compliance requirements.


While ELDs also synchronize to the vehicle’s engine, they’re different from AOBRDs in their technical specifications stated in their respective rules. For example, integral synchronization as a required device function isn’t defined concretely for AOBRDs in the FMCSRs.

When recording location information, ELDs require automated entries at every duty status change. AOBRDs require logs at each change of duty status.

The FMCSA’s ELD mandate says ELDs are required for compliance. AOBRDs no longer work for regulatory and compliance needs.


In FMCSRs, an electronic on-board recorder often refers to a device that stores electronic logging entries.

However, this term is nonexistent now. The FMCSA used it in a 2010 final rule that it later rescinded. EOBR was seen again in a 2011 proposal that didn’t become a permanent regulation.

ELD data transfer instructions

According to FMCSA’s data handout, drivers must follow the given process to transfer electronic driver logs through their ELDs.

  • Step 1: Record — The ELD must synchronize with the CMV engine to start recording data.
  • Step 2. Certify — The driver verifies the records and puts any necessary annotations.
  • Step 3. Transfer — Upon the safety official’s request, the driver starts data transfer, sending it through secure methods.
  • Step 4: Review — Data with possible HOS violations are flagged for review.

Take note that safety officials request the method of data transfer. Therefore, drivers should know the data transfer methods their ELD supports.

The FMCSA data handout requires drivers to transfer data through web services, bluetooth, or USB.

See the general instructions for each method in the handout.

1. How to transfer ELD data via web services

  • Step 1: Request. First, the safety official requests a data transfer using web services and provides a safety official code or investigation code.
  • Step 2: Select. The driver selects web services in the ELD and enters the code to start the transfer.
  • Step 3: Locate. The safety official finds the ELD file in the FMCSA server and reviews the driver log for violations.

Note: If the safety official requests an email data transfer, select “email” in the ELD and follow the same steps.

2. How to transfer ELD data via Bluetooth

  • Step 1: Request. The safety official requests for a Bluetooth data transfer. The official activates the Bluetooth on the enforcement equipment and pairs with the driver’s ELD.
  • Step 2: Select. The driver selects Bluetooth data transfer on the ELD and confirms pairing with the enforcement equipment.
  • Step 3: Provide. The safety official provides a safety official code or investigation code.
  • Step 4: Enter. The driver enters the code and starts the data transfer.
  • Step 5: Locate. The safety official finds the ELD file and reviews the log for violations.

3. How to transfer ELD data via USB

  • Step 1: Request. The safety official requests for USB data transfer and hands over the USB drive to the driver.
  • Step 2: Insert USB into the ELD. The driver inserts the USB into the ELD and starts the transfer. Once complete, the driver hands it back to the safety official.
  • Step 3: Open/review. The safety official inserts the USB, locates the file, and reviews the log for violations.

Benefits of electronic logging devices

Aside from complying with the regulations, electronic logging devices offer plenty of other features to drivers, fleet managers, and carriers.

Here are some of the major ELD benefits:

Reduced paperwork

A DOT study estimates that drivers spend 20 hours a year filling out manual logs and sending the files to their carrier. ELDs can save 15 minutes a day by reducing paperwork and minimizing the time it takes to send files.

Because of automation, electronic logging devices can save time, effort, and costs for drivers and fleet managers.

Automated IFTA reports

The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) simplifies the fuel reports for carriers operating in more than one jurisdiction. Carriers file IFTA reports at the end of every quarter, and it involves heavy paperwork.

Using the right ELD solution may automate the IFTA calculation process, save time, and reduce operational costs and administrative burden.

For example, Motive’s IFTA fuel tax reporting feature automatically calculates the travel distance and fuel purchase by jurisdiction. This feature increases productivity and accuracy. It also reduces the possibility of errors and audit risks.

Real-time vehicle tracking

ELDs use GPS tracking to enable fleet managers to track and monitor drivers on the road easily.

With the right ELD solution, fleet managers no longer have to call drivers for check-ins. That’s because they can see their driver’s location in real-time. Managers can inform customers about the driver’s exact location and ETA, and drivers can continue driving safely without distractions.

Some ELDs may also record breadcrumb trails and location history, which helps fleet managers and drivers plan the best, most efficient routes.

With real-time vehicle tracking, ELDs may help fleets simplify fleet management, increase dispatch efficiency, and streamline communication.

Monitoring vehicle condition and health

With ELDs, you can also stay on top of the vehicle’s condition.

You can improve vehicle safety across the fleet with features such as customizable vehicle inspection reports, custom inspection forms to ensure FMCSA compliance, real-time alerts, and vehicle inspection history.

Learn how you can increase vehicle uptime and minimize potential repair costs with a more proactive approach to vehicle maintenance.

Increasing fuel efficiency

Fuel makes up a large portion of a fleet’s operational expenses. By optimizing operations and reducing idling, fleets can reduce fuel waste and save money. 

Certain electronic logging devices allow fleet managers to track idle-time for each driver, which plays a crucial role in reducing fuel wastage and operating expenses.

For example, Motive’s vehicle utilization feature automatically records the idle time, idle fuel, driving time, and driving fuel of each vehicle.

Using this information allows you to identify drivers who is idle for too long and too frequently. By increasing efficiency and maximizing utilization rate, you can make a significant impact on the company’s bottom line.

Identifying risky driving behavior

Using data collected from ELDs may help you track risky driving behavior, such as hard braking, hard cornering, and excessive acceleration.

Determining at-risk drivers may help prevent accidents and liabilities. Without ELDs and fleet management software, it would be nearly impossible to track and collect this kind of information.

Once you identify drivers with unsafe driving habits, you can help them improve by initiating targeted and personalized driver coaching programs.

Use this data to determine and reward your best drivers. Recognition helps improve drivers’ motivation and fleet driver retention rates.

Improving driver and vehicle safety

The FMCSA estimates that ELDs will help save 26 lives and avoid 1,844 crashes annually.

A feature-rich ELD solution may help prevent accidents through real-time vehicle tracking, fault-code monitoring, better route management, reduction of driver fatigue, and improving driver behavior.

Improving CSA scores

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) is a government program ensuring reliability and safety.

CSA scores are based on crash reports, roadside inspections, investigation results, and registration details. Low CSA scores are ideal, while high scores may result in more compliance checks, increased insurance rates, and fewer clients.

With a feature-rich ELD solution, you can keep track of drivers’ behavior and ensure that they comply with regulations and practice safe driving. ELDs also help minimize Hours of Service violations such as Form & Manner violations and falsification of logs resulting in a poorer CSA score.

These factors help improve CSA scores and provide you with better business opportunities.

Increasing profitability with ELDs

ELDs help streamline and optimize fleet management, allowing trucking companies to increase profitability.

According to Ron Faherty, President of ARL Transport LLC, “Motive allows owner-operators to save money and improve safety.”

Partnering with Motive helped them with collision information, back-office support, onboarding, and training.

Read how Flying Star Transport saved approximately $40,000 by switching to the Motive ELD solution.

How much can i save using ELDs?

There are multiple ways ELDs can save you money.

The FMCSA’s reports showed that paperwork savings per driver annually include:

  • Driver Filling RODS: $487
  • Driver Submitting RODS: $56
  • Clerk Filing RODS: $120
  • Elimination of paper driver logbooks: $42

Overall, approximately $705 can be saved with ELDs annually by minimizing paperwork.

Carriers can save more on operational costs with ELDs by

  • Minimizing idling and fuel wastage
  • Reducing administrative burden
  • Being compliant and avoiding violations and fines
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity

electronic logging devices FAQs

Still have questions about electronic logging devices? Here are 15 ELD FAQs:

1. What does ELD stand for?

ELD stands for electronic logging device.

2. What happens if you unplug your ELD?

Disconnecting your ELDs may result in ELD rule violations.

An ELD disconnection may also tamper with important data that fleet administrators and dispatchers need to make data-driven business decisions, dispatch decisions, IFTA reporting, etc.

E-log devices also help drivers with Hours of Service compliance, and disconnecting ELDs may also pose a safety risk.

3. What year truck is exempt from ELD?

Vehicles manufactured before the model year 2000 are not required to use ELDs.

4. What is ELD compliance?

The ELD final rule or ELD mandate is a U.S. Federal Government regulation that requires operators of commercial motor vehicles covered by said law to use compliant electronic logging devices.

ELD compliance is mandatory for commercial driving operators that keep Records of Duty Status (RODS), including

  • Vehicles that weigh more than 10,001 pounds,
  • Vehicles containing placarded hazmat loads,
  • Vehicles that carry more than eight or fifteen passengers (depending on the vehicle class), or
  • Interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers that are required to keep records of duty status.

5. Who is exempt from using electronic logging devices?

Limited exceptions to the ELD rule include

  • Drivers who are operating under short-haul operations exemptions for CDL and non-CDL vehicles and are not required to keep RODS. You can continue using time cards instead of ELD devices.
  • Certain driveaway-towaway operations in which the vehicle being driven is part of the shipment being delivered or in which the vehicle being transported is a motorhome or a recreational vehicle trailer.
  • Drivers who maintain RODS for eight days or less in thirty-day rolling periods.
  • Short-haul drivers who occasionally take longer trips. But if you exceed the short-haul exemption more than eight times within thirty days, you’ll need an ELD for the rest of the cycle.
  • Drivers of motor vehicles manufactured before the year 2000

6. How are agricultural commodities haulers affected by ELDs?

As of December 2018, the FMCSA maintains that insect and livestock transporters do not need ELD devices until further notice.

Drivers don’t need to carry documentation to prove this exemption.

The FMCSA has published significant guidance regarding ELDs and the Agricultural Commodities exemption. “Agricultural commodities” includes non-processed feed, fiber, food, insects, and livestock.

The guidance clarifies to the exemption’s applicability with these points.

  • The HOS regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities operating completely within the 150-air-mile radius by for-hire or private carriers. Therefore, work and driving hours are not limited, and the driver is also not required to use an electronic logging device (ELD) or keep paper logs.
  • Once a driver operates beyond the 150-air-mile radius, the HOS regulations apply. Therefore, starting at the time and location where the transporter goes past the 150-air-mile radius, the driver must maintain logs using an ELD, unless the driver or the vehicle meets one of the limited ELD exemptions. The driver must work and drive within the limitations of the HOS rules when operating beyond the 150-air-mile radius.
  • When operating within the 150-air-mile radius, the driver can either identify the movement of the commercial motor vehicle as authorized personal use on the ELD or refrain from logging into the ELD.
    • If the driver logs into the ELD and identifies the movement as authorized personal use, the driver must also make an annotation on the ELD, explaining that the movement is exempt per the agriculture exemption. Upon exiting the 150-air-mile radius, the driver must then identify the movement of the vehicle as on-duty driving.
    • If the driver does not log into the ELD while operating within the 150-air-mile radius, then upon exiting the 150-air-mile radius, the driver must then log into the ELD, identify the movement as on-duty driving, and make an annotation on the ELD explaining that the unassigned miles accumulated prior to that point were exempt miles.

The FMCSA has also clarified that loading facilities and intermediate storage, such as sale barns or grain elevators, can also be considered a source of agricultural commodities (as long as the product still qualifies as an agricultural commodity) and that when agricultural commodities load at multiple sources during the trip, the first loading point is considered the source.

7. When do I need an electronic logging device?

If the ELD mandate applies to you, you need a self-certified electronic logging device to remain compliant with the FMCSA’s regulations. Without a compliant ELD solution, you may face violations and fines.

Until December 17, 2019, AOBRDs were also valid, if certain conditions were fulfilled. However, AOBRDs don’t make you compliant anymore. Therefore, you need ELD devices to remain compliant.

8. Do owner-operators need ELDs?


Owner-operators who do not qualify for an exemption must install self-certified electronic logging devices for ELD compliance and to avoid ELD violations.

9. What are the penalties if you don’t have an electronic logging device?

Drivers who don’t qualify for exemptions can face severe penalties for non-compliance to the ELD mandate.

Failing to comply with the Record of Duty Status regulations, including the ELD regulations, can lead to fines of $1,000 to $10,000 or more; one of the highest recorded fines for violating these regulations is $13,680.

ELD non-compliance can also place drivers and owner-operators out of service, and will only be allowed to resume services once a compliant ELD solution is installed.

Learn more about ELD violations and their severity weights.

10. Where do you buy an electronic logging device?

Different ELD manufacturers sell ELD solutions on their websites. However, make sure you’re picking the right ELD system that would make you compliant.

First, the ELD must be in the FMCSA’s list of self-certified ELDs. The FMCSA’s list contains hundreds of ELD providers, including their product description, company name, contact details, and more.

Here’s what an electronic logging device product listing on the FMCSA-registered ELDs page looks like.

Image source: FMCSA

In addition:

  • Visit forums to see what truckers are saying about different solutions available at the market,
  • Look at reviews,
  • Check their customer support.

Further reading: Why drivers choose Motive.

11. What are the electronic logging device requirements?

The FMCSA provides a comprehensive set of technical ELD requirements.

For instance, ELD devices should support a user account structure separating drivers and the motor carrier’s support personnel (i.e., fleet managers).

Other specific requirements for ELDs include integral synchronization functions with the CMV engine, must monitor accumulated miles, record the driver’s RODS, and more.

Check this link for the complete ELD functional requirements.

12. Did the ELD mandate improve HOS compliance and road safety?

The ELD mandate has greatly improved HOS compliance, dropping the frequency of the most extreme violations by around 36% directly after implementation of the ELD rule.

HOS violations were also reduced by 50% after the FMCSA’s strict enforcement of the mandate.

The FMCSA estimates that the implementation of the ELD mandate would save 26 lives, prevent 562 injuries, and help avoid 1,844 accidents annually.

13. Can I run without an electronic logging device?

You can run without an electronic logging device, but if you do not qualify for ELD exemptions, you may face ELD violations and hefty fines.

Operating commercial motor vehicles without exemptions in violation of the ELD mandate may also put drivers out of service, reflecting poorly on the company and negatively affecting productivity, operations, and profitability of the trucking company.

14. According to the FMCSA, what can I do if my electronic logging device malfunctions?

Here’s the step by step process of what you should do, as per the specific set of actions defined by the FMCSA in CFR §395.34 if you experience an ELD malfunction that affects your ability to accurately keep your RODS.

  • Note the malfunction of the ELD and provide written notice of the malfunction to the motor carrier within 24 hours;
  • Reconstruct your logs for the current day, including the last seven days (excluding days you already possess the record or if it’s retrievable from the ELD).
  • Continue preparing handwritten logs until your ELD starts working again. But you cannot manually record Hours of Service on a paper log for more than 8 days after the malfunction.

The FMCSA also recommends that drivers perform a simple reboot of the ELD to ensure that the device is ready to receive data as soon as the ECM connection sends it.

If the carrier is unable to repair, replace, or service the malfunctioning ELD within 8 days, the carrier must file an extension request within 5 days of being aware of the ELD malfunction.

15. Does the FMCSA retain ELD data?

No, the FMCSA does not retain ELD data, unless there is a violation.

Try Motive, one of the best ELD solutions

At Motive, we have created an electronic logging device solution with drivers at its center. The Motive ELD solution is one of the highest-rated ELD systems in the market.

Over 500,000 drivers and 60,000 companies trust the Motive ELD for their regulatory, compliance, and fleet management needs.

The Motive Driver App is also the most intuitive and driver-friendly e-log app on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Read our customer stories and see why they love Motive. Give us a call at 855-434-3564 if you have any questions about the Motive ELD system.