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Updated Mar 14, 2024

What Is the ELD Mandate?

This federal law was designed to create a safe environment for commercial vehicle operators and other drivers on the road.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Businesses operating a commercial vehicle fleet have more to worry about than just how well their cars and trucks are running. They must also be concerned with driver safety. To help ensure businesses are focused on driver safety, the U.S. government requires certain fleet operators to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their vehicles. Noncompliance can result in significant fines. That’s why small businesses with a commercial fleet must understand the ELD mandate, whether it applies to their operation, and, if it does, how they will adhere to it.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right GPS fleet management service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

What is the ELD mandate?

The ELD mandate is a federal law designed to create a safe environment for commercial vehicle operators and other drivers on the road. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the law was adopted to “improve roadway safety by employing technology to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue.”

By regulating miles traveled and reducing driver fatigue, the FMCSA aims to build a safer roadway for everyone. Implementation of the law began in 2016 but wasn’t in full effect for everyone until 2019. However, by now, your small business should be fully compliant.

What is an ELD?

An ELD (electronic logging device) is a piece of electronic hardware connected to a driver’s vehicle. It logs hours driven and monitors how long drivers have been behind the wheel. In addition, since it is connected directly to the vehicle, it collects data on whether the engine is idling, whether the vehicle is moving, if the fleet is optimizing fuel consumption (so you can reduce your fleet’s fuel costs) and the overall duration of engine operation.

By implementing ELDs into commercial vehicles, the government can log data on how companies treat their fleets and drivers. In the past, much of this information was logged manually, making forgery and inaccurate data collection a problem. With ELDs, the data is automatically collected and logged electronically, ensuring companies and drivers are held accountable for the hours and miles they drive. The ELD mandate creates a data collection system that leads to safer roadways, as overworked drivers aren’t on the road for long periods.

Did You Know?Did you know
By monitoring engine idling, you can reduce your fleet's idle time, which lowers maintenance costs and helps fight climate change.

Whom does the ELD mandate apply to?

The ELD mandate applies to all drivers and owner-operators who are required to keep records of duty status. These records, also referred to as RODS, require drivers to complete a specific checklist as part of the operation of their commercial vehicle. This checklist includes:

  • The time the driver reports for duty each day
  • The total number of hours the driver is on duty each day
  • The time the driver is released from duty each day
  • The total duty time of the driver for the previous seven days

Companies and drivers are required to keep RODS if their:

  • Vehicle is 10,001 pounds or more
  • Vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Vehicle is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Vehicle is designed or used to transport nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Vehicle is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

Who is exempt from the ELD mandate?

As with many rules and regulations, there are, of course, exemptions to keeping both RODS and installing ELDs in your vehicles. The following exemptions apply to RODS and thus ELDs:

  • Driver or salesperson whose total driving time does not exceed 40 hours in any period of seven consecutive days
  • Oilfield carrier who is focused on transportation and usage of oilfield equipment, like the stringing and picking up of pipe used in pipelines or well-site construction
  • Short-hauler and CDL drivers who operate within a 100-air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location or non-CDL drivers operating within a 150-air-mile radius of their home depot

In addition, there are specific exemptions for drivers and companies that don’t need to use ELDs. These exemptions include:

  • Drivers who operate a vehicle with an engine built before 2000
  • Drivers in certain driveaway-towaway operations
  • Drivers who are not required to maintain RODS
  • Drivers who maintain RODS for only eight days or fewer over a rolling 30-day period
  • Insect and livestock transporters

Notably, the size of your fleet doesn’t impact whether you’re required to install ELDs in your vehicles. Even if you run a very small business with only one or two vehicles, if they meet the weight requirement and your drivers meet the hours requirements for keeping RODS, you’re responsible for installing ELDs in your vehicles.

How to comply with ELD mandate: Rules and regulations

If you meet the qualifications and must install ELDs in your vehicles, there are a few essential steps to take. For one thing, there are many types of ELDs. If you work with a telematics company to build a fleet optimization platform for your business, it will likely be able to provide you with ELDs. Before signing up, work with your sales representative to understand if the ELDs the company offers are FMCSA-compliant. You can find a list of the precertified ELDs on the FMCSA website.

If you implement ELDs, remember that how the devices are installed matters. The FMCSA cares about the installation as it pertains to how and what data can be collected. To stay compliant, work closely with your telematics solution provider to ensure the devices are correctly installed, and collect all the necessary information. The FMCSA will likely hold you responsible if you fail to do so.

The ELD mandate requires companies and drivers to adhere to the following rules when installing the devices and gathering the necessary information:

  • It must be connected to the vehicle’s engine to record when the vehicle is and is not in motion.
  • Drivers should have the option to log out and select one of the following non-driving duty statuses: on-duty; off-duty; or on-duty, not driving.
  • The data must be presented in a standardized format that can be transmitted to law enforcement in several ways, such as via wireless web services, USB and Bluetooth.
  • The RODS should be graphically presented so drivers can quickly see the hours driven in a day.
  • The ELD must be provider-certified to ensure it meets the required technical specifications.

Businesses that do not adhere to the ELD mandate face significant fines and penalties. Depending on the fleet, fines can range from $1,000 to upwards of $25,000.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Correctly installing ELDs helps you comply with fleet health and safety best practices and avoid fines, operate more efficiently and ensure your drivers stay safe.

ELD and HOS laws

ELDs, RODS and hours of service (HOS) are all connected. They monitor drivers’ hours worked over 24-hour and seven-day periods. While you’ll find details on RODS and ELDs above, it’s also crucial to understand how HOS regulations factor into government compliance.

HOS ties in directly with RODS. RODS and ELDs are two methods by which the FMCSA can enforce HOS regulations. These laws deal directly with how long a driver can drive, when they’re required to take breaks and how often they can drive within a seven-day period.

These laws exist to keep fleets safe and ensure the well-being of drivers and other motorists on the roadways. They focus on driver fatigue and drowsiness and strive to address situations where drivers are overworked and a danger to themselves and others. Through ELDs and RODS, the government can better enforce standards set out in HOS mandates.

The best GPS fleet management systems for ELD compliance

Choosing the right GPS fleet management system that seamlessly ensures ELD compliance is crucial. We’ll highlight a few of the best GPS fleet management systems on the market to help ensure ELD compliance.

Samsara

Samsara’s GPS fleet management system allows you to track your fleet in real time. It boasts an intuitive interface and advanced fleet management features while helping businesses maintain ELD compliance via a unified compliance dashboard. Our Samsara review explains how this platform accurately tracks driver activity, including engine diagnostics and safety details. 

Motive

Motive’s GPS fleet tracking service prioritizes safety. The platform’s driver-specific app is compatible with all ELD regulations and makes compliance easy for drivers. Read our Motive review to learn how this system uses AI analysis to detect risky driving. 

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect is a popular and flexible GPS fleet management system. Its software ensures ELD (and International Fuel Tax Agreement) compliance, even offering live training on maintaining compliance. Our detailed review of Verizon Connect shares more about its unique features, like roadside assistance.

Maintaining ELD compliance

Ensuring ELD compliance is an essential part of operating a commercial vehicle fleet. Driver safety should be a top priority for businesses, and continuing to track the appropriate driver data and hours of service will allow you to identify any red flags. Maintaining ELD compliance helps you avoid significant fines while protecting your business and its employees.

Sammi Caramela contributed to this article.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Matt D'Angelo has spent several years reviewing business software products for small businesses, such as GPS fleet management systems. He has also spent significant time evaluating financing solutions, including business loan providers. He has a firm grasp of the business lifecycle and uses his years of research to give business owners actionable insights. With a journalism degree from James Madison University, D'Angelo specializes in distilling complex business topics into easy-to-read guides filled with expertise and practical applications. In addition, D'Angelo has profiled notable small businesses and the people behind them.
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