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What Is the ELD Mandate?

Updated Oct 23, 2023

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Businesses operating a commercial vehicle fleet have more to worry about than just how well its cars and trucks are running. They also have to be concerned with the safety of their drivers. 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. Not complying with these laws can result in significant fines. That’s why small businesses with a commercial fleet need to understand the ELD mandate, whether it applies to their operation and, if it does, how they will adhere to these laws.

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 (FCMSA), 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 FCMSA is aiming to build a safer roadway for everyone. Implementation of the law began back in 2016, but wasn’t in full effect for everyone until 2019. However, by now, your small business should be fully compliant.

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What is an ELD?

An ELD, or electronic logging device, is a piece of electronic hardware that’s 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’s engine, it collects data on whether the engine is on and idle, whether the vehicle is moving, if the fleet is optimizing fuel consumption, and the overall duration of engine operation..

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

Did You Know?Did you know

The ELD mandate was first implemented in 2016, however, it did not become a law until 2019.

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 certain 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 that 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 vehicles with engines built before 2000
  • Drivers in certain Driveaway-Towaway operations
  • Drivers who are not required to maintain RODS
  • Drivers who only maintain RODS for eight days or fewer over a rolling 30-day period
  • Insect and livestock transporters

Something to keep in mind is that 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, then you’re responsible for installing ELDs in your vehicles.

How to comply with ELD mandate: Rules and regulations

If you meet the qualifications and need to install ELDs in your vehicles, there are a few important 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, they will likely be able to provide you with ELDs. Before you sign up, work with your sales representative to understand if the ELDs the company offers are FCMSA-compliant. You can find a list of the pre-certified ELDs here.

If you are implementing ELDs, keep in mind that how the devices are installed matters. The FCMSA 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 being installed properly and are collecting all of the necessary information to stay compliant. The FCMSA will likely hold you responsible if you fail to do so.


Be sure to work with proper technicians when installing ELDs, as the FCMSA wants them installed in a specific way that ensures compliance.

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

  • It must be connected to the vehicle’s engine to record when it 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 not adhering to the ELD mandate face significant fines and penalties. Fines can range between $1,000 and upwards of $10,000 to $25,000 depending on the fleet.

ELD and HOS laws

ELDs, RODS and hours of service (HOS) all tie in together. They’re used to monitor hours worked by drivers over the course of 24-hour and seven-day periods. While you’ll be able to find details on RODs and ELDs above, it’s important to understand how HOS laws also factor into government compliance.

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

All of this is in an effort to keep drivers and other motorists safe on the roadways. The rules and regulations focus on driver fatigue and drowsiness, and strive to address situations where drivers are overworked and a danger to themselves and others on the roadways. Through ELDs and RODS, the government can better enforce standards set out in HOS mandates.

Matt D'Angelo
Contributing Writer at
Matt has worked for newspapers, magazines and various online platforms as both a writer and copy editor. He covers various small business topics, including technology, financing and marketing on and Business News Daily.
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