Key Points to Know: Complying with the US ELD Rule

Posted on Tue, 2016-04-19 11:21

The US Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents rule includes information that affects all stakeholders, including trucking and motor coach companies, manufacturers and enforcement personnel. There are extensive resources available for compliance, but we’ve pulled out some key points to help members start their transition to ELDs and provided notes from our April 6, 2016, ELD workshop, with advice and comments from panelists who took part.

1. What is an ELD?

An ELD is technology that records data related to hours of service compliance, including the driver, the date, engine hours, vehicle miles and other information, with the functionality to transfer that data to an enforcement officer.

The ELD can be considered the “next generation” of the automatic onboard recording device or “AOBRD” as defined by the new ELD rule, which, in addition to a long list of technical requirements, also requires manufacturers of the technology to register their devices with the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and self-certify that their systems are compliant with the new ELD standard.

Right now, carriers may find the terms “ELD” and “AOBRD” used interchangeably in the trade media and elsewhere. Technically, since the final rule formally defining the standard for ELDs was only published in December 2015, carriers referred to as “using ELDs” are actually using AOBRDs – both systems are integrated with the vehicle engine and collect similar types of data, but existing AOBRDs will need changes to meet the new ELD standard. (AOBRD providers have a maximum of four years to bring their systems into compliance; see #3 below.)

Tablet or smartphone logging technology cannot collect data automatically and will not in current formats meet the new ELD standards.

2. Focus of the rule

The ELD rule defines requirements to better track, record and share data collected by driver logs (records of duty status) as required by hours of service regulations. The ELD rule does not change any HOS requirements. The focus of the rule is on safety, to ensure drivers work within HOS requirements, and contains measures to address driver harassment by carriers. (A separate rule, Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers, applies more broadly to motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries; see #6 below.) The rule is also meant to provide uniformity among electronic devices tracking driver HOS, given the variety currently available.

The rule establishes mandatory use of ELDs by any driver subject to HOS requirements, with some exceptions (see #4 below).

The rule also clarifies supporting document requirements (see #5 below).

3. Phased-in Compliance dates

  • Final rule published: December 15, 2015.

  • Effective date: February 16, 2016. Voluntary compliance encouraged, but carriers and drivers can use paper logs, logging software (e.g., on tablets and phones), AOBRDs or ELDs registered on the US Federal Motor Carrier Administration website (a new list created to assist compliance with this rule).
    Enforcement focus will be on HOS compliance looking at standard output (printout or display) from ELDs for those who have them.

  • Phase 1 Compliance date: December 18, 2017. Carriers and drivers may use AOBRDs installed prior to this date or ELDs registered with FMCSA following publication of the rule in December 2015.

  • Phase 2 Compliance date: December 18, 2019. Grandfathering of AOBRDs ends. All carriers and drivers subject to the rule must use ELDs registered with FMCSA.

4. Exemptions from the requirement to use ELDs

  • Short-haul drivers (those who qualify for 100- or 150- air-mile short haul exemptions from HOS regulations)

  • Drivers who use paper logs for not more than 8 days during any 30-day period.

  • Drivers who conduct drive-away/tow-away operations, where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered.

  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.
    Drivers in this list who currently meet HOS requirements via a paper log may continue to use paper.

5. Supporting documents

Carriers must retain up to eight supporting documents for every 24-hour period a driver is on duty, and keep them for six months. If a driver submits more than eight for a single day, the carrier must keep the first and last document collected for that day among the eight. Supporting documents include:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, or equivalent documents that indicate the origin and destination of each trip;

  • Dispatch records, trip records, or equivalent documents;

  • Expense receipts;

  • Electronic mobile communication records, reflecting communications transmitted through a fleet management system; and

  • Payroll records, settlement sheets, or equivalent documents that indicate payment to a driver.

These documents should include the driver’s name or carrier-assigned ID (or vehicle unit number if linked to the driver), date, location and time.

According to FMCSA, while ELDs are highly effective at monitoring compliance with HOS rules during driving periods, supporting documents are still needed to verify on-duty not driving time (ODND).

Note: Everyone subject to HOS requirements must supply these supporting documents as of the initial December 18, 2017, compliance deadline, including carriers and drivers using AOBRDs and paper logs.

6. Driver harassment & coercion measures

The ELD rule incorporates a number of anti-harassment features for drivers, to ensure drivers receive the full benefit of their off-duty time and to prevent any opportunity for anyone to revise log data without acknowledging the changes. The features are to avoid violations of an HOS rule by a driver at the direction of the carrier. These features include:

  • Volume controls and mute function for ELDs to avoid interrupting a driver in a sleeper berth (for ELDs that require them – some ELDs won’t include voice or text message capability, or audible alerts).

  • Position accuracy is limited to a 10-mile radius when drivers operate a commercial vehicle for authorized personal use, to provide privacy while still tracking HOS compliance.

  • Limited editing by the driver or others allowed (a driver must confirm changes proposed by the carrier), but without changes to the original data (edits must be annotated with the reason for the change).

  • Allowing drivers access to their own data for six months.

  • A process for drivers to report harassment by a carrier involving ELDs. For the carrier to be penalized, the driver must have violated an HOS rule at the carrier’s insistence.

(These anti-harassment features are a good example of how the new ELD standard differs from existing AOBRD systems and how AOBRD manufacturers will need to upgrade their systems by the 2019 ELD compliance deadline, at the latest.)

In addition, the Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers rule, effective as of January 29, 2016, prohibits motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries (motor coach operators, please note that the Federal Register notice also mentions tour guides) from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in violation of hours-of-service limits, among other rules. The coercion rule protects drivers who are threatened with a loss of business if they refuse to violate a rule on demand, with significant fines (up to US$16,000 in civil penalties alone) if substantiated. Drivers must file a written complaint within 90 days of the alleged violation.

7. Start now to plan for early adoption

FMCSA requires manufacturers to register ELDs and self-certify that they meet standards defined in the ELD rule, for inclusion on a public list available to carriers. FMCSA only expects to randomly audit the list, so carriers should not rely on self-certification as a guarantee that listed manufacturers meet the ELD requirements.

Carriers that have already adopted similar AOBRD technology have said that a gradual integration process can take 18 months from start to finish, including researching systems to purchase, installation, integration with existing processes, and staff training. Carriers may also need to think how to win over any drivers who may be skeptical about the technology vs. traditional paper logs and averse to being tracked. And, AOBRD manufacturers will need to comply with FMCSA requirements, but carriers researching systems can still ask for details and documentation on how they will convert their AOBRD technology to meet the ELD standards.

Switching to ELDs will require a transition plan as well as new policies and internal processes, and carriers still using paper logs or smartphone/tablet apps should start this part of the process now (in April 2016, we’re 20 months away from the initial December 2017 compliance date).

For additional details, see the related Bulletin article, “Considerations for Choosing ELDs & Systems.


  1. From BCTA’s ELD Workshop:

  1. US FMCSA online resources: this ELD website includes extensive information about the rule, including resources for carriers and drivers, access to recorded information sessions, and a detailed FAQ. See the sidebar for links.

  2. The ELD rule & summaries:

  1. Canadian Rules Coming for ELDs & Electronic Stability Control: A February 2016 Bulletin article regarding the status of a Canadian rule; please see the links at the end of the article for additional background. Also of note, CTA has suggested grandfathering provisions for ABORDs and ELDs currently in use.

  2. US Electronic Logging Rule Heralds Supply Chain Challenges, Changes: This longer, December 11, 2015, JOC.COM article discusses repercussions of the new rule with comments from carriers and drivers, its effect on capacity, what may happen to late adopters, shippers and rates, and how an explosion of new data could be used to improve efficiency. (Non-JOC-subscribers can register for free access to the full article.)

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