What are ELDs?
December 19, 2022
The term ELD, or electronic logging device, refers to a piece of hardware used in most commercial trucks today that collects and reports data about driving times. The ELD works in harmony with the truck’s on-board diagnostic systems (OBD) to collect information about the truck’s engine, its speed, location, mileage, and more. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that most commercial vehicles today are outfitted with an ELD.
History of ELDs
While the FMCSA mandate for ELD usage is a relatively recent legal development, the history of electronic logging devices in commercial trucking dates back to the 1980s. Motor carriers first started using ELDs in the mid-1980s, but these devices were far less sophisticated than today’s standard, especially given that cellular technology was only in its infancy.
The first act in the political history of the electronic logging device came in 1986, when proponents of the technology began lobbying the Department of Transportation. This lobbying group was known as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and is still in operation today. Following this period of lobbying, regulations were introduced in 1988 which proposed to define Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs), which were the technological predecessor to the ELD. The two devices are similar, except that AOBRDs cannot connect to a truck’s engine, whereas the ELD, by definition, must do so. Despite the differences in technology, this was a major legislative step toward regulating ELDs in commercial trucking.
Later on, in the year 2000, the FMCSA began to mandate regulations for hours of service, or HOS, which would have been the first official mandate for ELDs in the US. However, the legislation was shot down in 2004, and it would not be until 2010 that further legislation would be introduced to address the matter. The 2010 stipulation allowed the FMCSA to use ELDs to track some of the most egregious HOS violations across the industry.
Five years later, in 2015, the FMCSA published its final ELD mandate, which is still in effect today. It stipulated that manufacturers must build in compliant ELDs and include guidelines for how to utilize the ELD correctly to track HOS.
Utility of ELDs Today
As documented above, the use of electronic logging devices to track hours of service for drivers has a long industrial and legislative history. That history remains one of the central functions of ELDs to this day – ensuring drivers work fair and reasonable hours by assessing how many on- and off-duty hours drivers work each week. However, the capacities of ELD technology are such that the devices are useful not only for tracking HOS but also to address a broad range of issues surrounding fleet telematics and management.
The best ELDs on the market today are equipped with built-in GPS technology, gyroscopes, and accelerometers and are able to record diverse data, such as:
- Drive time, HOS, and record-of-duty compliance for drivers
- Real-time GPS location tracking
- Engine speed and load
- A range of fuel efficiency markers such as gas mileage and idling trackers.
- Diagnostics and fault codes
- Truck safety-related incidents like collisions, mechanical malfunctions, and harsh braking
These are just some of the capabilities of the modern ELD and proof of its efficacy not only for individual drivers but for fleet managers trying to assess the broad performance of their fleet. ELDs also work in harmony with other important truck systems. For example, most ELDs on the market today function by plugging into the truck’s on-board diagnostic port, allowing the device access to vital engine-related information and other internal performance data.
The data collected by the gyroscopes in ELDs can allow fleet managers to train drivers on safer driving methodologies by showcasing data from previous incidents. Ultimately, too, the ELD helps to reduce costs across the board by improving efficiency, reducing fuel costs, and minimizing unsafe driving behaviors across a fleet.
If you’re looking for more information regarding specific ELD models in-use today, the full list of Drivewyze’s ELD partners can be found here. Further in-depth information covering price points, capabilities, and other features of a range of market-standard ELDs is available online, too.
When choosing an ELD, there are a range of features and components that might be part of your consideration, including price, power, and efficiency. The cost of ELDs can vary based on a variety of factors. The hardware of the ELD itself may vary in price depending on the vendor, but some vendors will offer discounts for larger fleets. In addition to the ELD hardware, most devices require an additional smart device, such as a tablet, computer, or cell phone, to operate and collect data from the ELD. Drivewyze offers drivers the use of a convenient app, available on both Apple and Android devices, as well. Some vendors may allow drivers to use their own devices to complete these tasks, while others may require a separate interface to do so, which is another factor impacting cost.
Installation pricing is another cost factor, which may vary widely depending on whether the installation is done in-house or completed by technicians or specialists hired on the vendor’s behalf. Installation services that require outside technicians may raise costs, especially in the case of larger fleets with many terminals. However, some ELDs can be installed quickly and without the assistance of a specialist.
Next, when considering cost, the ease with which fleet managers are able to train drivers and other employees to use the technology should be taken into account. Hardware that is intuitive and makes use of familiar modern technologies is recommended so drivers can learn to use the ELDs with minimal training.
Lastly, certain providers may increase costs for additional ELD services, like diagnostics and related data schematics, while others offer ELDs with all capabilities included. These are just some factors and features of electronic logging devices to consider when purchasing for a fleet or an individual truck. For more information on ELD pricing, see this report on pricing across the United States and Canada.
Looking for more information about electronic logging devices, driver protocols, fleet telematics, or other related topics? Drivewyze offers a range of resources for drivers, fleet managers, and other industry professionals.