How an ELD Solution Can Help Your Fleet Stay Compliant

March 4, 2021

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Key Takeaways

While an ELD device is required under the FMCSA’s ELD mandate, adopting an ELD solution can also be hugely effective at improving the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of your fleet.

What does an ELD solution do?

An ELD solution is used to record the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of Service (HOS). HOS rules determine the maximum number of hours someone can operate a commercial motor vehicle before taking a mandated break. It also outlines the number of hours a driver can be on-duty and off-duty per week. 

In the past, fleets recorded this information via paper logs but have since been required, under the ELD mandate, to capture this information electronically. An ELD solution—or ELD device—ensures this information is recorded accurately and seamlessly. ELD solutions can also be used as recording devices for a variety of other data that’s critical to fleet management. 

What to expect from an ELD solution?

Equipped with built-in GPS tracking, gyroscopes, and accelerometers, the best ELDs can record:

  • Drive time, HOS, and record of duty status for ELD compliance

  • Real-time GPS location

  • Engine speed and load

  • Fuel usage, idling, and mileage for diagnostics and fault codes

  • Safety-related events, like harsh braking or collisions

What can you use an ELD solution for?

Commercial motor carriers mainly use ELD solutions to record driving time and electronically log HOS, as required by the United States ELD mandate. However, because ELDs record a range of informative data beyond driver logs, they are a critical component of a comprehensive fleet management system. Fleets in trucking, passenger transit, food and beverage, local government, construction, and other industries often find that ELDs are effective at improving safety, efficiency, and sustainability.

Here are a few ways that owner-operators and fleet managers use ELDs across their operations:

1. Compliance: ELDs record HOS and duty status electronically as “e-logs,” eliminating the need for paper logs or a logbook. Under the FMCSA’s ELD mandate, most commercial vehicles are required to have an ELD for this purpose. (Learn more about below.)

2. Dispatch and routing: The best ELDs (like Samsara’s FMCSA-registered ELD system) have a built-in GPS tracker that provides real-time location information for accurate fleet tracking. This data can be incredibly helpful for dispatch and routing because you can see exactly where all your vehicles are at any given time, without having to call your drivers.

3. Maintenance: Because ELDs plug into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics (OBD) port, they are able to pull critical engine data—like mileage and fault codes—for scheduling preventative maintenance and responding quickly to reactive repairs. Plus, drivers can use the smartphone app that comes with your ELD to complete electronic driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs), which helps maximize efficiency and reduce the amount of paperwork that your back-office has to handle.

4. Safety: Many ELDs have a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer that can detect harsh events—like harsh braking, harsh turning, and collisions. You can use harsh event data to coach drivers on safe driving, and historical location data can be shared with law enforcement to exonerate innocent drivers from false claims.

5. Security and loss prevention: The best ELD solutions include software that can help you leverage your data to improve security and prevent theft. For example, offers a geofencing feature that allows you to create a virtual boundary around any location, like a yard or terminal. Then, leveraging your ELD’s real-time GPS capabilities, you can be alerted any time a vehicle leaves your geofence—making it possible to proactively detect potential security issues or theft.

6. Reporting: ELDs enable robust reporting on the data they collect, helping fleets more easily identify areas for efficiency improvement and cost savings. For example, fleet managers can see idling time and harsh events by driver or vehicle, enabling you to more effectively coach drivers, reduce fuel costs, and minimize risky driving behavior. Or, use an ELD device to to accurately track IFTA miles and streamline the quarterly reporting process.

What is the ELD mandate?

The ELD final rule is part of the MAP-21 mandate from congress that went into effect in 2017. The ELD mandate was passed as a way to ensure that drivers have a safe work environment and to create an easier system to track and manage records of duty status (RODS). The ELD mandate aims to annually avoid thousands of crashes, save lives by reducing drowsy driving, and save billions of dollars in paperwork expenses.

The ELD mandate includes provisions that are meant to prevent data tampering and driver harassment. It also outlines set procedures for data transfers so it's easier to demonstrate compliance and share RODS with safety officials.

The ELD mandate has two main phases. As of December 17, 2017, all vehicles subject to the ELD mandate must record Hours of Service electronically. The recording device must comply with a set of regulations known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 49 CFR 395.15. All devices installed after this date must be ELDs, though existing automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) may still be used.

The second phase took effect on December 17, 2019. By this time, data must be recorded directly from the vehicle's engine and automatically transmitted to the Department of Transportation (DOT). This means that all devices must be ELDs and AOBRDs will no longer satisfy the mandate.

What is the difference between ELD and AOBRD?

An AOBRD and ELD are both electronic devices that record a driver's HOS, but an ELD solution provides more advanced recording features that make it compliant with the US ELD mandate.

The mandate provided a two-stage compliance timeline for vehicles to transition from AOBRDs to ELDs. The initial December 18, 2017 deadline required vehicles that had no electronic logging device to start using ELDs to record Hours of Service and the second and final deadline on December 16, 2019, requires all vehicles who are still using AOBRD to switch to ELD.

Major differences between the two devices include:

  • Recorded information: AOBRDs and ELDs both record the date, vehicle mileage, engine hours, location information, and driver's duty status, but AOBRD devices do not capture information about the driver, whether the vehicle is on or off, or engine diagnostics.

  • Speed: ELDs automatically record drive time when the vehicle is moving at 5 mph or above; AOBRDs require fleet managers to manually set a speeding threshold that triggers drive time.

  • Edit functionality: AOBRDs and ELDs both record who made an edit and when, but ELDs require every edit to include an annotation and edit history must be available to DOT inspectors.

To learn more about the differences between AOBRD and ELD, read more here

What is the best ELD solution?

There are a lot of different ELD solutions available for purchase—but not all are created equal.

Some ELD solutions require you to purchase additional in-cab hardware for your drivers to use, which can get expensive. And not all include real-time GPS tracking; some only offer “breadcrumb” location data, which is updated every few minutes rather than in real time. Some ELD vendors also charge more for add-on software features, like alerts, preventative maintenance schedules, and eDVIRs.

For most fleets, the best ELD is one that’s:

  • Easy to install

  • Reliable

  • Simple for drivers and fleet managers to use

  • Offers additional features beyond compliance without charging you more

If those factors are important to you, consider Samsara’s FMCSA-registered ELD—a reliable, easy-to-use electronic logging device.

How Samsara’s ELD solution works

Samsara's electronic logging device is an FMCSA-registered ELD that connects directly to a vehicle's engine through the OBD port, and is part of a telematics solution to help streamline fleet management. Live data is transmitted to the ELD so there is always an accurate log of when the engine is on and what speed the vehicle is traveling. The ELD solution also captures diagnostic information, such as engine fault codes, and safety information, such as instances of harsh braking or acceleration.

Drivers then record their hours through the Samsara driver app, selecting whether they were on duty, off duty, or driving. Together, the engine data and the driver's records of duty status form a complete picture of compliance with the ELD rule.

Fleet managers can track all of the electronic logs and engine data in one dashboard. If drivers are nearing or in violation of the hours of service regulations, fleet managers can take action to ensure their fleet remains compliant.

Samsara gateways also come with a WiFi hotspot that allows mobile devices to connect directly to the gateway over WiFi, without the need for costly cellular data plans. This means that the ELD can transmit the necessary engine status updates to the driver's device even in areas without cellular coverage, maintaining compliance at all times.

To learn more about Samsara’s ELD solution, how it can help your fleet stay compliant, and other information about pricing and onboarding, reach out for a free trial today. 

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