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Everything You Need to Know About ELDs [Plus Helpful Elog Tips]

July 12th, 2022

Kelli Bloom

Kelli Bloom

Kelli has been in the trucking industry since 2003. She got her start working in compliance for a trucking carrier that specialized in government freight. She has been the compliance manager with ATS since 2017.

Are you still getting used to electronic logs (elogs)? Not sure how they work or how you can edit a log? Do you keep forgetting to set yourself on-duty?

If you don’t understand how to operate your electronic logging device (ELD), you’re going to either run into a violation or go over on your Hours of Service (HOS) — neither of which are good. 

HOS are tightly regulated to maintain safety out on the roads. Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’re safety-driven. When you work with ATS, you’ll receive securement training, have access to the route planning and permitting departments and work with the latest safety technology. 

In this article, we’ll explain the ELD Mandate, what it means for you, how elogs work and tips for using them. 

The ELD Mandate

The ELD Mandate, also known as the ELD Final Rule, is a rule set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). It states that commercial motor vehicles must utilize electronic logging devices to record important driver and vehicle data, like HOS.

ELDs plug into the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and pull data from the engine. This data includes location information, distance covered, fuel consumed and mileage. Once the data is collected, the data is transmitted via Bluetooth or cellular service to the mobile application.

The ELD Mandate was created to ensure drivers remain within their legal HOS. These hours have been set as such to provide drivers with adequate time to rest. Driver fatigue is dangerous. Too long of a day can lead to fatigue, which increases your accident risk. 

At the start of 2017, trucking companies that weren’t utilizing ELDS and elogs had to begin transitioning. As of December 16, 2019, all carriers had to be on ELDs. The two-year transition period allowed carriers to work out the kinks and fully adapt before December 16, 2019. 

Before the mandate, the type of logging device used wasn’t mandated. Some drivers used paper logs, some used automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRD). Because nothing was mandated, a paper log one driver used could look totally different than the paper log another driver used. 

Because there wasn’t consistency and because they relied on self-reporting, paper logs were unreliable — which is why the need for the ELD Mandate became increasingly important. Even when perfectly executed, paper logs were often inaccurate. While you can still grab paper logs from truck stops, the Mandate made it so that all paper log books look the same and the items on the log are regulated. 

Now, with the ELD Mandate, the FMCSA must certify the ELD platform each carrier is using. They have to meet certain criteria and regulations. For instance, they need to tie into the engine and be able to detect wheel movement.

The vendor must get their platform certified with the FMCSA before trucking companies can use them. You can easily research which ELDs have been certified with a quick Google search.

Green farm tractor in front of two silos.

Who is Exempt from the ELD Mandate? 

While the ELD Mandate applies to commercial motor vehicles, it doesn’t apply to all of them. If your truck model is dated 1999 or older, you’re exempt from the mandate. This is because vehicles made prior to 2000 are typically not equipped with an engine control module (ECM) which is needed in order for the ELDs to function.

Short-haul drivers who use time cards are also exempt, as are driveaway-towaway drivers and agricultural and farm vehicles.

Regulations on ELDs

There are some regulations that come along with the mandate, including when you must repair the ELD and what kind of paperwork you need to keep in your truck. 

If the ELD unit breaks, it has to be repaired within eight days according to FMCSA regulations. While you’re waiting for it to get fixed, you can only be on paper logs for a maximum of eight days in a 30-day rolling period. 

That means if you used paper logs on March 15–22, for a total of eight days, you can’t use paper logs again at the start of April because it’s a new month. You wouldn’t be able to use paper logs again until 30 days have passed after the first day you started using them (March 15). 

Repairing your unit within eight days and not being on paper logs for more than eight days are listed separately in the regulation book, which means you can get a violation for them separately.

As part of the mandate, there are four things you need to keep in your truck at all times: 

  1. A paper log book 
  2. An instruction sheet on ELD malfunctions
  3. An instruction sheet on how to use the machine and how to transfer data to an officer
  4. A user manual 

If you don’t have these items in your truck and you’re caught without them, you can get a violation point which will go against your carrier’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA score).  

Driver in their driver's seating looking at their elogs on their ELD.

How Does the ELD Work? 

Many drivers were hesitant about the elogs to start but have now realized how easy they are. 

When you start driving for the day, you have four choices you can select from on your device: on-duty, drive mode, sleeper berth or off-duty. 

When you get in your truck to start your day, click the button on your device for on-duty. Once you’re on-duty and the truck detects wheel movement, it will automatically switch you to drive mode. 

Because the ELD is connected to the engine, it can detect wheel movement at 5 mph. That means that it will also detect when you stop and it’ll switch you from drive mode to on-duty when you stop. 

Prior to the mandate, trucking companies could set the threshold for when you switch into drive mode; that is no longer the case. You make the switch to drive mode at 5 mph, so drivers can’t try to drive slowly around parking lots undetected and not in drive mode.

You’ll have to manually go in and change the ELD to sleeper or off-duty, but other than that, you don’t really need to touch your ELD. It does all the work for you. It calculates your hours and shows how much time you have on your 70-, 14-, 11- and 8-hour clocks. 

When you get close to reaching the end of your clock, it’ll give you a warning. The warnings increase in frequency the closer you get to running out of hours. 

At the end of your day, you have to review your log, ensure it’s correct and then sign it (or “certify” it). You have to certify your logs at least every 24 hours. Be sure you carefully review your logs before you certify them. False logs, if caught, can result in seven CSA points.

If you haven’t yet certified your hours, you can go in and make an edit. For instance, maybe you had on-duty time while you were fueling and you forgot to track that you were on-duty. Failing to track this as on-duty time will result in a violation. While every carrier is different, most have a disciplinary program in place that dictates when they dole out violations. 

While you can edit your logs to add in missing on-duty time, you cannot edit drive time because it’s automatically calculated based on wheel movement; not even your trucking company can edit it. 

Your user manual will have instructional videos that explain how to edit your logs if you’re confused. Conversely, your elog department should be able to easily assist. 

Tips for Using Elogs

If you’re trying to cheat your electronic logs, don’t. It puts you and fellow motorists at risk. 

ELDs are actually very easy to use and they save you time. There’s far less time spent filling out paper logs; it’s automatically done for you. It also easily keeps track of your hours, so it’s far less for you to have to calculate and worry about.

A few tips can keep them working great for you. 

For starters, make sure you get in the habit of always placing yourself on-duty. Getting into the habit of going back and editing your logs daily because you forgot to put yourself on-duty when you started your day isn’t good practice. 

Be sure you also get into the habit of updating load info when you pick up and drop off. 

Trip planning is also a good practice to get into to ensure you have a place to park in mind and plenty of hours to get there. Plan your day out ahead of time — paying special attention to your clocks.

Woman with long hair hanging out the window of her truck.

Become a Trip Planning Pro

When it comes down to it, the ELD Mandate is just another way to enforce Hours of Service and to ensure drivers are well-rested so that they’re alert on the job. HOS violations are serious. A fatigued driver is a driver who is more likely to make mistakes. 

You need to get into the habit of not only maximizing your HOS, which you can do by minding your clock, but also by creating thorough trip plans daily. 

When you trip plan, you make it less likely that a surprise will pop up on the road; you have a plan for everything so that you’re more likely to succeed and to stay within your hours. 

We’ve put together an article that explains how you can become a pro at trip planning, which will not only help you stay within your HOS, but will also help you boost your income.

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