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Updated Mar 21, 2024

What SMBs Need to Know About Electronic Logging Devices

If you operate a small fleet for your business, you are likely required to abide by FMCSA regulations for electronic logging devices (ELDs).

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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The trucking and logistics industry is huge. More than 61 million tons of freight are transported every day through the United States transit systems, making up a significant portion of the annual gross domestic product, according to the Association of American Railroads

To regulate this large industry, reduce fraud and improve the safety of America’s roads better, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, which requires all commercial trucks to have an onboard device that connects to the vehicle’s computer. If you run a fleet of vehicles as part of your small business, it’s important to be aware of this regulation.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right GPS fleet management system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

What is an ELD?

An ELD is a piece of hardware installed in a truck to track vehicle activity. These devices make sure that your drivers are complying with hours of service (HoS) regulations for driving limits in a 24-hour period and the appropriate number of breaks. Major telematics companies provide ELD installation and support to trucking companies. While ELDs were initially implemented slowly into the industry, they are now a federal requirement.

What does an ELD do?

An ELD reports when a vehicle is on, idle and in motion electronically. It holds drivers and trucking companies accountable to the HoS regulations set out by the FMCSA. HoS regulations require drivers to log driving, break and on-duty time. They’ve been around for a while but, in the past, trucking companies and drivers used paper logs to track this time. 

This left considerable room for tampering and adjustment by the driver or trucking company. An ELD cannot be tampered with because it’s connected to the vehicle. This provides transparency between drivers, trucking companies and the government. It also ensures that safety remains a priority.

If you have an ELD, or work with a company that claims to provide ELDs, you can check this list of registered devices to ensure you comply.

TipBottom line
Interested in choosing a telematics solution for your business? Check out our reviews of the best GPS fleet management software.

Who uses ELDs?

Most trucking companies and drivers are subject to the new ELD mandate. If you’re transporting goods by truck in state or across state lines, you will likely have to comply with the new rules.

There are a few exceptions to the ELD mandate that could apply to some small businesses:

  • Drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days in any given 30-day period
  • Driveaway-tow-away drivers
  • Owners of motor homes or recreational vehicle trailers
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000

Keep in mind that this applies only to commercial transportation companies that are required to maintain HoS records. If your business handles deliveries but your drivers don’t use paper logs to track driving activity, then these rules don’t affect you.

Benefits of an ELD

Even though the ELD mandate had a mixed response at launch, ELDs provide many benefits for both carriers and commercial truck drivers. Here are some of those positives.

1. Truckers spend less time on paperwork.

One of the primary benefits of an ELD is that it eliminates a significant portion of the paperwork involved with a driver’s record of duty status (RODS), which must be completed each 24-hour period. According to the FMCSA’s preliminary regulatory evaluation of ELDs, drivers will save approximately 4.5 minutes from logging their HoS each day, which may not sound like a lot but the time quickly adds up.

For example, if a driver completes 240 RODS reports a year and saves 4.5 minutes logging information each time, they will gain back 18 hours a year. To put a figure on this, the average driver earns $30.03 per hour, so trucking companies could potentially save $540 a year per driver. According to the American Trucking Associations, there are 3.54 million employed truck drivers in the U.S. That would mean that the trucking industry is saving approximately $1.91 billion each year through ELDs.

2. ELDs digitize driver vehicle inspection reports.

Before a truck can start a new trip, the FMCSA requires drivers to record the roadworthiness of their vehicles by going over a checklist, which has the driver perform tasks, such as recording the odometer reading, checking for fluid leaks and testing the brakes. With an ELD, a driver can perform this inspection checklist from the cab with a tablet and upload it to the cloud.

This efficiency has other benefits as well as electronic driver vehicle inspection reports to ensure nothing is missed, information is recorded accurately and company headquarters receive the reports immediately. 

Bottom LineBottom line
To make the process of vehicle inspections more streamlined, many GPS fleet management providers now allow drivers to complete them on their cell phones, which they then send back to transport managers, including photographic evidence of potential faults.

3. They monitor driver behavior and safety.

Because an ELD is connected to the vehicle’s engine and computer, it can monitor an individual’s driving behavior, including speed patterns, sudden maneuvers, heavy braking and excessive idling. An ELD can also measure how efficiently each driver uses fuel, which is one of the biggest costs of any trucking fleet. Therefore, this device can increase not only the safety of your drivers but also your company’s overall fuel efficiency.

Did You Know?Did you know
Keeping accurate records of when a truck is in motion and when it is idle can help your fleet optimize its fuel consumption, which can have a significantly positive impact on your bottom line.

4. They create International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reports automatically.

If your company operates in several states, you’re required to file quarterly fuel tax reports in each state to comply with the IFTA. In the past, these reports were tracked and filed manually but, with an ELD installed in each truck, the fuel data is captured and reported automatically. This saves both truck drivers and office employees time.

Costs of an ELD

According to the FMCSA, the average cost of an ELD is $419 per truck. The exact price depends on the size of your fleet, the specific features you require and the provider you choose. If you already work with an ELD-compliant fleet management system, you may not have to invest in a new system.

While, per truck, this is a significant investment for an entire fleet, the money you save automating driver and back-office paperwork more than makes up for this expense. Keep in mind that there is often a software component to ELDs that may require monthly or yearly subscription fees with a telematics company. By bundling your ELD usage with other marquee telematics features, you can get the most out of your fleet. 

What is the ELD mandate?

The ELD mandate requires drivers and freight companies to electronically log HoS in compliance with FMCSA guidelines. Implementing these regulations allows the government to track data on how companies treat their fleets and drivers. In years past, this information was logged by hand, which provided an opportunity for inaccurate data collection. By implementing the ELD mandate, the FMCSA is holding drivers and companies accountable for hours worked and total miles driven, which can create safer roadways. 

Who’s affected by the ELD mandate?

The ELD mandate applies to all drivers and owner-operators who are required to keep RODS reports. These require drivers to complete a checklist during their driving shift. This checklist includes these data points: 

  • 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. 

You and your drivers must keep RODS reports if you meet the following qualifications: 

  • Your vehicle is 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Your vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Your vehicle is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation.
  • Your vehicle is designed or used to transport nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
  • Your vehicle is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

What are the penalties for an ELD violation?

If you continue to use paper logs, have used an automatic onboard recording device or fail to purchase and install enough ELDs for your fleet, you could be subject to penalties. Violations usually impact your Safety Measurement System score, which is a grade the FMCSA uses to regulate safety among trucking companies nationwide. You may also be subject to fines ranging from $1,000 and upward, depending on the incident.

How do you get started with ELDs?

The FMCSA has a variety of resources on its website detailing how to purchase ELDs and train drivers to use them. Finding an FMCSA-approved device is the first step in compliance. 

You can also partner with a telematics company that ensures ELD compliance and provides various other fleet management services, such as fuel management, driver safety performance data and route optimization. The ELD mandate will bring technology into every commercial truck on the road, opening the door for more data and more informed fleet decisions.

Best GPS fleet management software for ELD compliance

All GPS fleet management software providers offer ELD compliance with their platforms among a range of other features. Below, find summaries of ELD-related services provided on eight of the most popular titles.

Motive

Motive offers a comprehensive solution for fleet managers focused on all-around regulatory compliance using real-time monitoring and historical analysis. The fleet management tools are excellent in ensuring compliance with various rules including HoS and vehicle inspections.

Key features: 

  • Live updates on driver locations, vehicle health and asset movement
  • Automated management features including job assignments and outcome confirmations
  • Intelligent routing takes into account congestion, time windows and more 

Pricing: Motive’s pricing is simple with charges for equipment ($150 per unit) and airtime (from $25 for GPS tracking and more for dashcam tracking). 

More information: Read our up-to-date Motive review.

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect is a robust GPS fleet tracking platform that helps transport managers ensure regulatory compliance and optimize fleet operations through in-depth and precise vehicle health monitoring. The Safety Scorecard feature is superb for improving driver performance.

Key features: 

  • Integrated hours of service and FMCSA compliance
  • Excellent diagnostic monitoring including early warnings for issues with individual vehicles
  • Platform now supports battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Pricing: Expect to pay from around $20 per month, per vehicle, for basic fleet tracking.

More information: Read our in-depth Verizon Connect review.

ClearPathGPS

ClearPathGPS is an affordable and user-friendly platform that’s ideal for ensuring compliance with ELD regulations. It also excels in helping drivers manage their hours of service through the mobile app as well as carry out vehicle inspections whose results can be sent back to a fleet manager.

Key features: 

  • Easy for drivers to keep electronic logs of their pre- and post-trip activities 
  • DOT-compliant tablet and phone app, which provides a connection to a VBUS device
  • Real-time geofence and driver behavior alerts

Pricing: From $20-$25 per month, per vehicle 

More information: Read our comprehensive review of ClearPathGPS.

Force

Force is a GPS fleet management system suitable for most types of business but it’s particularly suitable for small and medium businesses involved in local service deliveries or calls. Offering full ELD compliance, it provides fleet and transport managers with detailed trip histories, driver behavior monitoring and more from a user-friendly dashboard.

Key features: 

  • Scalable and it can now accommodate growing fleet sizes up to Class 6, 7 and 8 vehicles
  • Real-time sharing of driver locations with consignee destination or service targets
  • Superb for job scheduling and vehicle tracking

Pricing: $20 per vehicle, per month.

More information: Read our latest review of Force.

GPS Trackit

GPS Trackit is a popular GPS fleet management system with deep ELD integration, helping fleets and drivers move seamlessly to a fully electronic logging system. The system performs particularly well on HOS and driver vehicle inspection report compliance.

Key features: 

  • Get customizable alerts on driver behavior and errors
  • Easy to generate and store reports for roadside inspections
  • Excellent mobile apps allow drivers to manage logs, inspections and compliance 

Pricing: Choose from a 30-day rolling, 12-month, 24-month or 36-month contract. On a 36-month contract, vehicle tracking costs $24.99 per vehicle, per month. Rolling 30-day contracts cost $20 per unit, per month, for more than 36-month contracts. 

More information: Read our up-to-date review of GPS Trackit.

FleetUp

The incorporation of ELD functionality into the FleetUp platform is seamless, ensuring companies benefit from enhanced regulatory compliance and operational efficiency. The intuitive driver mobile app on FleetUp is particularly stand-out for ELD-related tasks.

Key features: 

  • Drivers can easily generate and send compliant roadside inspection reports
  • Range of tools for HoS compliance and to enhance driver performance.
  • Proactive maintenance scheduling to reduce downtime

Pricing: Expect to pay from $20 to $40 per month, per vehicle, for the company’s standard four price points (Standard, Compliance, Advanced and Professional).

More information: Read our review of FleetUp.

Samsara

Samsara’s ELD-related features are integrated tightly into its leading GPS fleet management system. The system provides deep support for transport managers in all areas of vehicle and driver compliance so that they can meet regulatory standards at all times.

Key features: 

  • Automated HOS logging
  • Pre-trip and post-trip driver vehicle inspection reports
  • Real-time alerts to managers of service violations and unsafe driving behaviors

Pricing: Pricing on application only. Fleets with 10 or more vehicles benefit from monthly payment options, currently unavailable to smaller fleets. 

More information: Read our comprehensive Samsara review.

Azuga

The Azuga platform is superb for ELD with an overall system focus on delivering operating compliance, driver safety improvements and optimal fleet performance. The inclusion of a choice of multiple third-party routing and scheduling apps is particularly useful.

Key features: 

  • Monitoring for poor driving behaviors like hard braking
  • Seamless HoS compliance
  • Comprehensive application programming interface to share data with other business apps

Pricing: No pricing on their website however sources at the company have indicated to us a GPS unit-only price of $25 per vehicle, per month, up to $60 for the GPS unit and the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered dashcam.

More information: Read our latest Azuga review.

Mark Fairlie and Matt D’Angelo contributed to this article.

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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