The ELD Mandate 101: What Drivers and Carriers Should Know

Lately, we’ve had some major industry-wide changes and happenings, like the capacity crisis. And once again this December, we were reminded of the on-going ELD (Electronic Logging Devices) mandate that was published in February 2015. On December 19th, 2017, phase two of the mandate officially went into effect — changing the way truckers log their hours.

Since HOS (Hours of Service) regulations were developed in 1937, there have been various changes to the rules. From paper logging in the 1960s to adapting the logging process to constantly evolving technology in the 2000s. Now, after years in the making, the government-regulated mandate will require all truckers to log their hours electronically.

Even though news of the pending ELD mandate has been around for a few years, 60% of small fleets had yet to install ELDs as of November 2017. That number is even larger for fleets with less than five trucks. Contrastly, larger fleets have been taking the necessary steps to adopt ELDs (if they hadn’t already) since 2016 — ahead of the mandate. With everyone adapting to the ELD mandate at their own pace, it’s difficult to predict the impact the upcoming phases will have on the industry.

Below we’ll discuss what the ELD mandate is, its various phases, some exceptions to the rule, and what truckers and shippers can expect from the mandate.

What is the ELD Mandate?

In early March 2014, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association) proposed a rule to require all drivers to use an ELD in place of paper logbooks. An ELD, or electronic logging device, is “DOT-certified electronic hardware that connects to the vehicle’s engine to record driving hours.” ELDs can either be a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and will replace the current paper logbook system.

The ELD mandate is a rule that will enforce commercial motor vehicle drivers, who are currently required to record their hours of service, to record them using ELDs. More specifically, the mandate is targeting drivers with trucks model year 2000 or newer. Both Canada and Mexico-domiciled drivers are included in the mandate, as well.

The mandate will also cover specifications for ELD manufacturers, how ELD data will be checked by DOT officers, and how and when to store ELD data. Those found noncompliant with the mandate will be issued violations or fined, but not taken off the road (yet).

According to FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) drivers are expected to “understand and be able to use ELDs by the required deadline, including how to [annotate, edit, and certify] RODS, and collect required supporting documents.” Fortunately, FMCSA has valuable resources on their website that anyone can download and use to ensure they’re following the ELD mandate thoroughly and properly. It’s also beneficial to understand the different phases of the ELD mandate, so you can understand what’s expected of carriers and drivers at any given time.

The ELD Mandate Phases

Published in 2015, we’ve been expecting these changes to roll out for the past two years. Last year in February 2016, phase one (awareness and transition) was initiated. Now, we’re witnessing phase two: compliancy. The image below shows the current and anticipated timeline of the mandate.


Phase one took place over a two-year period from December 2015 to now (December 2017). During this phase, carriers and drivers were aware of the mandate and were expected to prepare to comply with the new regulations by 2017. As we mentioned earlier, some took advantage of this stage and installed ELDs ahead of schedule — but some did not. Although the FMCSA suggested preparing for the mandate, carriers and drivers could still use ELDs, ABORDs, other logging software, and paper during phase one.

Whereas in phase two — which began December 16, 2017 and lasts until December 16, 2019 — carriers and drivers are expected to comply with the mandate. While AOBRDs (or Automatic On-Board Recording Devices) are allowed in lieu of official ELDs throughout phase two, other logging software and paper logs are not. However, drivers and carriers are still required to keep supporting documents (in both paper and digital format) as of December 18, 2017.

Although phase two is focused on compliancy, the enforcement and penalty phases are actually postponed until April 1, 2018. Meaning drivers will not receive points against their compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score if they fail to meet the ELD requirements until April 1st. However, drivers can still be given warnings (or possibly a fine) if they don’t have an ELD or grandfathered AOBRD when pulled over between now and the first of April.

The third and final phase is predicted to take place after December 16, 2019. From then onward, all drivers and carriers will be held responsible for complying to the official ELD mandate — overruling any current exceptions to the rule.

Exceptions to the Rule (Prior to Phase 3)

As we know, there are exceptions to most rules — and the ELD mandate is no different. There were many exceptions throughout phase one as the industry was preparing for the mandate to officially roll out. Now that we’re in the beginning of phase two, there will be less exceptions as to who does or doesn’t have to comply to the mandate.

Paper logbooks will no longer be accepted for any carrier or driver. Carriers and drivers must be using an ELD unless the carrier or driver already installed “grandfathered” automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs). But keep in mind, this exception will no longer be effective as we enter phase three on December 16, 2019. Between now (December 2017) and mid-December 2019, any drivers who don’t have an ELD, or aren’t grandfathered in using AOBRDS, will be considered noncompliant.

Back in November 2017, the FMCSA stated that “agriculture loads and livestock will receive an additional 90 days [beginning after December 16, 2017] to comply.” This gives agriculture haulers until mid-March 2018 to install and begin using ELDs.

The FMCSA also shared a post to their website in August 2017 listing additional exceptions to the mandate that include drivers:

  • Who use paper RODS for 8 or fewer days out of every 30-day period;
  • Whose vehicle registration reflects they were manufactured before the model year 2000;
  • Who conduct driveaway-towaway services
    • E.g. the vehicle driven is the commodity being delivered; or the vehicle being towed is a motor home or recreational vehicle trailer with one or more sets of wheels on the roadway

What to Expect

The ELD mandate shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone who’s been following the industry for at least the past two years. Despite the time to prepare, we can expect phase two (and even phase three) to cause a disturbance for drivers, carriers, ELD manufacturers, and others within the industry.

Training drivers to switch from paper logs to ELDs is “very detail specific” — it’s more than just installing a new device into your truck. Drivers and carriers will have to adjust to the changes that come along with the new technology. For example, drivers are required to take a 30-minute lunch, but if your watch differs from the device’s time it may only clock you at 29 minutes – which is technically a violation. It’s small details like this that all drivers will need to get accustomed to throughout the transition. Shippers may also have to adjust to minute details. An example would be having to count the time it takes drivers to maneuver and park as work time. With no give in the schedule, carriers may expect a 4 to 5% productivity loss for various haul lengths.

Not all expectations for the ELD mandate are negative, however — there are many benefits as the mandate goes into effect. While the transition may still have kinks to work out, ELDs will definitely make it easier (and quicker) to record HOS. Since interstate HOS rules remain the same, you can quickly download a driver’s report within 30 seconds during an inspection. They’ll also limit mistakes, improve scheduling to limit fatigue, and keep driver logs accurate and orderly.


When it comes to industry-wide changes, education is your best defense. By keeping up-to-date with the current phases and exceptions to the ELD mandate, you’ll be able to better prepare. Although it’s unclear how strict officials will be during phase two, it’s still best to start installing your ELDs as soon as possible.

So, set your calendars for April 1, 2018 – because that’s the day officials can mark points off your CSA score in addition to giving out warnings or fines for being noncompliant. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even set your calendar to remind you that phase three will be released on December 16, 2019.

And don’t hesitate to check out the FMCSA site if you have any uncertainties about the regulations drivers and ELD manufacturers need to start following.

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