Is This Thing On? Full Implementation of the FMCSA’s Electronic Logging Devices Mandate

Written by: Caitlin Dorné Mattler

As of April 1, 2018, state and federal officials can now place truckers out of service for not complying with the FMCSA’s Electronic Logging Device Mandate (ELD). The ELD mandate requires commercial truck drivers to shift from using paper logs when chronicling daily and weekly record of duty status reports (RODS) to solely using electronic systems linked to their engines. Widely considered the biggest regulatory change in commercial trucking since the 1980s, implementation of the mandate has spanned months, with a soft rollout, including lessened penalties, in place since December of 2017. From December to the end of March, non-compliant drivers and companies have faced violations, citation, and fines, but for the last several weeks the full force of the rule has taken effect. Now, drivers found operating without an ELD are placed out of service for ten hours.

Since the April 1 deadline, economists have seen significantly higher freight rates in comparison to freight volumes, suggesting more trucks are off the highway. Many small and independent companies and owners were hesitant to implement ELD systems in their trucks because of ongoing legal challenges and an estimated 3% of owner-operators have left the industry altogether. This absence of trucks, coupled with a continuing shortage of drivers, has led to some of the highest flatbed load-to-truck ratios (where the loads to be delivered exceed the trucks available to deliver them) ever recorded.

The intent behind the ELD mandate is to force drivers and companies to adhere to the Hours of Service requirements by removing the biggest concern with paper and pencil logs: falsifying records. While the hurdles of implementing any new system as broad as this are obvious, the benefits of the ELD mandate to trucking litigation are also clear. Logs are almost always requested in discovery and the authenticity, accuracy, and integrity of paper logs were constantly questioned, with much depending on how a driver presented as a witness. As more carriers have implemented ELDs ahead of the rule deadline, there are far fewer disputes regarding alleged tampering or falsifying of a driver’s hours and drivers are less likely to find themselves under attack. ELDs allow for greater transparency, and when both sides can agree on the facts, they are able move more quickly and effectively to a resolution.

Here are some of the mandate’s essential points, as well as a few tips:

  • The ELD mandate applies to most motor carriers and drivers who are currently required to maintain records of duty status (RODS) per Part 395, 49 CFR 395.8(a). The rule applies to commercial buses as well as trucks, and to Canada- and Mexico-domiciled drivers.
  • The following are the limited exceptions to the ELD mandate:

o Drivers who operate under the short-haul exceptions may continue using timecards; they are not required to keep RODS and will not be required to use ELDs.
o Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than 8 days out of every 30-day period.
o Drivers who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations, in which the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered.
o Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000.

  • Drivers who do not have an ELD when required (certain companies are exempt) will be placed out of service for ten hours.
  • After the out of service time is completed, drivers are permitted to travel to their next scheduled stop, but cannot be dispatched again without an ELD installed.
  • If the driver is dispatched again without the ELD installed, both driver and carrier are subject to additional penalties and enforcement action.
  • Along with the ELD, drivers must have the following on board:

o Device user manual describing how to operate the ELD (paper or electronic);
o Instruction sheet for data transfer, including the mechanisms supported by the ELD and step-by-step instructions to produce and transfer the data to a safety official;
o ELD malfunction instruction sheet for the driver describing ELD malfunction reporting requirements and recordkeeping procedures;
o Blank driver’s records of duty status (RODS) graph-grids sufficient to record the driver’s duty status for a minimum of eight days.

  • In the event of an ELD malfunction, the driver has eight days to use paper logs and may request an additional extension on a case by case basis.
  •  Motor carriers must retain ELD record of duty status data and backup data for six months. The backup data must be maintained on a separate device from the original data.
  • Motor carriers must maintain a driver’s ELD records in a manner that protects driver privacy.
  • The motor carrier is responsible for checking that their device is registered, which includes checking both the registration and revocation list periodically. The list of registered and revoked ELDs can be found here:


  • For drivers: don’t forget to log out.