The Complete Guide to Electronic Logging Devices

Photo of a Female Truck Driver

Some truckers feel that electronic driver logs limit their ability to manage their schedules since they cannot extend their driving time even by a few minutes. But for a growing number of truck drivers and owner-operators, ELD devices streamline most of their admin tasks and provide a transparent system that leaves no room for disputes over hours worked or pay.

Regardless of where you stand on these devices, the ELD mandate, which officially became law in 2019, is here to stay. Whether you are a commercial truck driver or a fleet manager, it’s time you adapt to the change. To make the transition easier for you, this post will break down how ELDs can make your life easier in ways you didn’t even consider.

What Is an Electronic Logging Device for Truckers?

Under federal law, there are definitive rules regarding how long a driver can be on the road without taking a break. Known as the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, these are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and their main goal is preventing accidents caused by driver fatigue. A key HOS-related ELD rule is that once a driver starts their workday, they have a 14-hour window to drive up to 11 hours. After the 14-hour window expires, the driver must go off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.

The trucking industry has been under scrutiny for decades for drivers being on the road for long hours to meet delivery deadlines, forcing them to ignore regulatory compliance.

This is what the electronic logging device (ELD) was designed to tackle. It helps enforce the HOS standards by providing to-the-minute, tamper-proof records. If you are a driver who has been driving too long, the ELD will flag it and help you avoid penalties or losing your commercial driver’s license (CDL). 

An ELD is essentially a digital logbook for drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles. Instead of jotting down their driving time on paper logs, drivers use this device to automatically record accurate hours.

How Do ELD Devices Work?

The ELD is physically connected to the truck’s engine control module (ECM) allowing it to access the following data:

  • The amount of time the truck is in motion
  • The total time the engine is running (whether moving or idling)
  • The location of the truck at regular intervals
  • The total distance covered during a trip
  • The speed of the truck at different points in time
  • When and how often the truck’s brakes are applied
  • The amount of fuel the truck uses over a specific period or distance  
  • Which driver is operating the truck at any given time

ELDs Log Various Data Points

ELDs log all this data as it is created, so drivers and their employers cannot alter the numbers to pretend they are following the rules when they are not. Also, since the ELD connects directly to the engine, the data is highly accurate.

Once connected, the ELD continuously logs a variety of data points. The primary one is the Record of Duty Status (RODS), which tracks the driver’s work hours in real-time. It categorizes the driver’s time into different duty statuses like “On-Duty,” “Off-Duty,” “Driving,” and “Sleeper Berth.”

ELD Devices Provide Timely Updates

The ELD updates on the spot — it is always recording as long as the truck’s engine is running. Some ELDs are also equipped with GPS functionality to provide live location tracking. This is particularly useful for fleet managers who want to know the whereabouts of their trucks at all times.

Drivers interact with the ELD through a user-friendly interface on a smartphone or a dedicated in-cab device. If a driver is nearing a violation, the ELD can alert them to take a break.

Multiple Ways to Transmit the Data

Most ELDs have several different ways to transmit the data, such as Bluetooth, USB, or wireless web services. This way, the Department of Transportation (DOT) or law enforcement officers can instantly access the driver’s logs during roadside inspections, and fleet managers can remotely monitor the trucks. 

The law requires ELDs to store their data for a specific period — usually six months — because it can be invaluable for audits, dispute resolution, and long-term trend analysis.

How Do I Know If I Need an ELD Device?

The answer largely depends on your operations and the regulations you are subject to. If you operate a commercial motor vehicle that moves goods or passengers across state lines, chances are you need an ELD. As per the ELD mandate, this includes:

  • Long-haul truckers who operate commercial vehicles over 10,001 pounds
  • Short-haul drivers who occasionally exceed the 100 or 150 air-mile radius exemptions
  • Passenger carriers who transport more than 8 or 15 passengers (depending on the vehicle)
  • Hazmat carriers who move hazardous materials

If you own and operate a trucking business, you must also comply with the hours of service, so you will need electronic logging devices unless you meet specific exemptions.

When Is an ELD Not Required for Truck Drivers?

You do not need an ELD to meet the simplified regulatory compliance if:

  • Your vehicle’s engine was manufactured before the year 2000
  • You are transporting an empty vehicle for sale, lease, or repair
  • You are delivering a truck as a product 
  • You drive within a 100 or 150-air-mile radius and meet other HOS conditions like returning to the work reporting location within 12 or 14 hours
  • You haul agricultural products during the planting and harvesting seasons

How to Choose the Right Electronic Logging Device 

Investing in ELD software is not a decision to make lightly. The right system, just like the right fleet management software, motion engine diagnostics solutions, and electronic logbook solutions can make your life easier by keeping you automatically compliant and can even save you money in the long run. The following factors will help you make an informed decision:

ELD Mandate Compliance

You would think that all ELDs on the market would be FMCSA-compliant, but that is not always the case. For one, the agency allows the best ELD manufacturers to self-certify their devices so they are responsible for adhering to the FMCSA standards. While many reputable companies do this diligently, some might cut corners or interpret the regulations differently.

The legal requirements also tend to change as HOS regulations are updated. An ELD that was once compliant might become non-compliant if it is not updated to meet new standards. So, make sure the ELD you buy meets the FMCSA regulations. The easiest way to do this is to check the agency’s list of registered ELDs here.

The Right Fit For Your Operations

There are three main types of ELDs: dedicated, BYOD (bring-your-own-device), and plug-and-play.

Dedicated ELDs are hardwired into the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) so they become a permanent fixture in the truck. There is no need for an additional smartphone or tablet as they have a built-in screen. Since they are dedicated solely to logging and tracking, there is less risk of data tampering or loss. They are usually more expensive upfront due to the hardware and installation costs, but they have lower ongoing fees. This makes them perfect for larger fleet management systems that need comprehensive tracking solutions.

BYOD ELDs allow drivers to use their smartphones or tablets to access the ELD app, making them easier to use. However, you will need to ensure all drivers have compatible smartphones or tablets. As you are not purchasing a dedicated device, the upfront costs are lower. These are ideal for smaller fleets or owner-operators who want a cost-effective solution.

Plug-and-play ELDs, as the name suggests, can be plugged directly into the truck’s OBD-II or JBUS port, so the installation can be done in as little as 5 to 10 minutes per vehicle. These are compatible with all kinds of vehicles, from light-duty passenger buses to heavy-duty 18-wheelers. If you have several fleets with multiple part-time drivers or leased vehicles and you need a versatile system, plug-and-play ELDs are a great option.

Ease of Use

Some devices have complicated menus, small buttons, hard-to-read fonts, confusing layouts, or difficult interfaces to log basic information. This can be frustrating for drivers who are already under pressure to maintain schedules and comply with HOS rules. Not all ELD providers offer proper onboarding support, which can leave drivers to figure things out on their own.

Look for ELDs that have a simple, intuitive dashboard that can display the most important information at a glance. Functions like “Start Break,” “Log Out,” or “Report Issue” should be clearly labeled and easy to find. It should give drivers quick access to common tasks, like changing their duty status, in a few taps or clicks. The ELD should work well on different screen sizes.

It would also be great if the system can send clear and timely alerts to drivers for upcoming breaks, nearing HOS limits, and any mechanical issues. A good ELD maintains a stable connection with its paired device so the data is continuously logged without requiring frequent reconnections.


Budget is always a concern, so you will need to consider the upfront and ongoing costs. You want to go with a brand that offers competitive pricing with a range of features for small and large-scale operations. Some ELDs have a one-time purchase price, while others have a monthly subscription.

You’re going to pay upfront for the hardware, i.e., the physical device that gets installed in the truck. It could be a standalone device or could be paired with a smartphone or tablet. The upfront costs also include professional installation and an initial fee for the software that runs the ELD.

Many ELD system devices have a monthly subscription fee that covers software updates, cloud storage, and customer support. If it uses a cellular network for connectivity, there might be ongoing data management charges. The total cost will depend on the features and the provider.


Your ELD solution should be flexible enough to adapt to your changing needs. As your business expands, you will likely add more trucks and drivers to your fleet, so your ELD should be able to accommodate this growth without needing a total overhaul or a switch to a different system.

Look for a system that allows you to easily add more devices. This should be a straightforward process that does not need extensive reconfiguration. It should also have a centralized dashboard where you can manage all devices, regardless of their number. As your fleet grows, you should make changes or updates to multiple devices at once. A scalable ELD device allows for bulk updates. 

Additionally, consider if the pricing plans offer volume discounts or flexible terms that become more cost-effective as you add more devices. If your operations are expanding, you will need more advanced features like detailed fuel cost tracking, maintenance alerts, or advanced route planning; the ELD should have these features as built-in options or add-ons.

Valuable Data Access

The data your ELD service collects can provide valuable insights into your operations. Look for a device that offers information beyond the hours of service, such as live GPS tracking data, speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration, engine performance, maintenance alerts, fault codes, driver safety, vehicle inspections, and trip reports. Some advanced ELDs can provide data on traffic conditions and suggest alternate routes.

By analyzing this data, you can optimize driver schedules to make the most of their available hours, identify wasteful practices, reduce the risk of expensive breakdowns, and take corrective action if a driver is engaging in risky behavior. ELD automated systems equipped with live tracking, fuel consumption rates, and driver behavior analytics can make a big impact on your operations.

Take Your Fleet Management System to the Next Level with Simplex ELDs 

At Simplex Group, our FMCSA-compliant electronic logging devices come with advanced features and personalized training recommendations to make your commercial drivers better and reduce the risk of accidents. All of this is accessible through our intuitive SimplexHub portal and Simplex2Go app, which also offers real-time tracking, fuel consumption analytics, driver vehicle inspection reports, and much more. 

Call us at 1-866-931-7990 or contact us online to learn more about Simplex fleet management solutions.