What is an ELD and what is ELD data used for?

To describe what ELD data is used for, we first need to understand what an ELD is and how it is used. An ELD is an electronic logging device that is used by truck drivers to record driving hours of service (HOS) and capture important data about commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). 

What is an ELD?

To describe what ELD data is used for, we first need to understand what an ELD is and how it is used. An ELD is an electronic logging device that is used by truck drivers and the trucking industry to record driving hours of service (HOS) and capture important data about commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). 

The device automatically records driving time activity that includes: current location information, driver hours of service, and asset (vehicle) data; as well as driver identification and vehicle engine information for the truck driver and motor carrier.

The electronic logging devices also record engine hours that let the fleet management see exactly how many vehicles are being driven. With GPS fleet tracking, they can know by accurate and simple means where every truck is.

Some ELD devices for trucks even collect more complex vehicle and driving information, including braking, acceleration, and curving maneuvers. 

What is ELD data used for?

Motive (formerly Keeptruckin) states that the original need for ELD data came as a public safety measure promoted by the FMCSA aimed to provide accountability for the hours of service logged by commercial motor vehicle drivers. FMCSA’s ELD mandate helps improve accountability for both the truckers and trucking companies.

The ELD mandate requires commercial motor vehicles that a carrier owns or uses to have an electronic logging device installed. This is one of many hours of service regulations that try to limit the driver hours behind the wheel to look after commercial or not commercial driver safety.

ELDs vs other regulatory solutions

What is the difference between Automatic Onboard Recording Devices (AOBRDs) and ELDs? According to GeoTab, AOBRDs record a driver’s duty status and are fully synchronized but have fewer functionalities compared to newer technology. Electronic logging devices exceed the requirements of the AOBRD rule. This makes the FMCSA's ELD mandate a more comprehensive, advanced ELD compliance than the previous version..

AOBRDs and ELDs both record the date, vehicle distance (mileage), engine hours and location information, and driver's duty status. The ELD system also records information about the trucker, whether the engine is on or off, and the engine´s state or new diagnostics, while AOBRDs don’t collect that kind of data.

ELDs are better for recording speed too. While they record driving hours once the vehicle is moving at a minimum speed of 5 mph, AOBRDs need fleet managers to manually set a speeding threshold ELD.

What tool is best to gather information?

All the collected information is permanent and can’t be manipulated, so it’s an honest representation of what happened in the truck during driving hours. For instance, ELDs measure the number of hours a driver has driven in a single shift, and thus it acts as documentation for the fleet managers and the driver.

While the primary purpose of ELDs is compliance, some services and ELD providers  have recognized that collecting and utilizing ELD data can also improve efficiency and communication between trucking companies, commercial drivers and ELD vendors and providers.

ELDs vs mobile devices

Some service providers considered using mobile devices to document driver logs or to show real-time GPS location. However, this option has some issues that an ELD doesn’t. First, the ELD mandate requires an electronic logging device to be installed in the commercial motor vehicle. So, using the driver´s mobile device wouldn't be appropriate,  according to the fleet compliance.

Secondly, a mobile device is not the best of the GPS tracking solutions because it may not be accurate. The mobile and the truck, or the mobile and the trucker (even if it's his device) may not be in the same place at the same time. Moreover, while an ELD solution automatizes data gathering, using a smartphone requires the driver to manually input records that would typically auto populate with an ELD device. 


ELD data also allows the company's fleet to optimize routing and delivery. Vehicle tracking and knowing vehicle locations enables you to calculate the best routes to stay on schedule. Furthermore, with improved visibility into real-time GPS locations, fleets can also use ELD data to optimize fuel consumption and reduce deadhead (driving time with no cargo) between loads.

Additionally, tracking location data across fleets help carriers and their customers reduce and/or mitigate detention charges, by alerting warehouse teams when a driver crosses a facility threshold. Carriers may use ELD data to prove time spent in detention and ensure they are compensated for that time.

Fraud prevention:

Some carriers have integrated ELD data with their fuel cards to prevent potentially fraudulent fueling activity. Carriers syncing their ELD data with fuel cards can utilize the location data of the vehicle to ensure the vehicle is in the same location as the fuel pump being used, which helps to mitigate potential fraudulent fuel charges.

In the factoring and payment spaces, some factors are now offering more real-time payments for fuel advances and upon delivery confirmation utilizing ELD data. Factors and real-time payment companies can utilize both current and historical ELD data to ensure the truck locations match the pickup and delivery points on the invoice and bill of lading submitted by a carrier. 

Learn more about how we fund fuel advances confidently.

The motor carrier safety administration

Utilizing ELD data can help you avoid accidents by limiting the hours of service to decrease driver fatigue, so that truckers are thoroughly rested to drive professionally. Also, some ELDs can track braking and acceleration to monitor commercial drivers' behavior during driving time. This way, you can reward carriers that drive carefully and provide proactive training for those with more dangerous driving activities.

Fleet operators that proactively manage driver behavior and work with insurance companies to prove driver safety procedures may be able to lower insurance costs and improve insurance rebates on a quarterly or annual basis.

ELDs can also detect engine fault codes before they cause actual damage. Some ELDs can recognize commercial vehicles’ faults that are shown to the truck drivers in the vehicle diagnostics system and notify the fleet owners. So it can plan the repair to avoid producing more serious issues and not compromise future deliveries or unexpected costs.

The next time you hear about ELDs and ELD data, remember: It’s important to follow the mandated ELD compliance. In addition, it is a great opportunity to optimize your fleet performance and grow your business. There are many ELD manufacturers in the market. So, if you're ever looking to connect to ELD or telematics data, TruckerCloud's open API platform - supporting more than 30 ELD suppliers - is the fastest, most efficient way to get started with a reliable ELD. Learn more here.

Learn more about TruckerCloud's efforts to use ELD data to make a greener future.

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