How To Use an Electronic Logbook

Electronic Logbook

Electronic logbooks, also known as e-logs or electronic logging devices (ELDs), are mandatory on most commercial vehicles in the US. These logbooks automatically record vehicles’ duty hours and data like GPS location information, engine load, and fuel efficiency. The data they collect is a crucial input for fleet management software.

While ELDs are now on nearly every commercial vehicle, that doesn’t mean they’re always easy to use. Various ELDs can collect multiple types of data and offer different user interfaces. Plus, drivers and fleet managers use them differently. In this guide, we’ll explain how to use an electronic logbook.

Who Needs to Use an Electronic Logbook?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented an ELD mandate that requires most commercial vehicles to record duty hours using an electronic logbook. The mandate took effect in 2019, so all fleet vehicles today must use an ELD to maintain fleet compliance.

According to the ELD mandate, all commercial vehicle drivers must record duty hours using an ELD. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • 100-mile radius: Short-haul drivers who operate within 100 air miles of their home base and drive fewer than 12 hours per day may record duty hours using paper logs.
  • 150-mile radius: Short-haul drivers who operate within 150 air miles of their home base and don’t drive a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are allowed to record hours using paper logs.
  • Pre-2000 vehicles: Vehicles with engines manufactured in 1999 or earlier aren’t required to have an ELD. Drivers must still record hours using a paper log.
  • Occasional drivers: Drivers who record duty hours for eight or fewer days in a 30-day period can record hours using paper logs.

Notably, Canada implemented a similar ELD mandate in 2021. So, drivers crossing the border are also required to use electronic logbooks.

What Does an Electronic Logbook Record?

Electronic logbooks can record different types of data depending on the model. At a minimum, ELDs are legally required to record:

  • Date and time
  • Vehicle location (using GPS)
  • Engine hours
  • Miles driven
  • Driver’s name and license number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Carrier’s name and Department of Transportation (DOT) number

Advanced ELDs can capture additional, non-required information such as:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Pre- and post-trip vehicle inspection data
  • Engine load, temperature, and performance data
  • Fueling and fuel efficiency data
  • Idle time
  • Sudden braking and acceleration events
  • Tire pressure
  • Vehicle battery level

Analyzing this advanced data can help you reduce your fleet management costs and stay ahead of important maintenance tasks.

How To Use an Electronic Logbook

Drivers and fleet managers will use ELDs differently, so we’ll cover how you and your drivers can use these devices. Also, remember that every e-log model is slightly different, so read the manual for your device.

How To Use an ELD for Drivers

Getting Started

For drivers of fleet vehicles, an electronic logbook is typically already installed in the vehicle. (We’ll explain the installation process below.) However, drivers need to activate the ELD interface. Some ELDs use an integrated tablet-style device that drivers can simply turn on, while others require drivers to connect remotely to an ELD using a mobile app.

Once the ELD interface is activated, drivers must sign into their logbook account using their assigned PIN or password. Then, they can tap the device to begin a new shift. The ELD will automatically begin logging required data, such as whether the engine is on and whether the vehicle is moving.

Vehicle Checks and Fueling

Many ELD devices enable drivers to log their required pre- and post-trip checks. Drivers can select the “vehicle check” option or the equivalent on their logging device interface, then complete their check and enter any notes into the ELD.

Most ELDs also enable drivers to log fueling stops. To do this, drivers select the “fueling” button or equivalent, then enter details about the type of fueling station and the amount of fuel dispensed.


Drivers may be required to transfer their electronic logs to an officer at an inspection station. Depending on the device, drivers can email their logs to the officer or transmit them over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Signing The Log

Drivers must tap the device to end their shifts. The logging device will then allow drivers to review their total shift hours, driving hours, mileage, and other details from their shifts.

If all log data is correct, drivers will electronically sign the log. If any data is incorrect, drivers can make limited edits to the log. They must submit an explanation for any changes they make and then electronically sign the corrected log.

How To Use an ELD for Fleet Managers

Installing an ELD

Fleet managers are typically responsible for installing electronic logging devices on fleet vehicles. To accomplish this, you first need to locate a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port. The location of this port will vary by vehicle but is usually under the steering column.

When you locate the port, plug the cable that comes with your ELD into it and twist the locking mechanism to secure the cable in place. Then, plug the other end of the cable into the ELD.

Creating Driver Profiles

You’ll need to create accounts or profiles for each of your fleet drivers within the ELD system.

Depending on your device, you may be able to send an email to drivers inviting them to set up their own accounts. Alternatively, you may need to create an account and password for each driver, and then have drivers log in to complete their account setup.

Accessing Drivers’ Data

The process for viewing drivers’ electronic logs varies by ELD device. Most electronic logbook interfaces offer a fleet view mode that enables you to view a summary of hours for all drivers. This summary will typically highlight any drivers that have over-hours violations. You can select any driver to view their electronic logbooks in more detail.

It should be easy to download data from the fleet view interface. Depending on your device’s software, you may see a button to download all data. You may also be able to select individual drivers to download their data.

Integrating With Fleet Management Software

Using fleet management software, you can typically automate data imports from your fleet vehicles’ electronic logbooks. The integration process varies by software and usually requires you to log into your ELD account from your fleet management software.

Contact your fleet management software provider for help with the integration process.


Electronic logbooks are required for most commercial vehicles in the US and Canada. These devices record a vehicle’s mileage, engine hours, and location for each driver.

Drivers should know how to plug in an ELD and change their duty status when driving or taking a break. Fleet managers should know how to download and review ELD data to ensure their fleet complies with FMCSA rules.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you need an electronic logbook?
Electronic logbooks are required by law for most commercial vehicle drivers in the US and Canada. Electronic logbooks record drivers’ duty hours, which is essential for enforcing safety rules limiting how much time drivers can spend behind the wheel without a break.
How does an electronic logbook work?
An electronic logbook plugs into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port, which allows it to collect data such as the engine’s operating hours and the vehicle’s mileage. Every electronic logging device also has a built-in GPS to monitor a vehicle’s real-time location.
Do you need an electronic logbook for local trips?
Short-haul commercial vehicle drivers who drive less than 100 air miles from their base of operations and drive less than 12 hours per day aren’t required to record hours using an electronic logbook.
Written by:
Michael is a prolific business and B2B tech writer whose articles have been published on many well-known sites, including TechRadar Pro, Business Insider and Tom's Guide. Over the past six years, he has kept readers up-to-date with the latest business technology, corporate finance matters and emerging business trends. A successful small business owner and entrepreneur, Michael has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech, finance and business.