What Is The ELD Mandate?

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Commercial drivers in the US have long been required to record information about their driving activity. Until recently, it was up to businesses whether to record required details with paper logs or an electronic logging device (ELD). However, Congress passed a vehicle tracking law known as the ELD mandate that requires all commercial drivers to track their activities using ELDs. 

The ELD mandate is now in effect, and it’s up to businesses and drivers to comply or face steep penalties. In this guide, we’ll explain what the ELD mandate is, who’s affected by it, and how it can help your business.

The ELD Mandate in a Nutshell

The ELD mandate is a law requiring that all commercial drivers who keep records of duty service (RODS) do so using an ELD. It officially came into effect on December 18, 2017, and applies throughout the US. 

The ELD mandate doesn’t change what information drivers need to record for their RODS. Rather, it requires that drivers record their duty hours and other records using an ELD.

The mandate also required drivers to keep in their vehicle:

  • A manual for their ELD
  • Instructions for how to transfer data from the ELD
  • Eight days’ worth of blank paper RODS logs (in case of ELD failure)

What Is the ELD Mandate?

The ELD mandate was created by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, which Congress passed in 2012. The mandate was intended to prevent commercial drivers from incorrectly reporting their hours of service, which many drivers had been doing to extend the amount of time they could drive without a break.

The final ELD mandate was published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2015 and went into effect at the end of 2017. While some trucking companies initially received exemptions, virtually all commercial drivers in the US are now required to use ELDs.

According to the mandate, drivers must use an ELD approved by the FMCSA while driving, and the device must be visible to the driver. The mandate also sets out regulations for how long companies must keep ELD data and includes penalties for companies that pressure drivers into violating hours of service limits.

In addition, drivers must keep in their vehicle a manual for their ELD and instructions for transferring data from their ELD. They must also keep at least eight days’ worth of paper RODS logs they can use in case of an ELD failure.

Notably, the ELD mandate doesn’t change hours of service limits set by the FMCSA. It only requires that drivers report their hours of service using an ELD rather than paper logs. The ELD automatically records a vehicle’s location, mileage, and engine hours, while the driver must manually enter their duty status (driving, not driving, or off duty).

Who Is Affected by the ELD Mandate?

The ELD mandate applies to nearly all drivers of commercial vehicles in the US. The FMCSA classifies any vehicle that meets at least one of these qualifications as a commercial vehicle:

  • Weighs at least 10,000 pounds
  • Has the capacity to transport at least 16 passengers (including the driver)
  • Is used to transport nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is used to transport hazardous materials

The FMCSA’s ELD mandate only applies to drivers engaged in interstate commerce—that is, they must be driving between two states or passing through another state while making deliveries between two points in a single state. However, a growing number of states are passing their own ELD mandates for intrastate commerce.

ELD Mandate Exemptions

There are a few commercial drivers who qualify for exemption from the ELD mandate. These include:

  • Short-haul drivers who are not required to maintain RODS
  • Drivers who are delivering the vehicle they are driving to a customer (the vehicle itself is the product)
  • Drivers of vehicles that were manufactured before 2000
  • Drivers who drive for no more than eight days in a 30-day period

Benefits of the ELD Mandate

While some companies view the ELD mandate as a regulatory burden, the truth is that using ELDs has significant benefits for both businesses and drivers.

Reduced Paperwork

One of the biggest benefits of the ELD mandate is that it reduces paperwork around maintaining RODS. Drivers can spend their time driving instead of filling out RODS forms, making your business more productive. In addition, it only takes seconds to transfer data electronically at highway inspection stations, so drivers can get back on the road more quickly.

Better Fuel Management

Most ELDs automatically track your vehicles’ fuel consumption, enabling you to see whether certain vehicles or certain drivers are getting below-average mileage. You can then address the underlying cause and improve fleet efficiency, saving your business a significant amount on fuel costs over time.

Increased Safety

ELDs make drivers safer by discouraging them from driving more hours than they’re legally allowed. Your drivers—and all the other commercial drivers on the road—will be more alert and can make better decisions while driving, potentially preventing costly accidents.

You can also use ELD data about drivers’ speed or braking activity to identify and address problematic behaviors early. ELD data can be very valuable in helping you develop an effective fleet driver training program.

Access to Real-time Vehicle Data

ELDs track data about vehicles’ engine performance, fuel consumption, and more and report it back to fleet managers in real time. That data can be very useful for successful fleet maintenance. When you identify issues early, you can address them before they take a vehicle out of service for weeks and require more costly repairs.

Penalties for ELD Mandate Non-compliance

It’s important to comply with the ELD mandate not just for the benefits ELDs offer your fleet but because non-compliance can be costly.

Violations like not having an ELD at all or not having the ELD visible to the driver carry financial penalties that range from around $1,000 per driver per day to more than $10,000 per driver per day. In addition, non-compliant drivers could be taken out of service, which means your vehicle will need to be towed and your fleet will be left short-staffed.

On top of that, violations add to your business’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) score. The FMCSA uses SMS scores to decide which vehicles to stop for inspections and many companies look at SMS scores when comparing carriers for their goods. The higher your SMS score, the more time your drivers will spend at roadside stops and the less competitive your business will be for high-paying contracts.


The ELD mandate requires that commercial vehicle drivers use ELDs to maintain their RODS and record their hours of service. The mandate went into effect in 2017 and applies to nearly all drivers of commercial vehicles in the US.

It’s important to comply with the ELD mandate to avoid steep fines and SMS score penalties. In addition, using ELDs can help your drivers be safer and more productive. They can also help your business better manage and maintain your fleet, saving you time and money in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

What vehicles are required to have an ELD?
Nearly all commercial vehicles in the US are required to have an ELD. This includes all vehicles over 10,000 pounds, that can transport 16 or more people, that are used to transport nine or more people for compensation, or that carry hazardous materials. There are exceptions to the ELD mandate for intrastate drivers, short-haul drivers, and vehicles that were manufactured before 2000.
Are there updates to the ELD mandate?
The ELD mandate went into effect on December 18, 2017. There have been only minor changes to the ELD mandate since that time, such as changes in the sizes of penalties for certain ELD mandate violations. The biggest change is that some states, like California and Oregon, have their own ELD mandates for intrastate commercial vehicles.
How much does an ELD cost?
An ELD typically costs around $100 for the device itself plus $20-$40 per month for access to the ELD software. While this isn’t cheap, the benefits of using an ELD for fleet safety, maintenance, and fuel efficiency mean these devices can end up paying for themselves over time.
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.