By now, everyone in the trucking industry has heard about the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate and has been impatiently awaiting the publication of the final rule from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If you’re itching to know more about the regulation, which was revealed on December 10, 2015, here’s an overview:

What to Expect

In a nutshell, the mandate says goodbye to the old-school, paper-logbook method of documenting a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS) and introduces ELDs to fleets. Since Hours of Service Regulations are meant to improve road safety when it comes to commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and driver fatigue, the mandatory use of these electronic recording devices can be considered a type of safeguard against this issue.

As for what you can expect from the rulemaking, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs says the FMCSA’s report establishes design and performance standards for ELDs; requirements concerning the compulsory use of these recording systems by truckers who are already required to log/prepare a record of their HOS (RODS) status; essentials for HOS supporting documents; and steps to address issues regarding driver harassment stemming from the mandatory use of the electronic device.

Who Does the ELD Rule Impact?

We can give you a long, detailed explanation of whom the rule applies to, but the reality is that “Whether you are the largest fleet in the country, or a one-person owner/operator, if you file RODS, you will need an ELD,” says ELDFacts.com.

But there are exceptions to every rule. In this case, there are three: drivers using paper RODS for eight days (or less) during a 30-day period; those who conduct driveaway-towaway operations and “the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered”; and vehicle operators whose truck or bus was manufactured prior to the 2000 model year.

Timeline & Cost Concerns

A report from Fleet Equipment suggests that drivers will have to ditch their paper logs and equip their trucks with ELDs two years following the publication of the final mandate. In this case, that may be by December 10, 2017. However, vehicles with automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) benefit from a two-year extension to update to ELD software. Luckily, truckers still using the old-school logging method can hop on board this “deal” by installing AOBRDs by the above-mentioned 2017 date.

Whatever the case, late 2019 is the deadline, and all fleets must be equipped with ELDs by this time — minus for the aforementioned exemptions.

If cost is a concern, ELDFacts.com notes that smartphones, tablets, and “rugged handhelds” can be used in place of an ELD device “as long as the system as a whole meets ELD requirements, including a hardwired connection to the truck’s engine.”

Benefits of ELDs

ELDs and AOBRDs will not only save drivers the inconvenience of keeping a paper logbook, but it will also reduce paperwork, which saves time and money. Furthermore, ELDFacts.com says the electronic device will “keep a dispatcher up-to-date on a driver’s status, letting them plan for loads better in light of HOS compliance needs.” You can also read all about the FMCSA’s report concerning the safety benefits of electronic HOS recorders on CMVs.

Read the full ELD report here.