Truck drivers are required by law to document their Record of Duty Status or RODS. They must also log their Hours of Service Hours or HOS. Traditionally, the information was handwritten in log books. However, Electronic Logging Devices, also known as ELDs, make the task much easier.
ELDs typically link with the vehicle’s engine to monitor and record when the truck is being driven. Drivers then easily log into the device and record their activity status as on-duty, off-duty or on-duty not driving. The ELD has a display screen that enables truckers to see the documentation entered and keep track of their hours. However, the majority of devices require a software subscription to access all of the unit’s features. The fees for activation are charged on a monthly basis.
When needed, drivers simply display the log information or transfer the data to law enforcement officers during routine inspections or for fleet commanders via Bluetooth 2.0, USB connection or a wireless internet service. ELDs must be compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s specifications.
Each device must be registered with the FMCSA. The FMCSA estimates that the electronic devices save drivers up to 19 hours each year in log time. Drivers save even more time by not having to log in 15 minute increments. In this way, they spend more time working and less time making logbook entries. Another two hours are saved by quickly transmitting data from one location to another.
Fleet managers enjoy using the devices due to the fact that ELDs reduce their costs while making the life of drivers that much simpler. By using the information provided by an ELD, fleet managers are able to evaluate the times a truck remains idling or when a driver exceeds the speed limit. They may then establish incentive programs designed to enhance fuel efficiency. Managers can also use the data to reduce truck down times.
The FMCSA believes that implementing certified ELDs in trucks may prevent close to 2,000 vehicle collisions, more than 550 injuries and save more than two dozen lives each year.
In 2012, Congress adopted a bill entitled “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” which is also known as MAP-21. The legislation was designed to determine funding for highways and included the mandating of using electronic logging devices. The bill stipulated that truck fleet owners must have installed certified ELDs by December 2017. Trucks formerly equipped with the devices have until December 2019 to make sure that all electronic logging devices are compliant with FMCSA specifications.
Installing an ELD requires locating the vehicle’s diagnostic port, which is in a variety of locations depending on the year, make and model of the truck. The port may be under the dashboard or beneath the steering column on the left or right side. Other possible port locations include:
- To the top left or right of the pedals
- Above the truck’s footrest
- Inside the fuse box
- In the vicinity of the handbrake or clutch pedal handbrake
Opening the port may require removing a protective cover. Simply attach the device to the diagnostic port using a 9-pin, 6-pin or the OBDII connector.
Here are our picks for the best Electronic Logging Devices:
1. KeepTruckin ELD
The Keep Truckin ELD is considered one of the most affordable and popular devices on the market. Consumers have the choice of making monthly $35 payments to maintain a three-year software contract. Another option involves paying $20 per month with an upfront cost of approximately $150.
The ELD remains one of the least complicated devices available, which makes it easier to understand and operate. Keep Truckin’ enables drivers to document and edit logs and change duty status. The log pages are designed to appear similar to traditional paper logs, which seasoned drivers are already accustomed to using. The main menu is clearly displayed on a left-hand sidebar. The dashboard provides all of the information needed to use the ELD. The unit is also designed as a plug-n-play device that becomes operational in a matter of minutes after taking it out of the box.
Using the DOT inspection mode, drivers are quickly able to retrieve the ELD’s log history when needing to share the information with DOT enforcement officers. The ease of locating and pulling up the information is another reason why Keep Truckin’ is a cut above the rest.
In the event of an accident or other unusual event that might require evidence for an insurance claim, drivers simply use the ELD to photograph the incident. The images may then be sent to the dispatch office via the enclosed software.
The Keep Truckin’ menu provides a number of additional features that benefit drivers and fleet owners. The advanced options include:
- Driver scorecards
- Engine diagnostics
- Fuel monitoring
- GPS tracking
- Idle time tracking
- IFTA fuel tax reporting
- Keep Truckin’ alerts
- Log auditing
- Tampering alerts
Ensuring that the device works properly is a main concern for drivers and truck owners. As such, Keep Truckin’ offers excellent, reliable customer service. Should problems or questions arise, clients quickly contact the customer support team via email, phone or social media. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. They also appreciate customer feedback and suggestions for their products.
2. My20 ELD
The My20 is another popular ELD that comes with the electronic logging device and a built-in standard 9-pin connector. If desiring to install the unit using a 6-pin or an OBD-II port, an adapter is required. However, they are sold separately. For the convenience of users, the My20 also links with smartphones as long as they are iPhone 6 or higher and Samsung Galaxy 6 or higher. Overall, the ELD comes with all of the essential features that individual or fleet truck owners need to effectively run the business.
Clients also have the option of choosing between two different monthly service subscription plans. Go with either the $15 or $20 monthly subscription plan, which differs in the number of features available for the ELD. Although configured on a month-by-month basis, the plans are paid for quarterly. My20 manufacturer Konexial also offers for hire purchase plans if the upfront cost of the unit is off-putting.
Some of the many features of the My20 include GoLoad, which matches the vehicle’s load size and type with a choice of ELD functions. The GoFuel feature is an award-winning function that helps improve the fuel economy of the truck. Additional menu options include dynamic load-matching in real-time and includes reports. Drivers also appreciate the GPS tracking, messaging, maps, My20 Rewards and time features.
3. Garmin eLog
Garmin remains well-known for the variety of products offered that include data recording and sharing, GPS tracking, navigation and marine technology. So, it is no big surprise that the company would offer an electronic logging device. The Garmin is more expensive than comparable models. However, each device comes equipped with all of the necessary software. Thus, truck owners do not have the hassle of monthly subscriptions or other fees. In this way, the eLog pays for itself.
Garmin eLog Specifications
The eLog comes ready to install in either 6 or 9-pin ports. Simply plug the unit in, and it is ready to use. The unit is also compatible with other dezl-series Garmin devices. The onboard software easily links with a GPS-enabled smartphone or tablet.
The cylinder-shaped device weighs a mere 2.5 ounces and comes encompassed in a durable but stylish black exterior shell. Drivers and fleet owners easily access the internal data using a Bluetooth connection or a USB device. The connectivity enables drivers to receive messages, reminders and updates in addition to remaining trip time via a smartphone or tablet.
The Garmin is designed to store information on a routine or an interval basis. All of the software’s data and timesheets meet the specifications mandated by the FMSCA. Thanks to the connectivity capabilities, drivers quickly supply the stored information via a mobile device to fleet administrators or vehicle inspection officers when needed.
For the convenience of drivers, the eLog automatically records engine starting times, driving time sheets and rest periods in addition to engine and vehicle data.
Each unit comes with manuals and tools to help drivers and truck owners learn the functionality of the device. Unfortunately, the eLog does not come with much information in terms of training. As the product is relatively new to the market, the units are not equipped with Driver Vehicle Inspection Reporting or International Fuel Tax Agreement reports. However, Garmin plans to make the software upgrades available in the near future.
Another problem for fleet owners includes the lack of compatibility with Fleet Management System software. The unit itself does not come equipped with the feature. The lack of an FMS program might become an issue for owners desiring more detailed tracking ability or the ability to sync the device with 4G Wi-Fi company systems. The unit also does not provide continual GPS reports.
The manuals supplied with the device do not detail data storage and memory capabilities. The descriptions of the eLog do not provide information pertaining to the amount of storage space the unit has or how long reports and time-sheets are stored. As the device is FMSCA-certified, it is safe to assume that documentation remains in the device long enough for drivers to submit their data within the mandated 13-day time frame. However, by contacting Garmin, owners might be able to get more substantial information.
Many ELD providers offer customer service 24/7 per the paid subscriptions. However, as the Garmin eLog does not require a subscription, their customer support services are only available on weekdays from 7 A.M. To 7 P.M.
Despite some of the drawbacks, the Garmin eLog remains a high-quality and often recommended ELD.