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What Are Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) and How Much Do They Cost?

What are electronic logging devices (ELD) and how much do they cost? Let's talk about it!

What are Electronic Logging Devices?

As of December 16, 2019, it is mandated that any commercial driver who is required to keep a record of duty status (RODs) must have electronic logging devices (ELD) in the cabin of their vehicle. An ELD is a piece of hardware that records driving time for commercial drivers. The hardware can plug into the onboard diagnostics port that is in a truck cabin and is used to record data on the engine, location, speed, miles driven, and more. Under the ELD mandate, the FMCSA has required that most trucks have an ELD.

Primarily, ELDs can be used to record Hours of Service (HOS) to make sure drivers are compliant with safety measures. This is important to make sure drivers don’t exceed their on-duty or off-duty drive time for the week. HOS is regulated by the federal government, which is the reason why ELDs are required in most commercial vehicles. Other than recording hours of service, ELDs can also be used to record a variety of data, and then transmit that data across long distances.

ELDs come equipped with built-in GPS tracking and other hardware that make them perfect for recording:

  • Drive Time and HOS

  • Fuel efficiency, idling, and mileage

  • Real-time location

  • Engine Speed

  • Safety-related events like abrupt and harsh breaking

Electronic logging devices are equipped with reporting functionality for mileage totals from state to state for International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) mileage reporting.

Providers such as Garmin allow carriers to quickly recoup the high initial costs of the hardware because there is no subscription fee. Other ELD providers such as Motive and Samsara have services with strong features all around and are easily upgradable. The FMCSA website provides a list of registered ELD’s that are self-certified by the manufacturer.

How does an ELD work?

ELDs are plugged into a diagnostics port in the cabin of a tractor and pull data from the engine like how much fuel is being used, if it's off or on, and even how far the tractor has traveled. ELDs are also equipped with GPS tracking making it easier to determine the precise location of the tractor. In addition to collecting data, ELDs can also transmit data either constantly, or in one-off situations. Constant reporting may be sent to the back-office for general record keeping while one-off reports will be sent to entities like the DOT during roadside inspections.

Most ELDs use a cellular service from providers like AT&T to be able to transmit their recorded data. Other ELDs will use Bluetooth software to transmit recorded data to the driver’s mobile app on their phone which is then used for logging records such as hours of service. Other, more robust ELD systems, have WiFi hotspots which give drivers better access to any electronic work orders, emails, and other applications that can increase productivity on the road. Hardware and services can vary from provider to provider, but typically there is a monthly or annual subscription fee for services. ELD manufacturers such as GARMIN have created hardware that is compatible with smartphone applications and does not require subscription fees.

How much does an ELD cost?

ELD costs depend on various factors including the hardware and accessory devices that will be needed for the ELD to run correctly. Electronic Logging Devices can range in price from $150-$500 per unit depending on the hardware and service capability. Common ELDs will require the monthly or yearly purchase of a subscription to access various services. ELDs that do not require subscription services will have higher costs for the hardware devices which are compatible with smartphone applications.

An entire list of factors which will impact the cost of an ELD include:

  • Accessory Devices: Most ELDs work in tandem with a smartphone device – Apple or Android – which drivers use to mark their duty status on a mobile app. Some vendors will require you to purchase accessory devices through them, while other vendors operate under a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

  • Installation: Some vendors require you to pay to use their installation technicians, which can quickly add up in costs, especially if you have a larger fleet size. Owner-operators explore vendors that have ELDs that can be installed by anyone because this is a less expensive option.

  • Training: Some ELD systems are more complicated than others and require more training. The training time spent for drivers to learn the ELD system costs money, so it is common for owners to explore intuitive ELDs that are easier to use and understand.

  • Add-ons: All vendors do not include features like GPS or the accelerometer in the base package of an ELD. In these cases, owners will have to pay extra to add these features. This can become costly, so searching for vendors that include features for basic GPS and diagnostics is a good choice for owners.

  • Subscriptions: ELD providers may sell hardware and services separately meaning carriers should plan to purchase monthly or yearly subscriptions to gain access. Subscription fees can range from $15-$50 per month, per vehicle depending on the services the carrier is planning to include.


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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. Contents may not be relied upon as a substitute for the FMCSA's published regulations. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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