How To Handle the Electronic Logbook Rule With Older Equipment

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, all commercial motor carriers who are subject to the electronic logging device (ELD) rule must be in compliance with the new regulations by December 18, 2017. That applies to Owner Operators and the date is fast approaching!

So, what do you do if you’re driving an older truck that didn’t come equipped with an ELD device?

Well, there are lots of potential courses of action but no guarantees. Here are three different approaches you can take with varying levels of risk.

Option No. 1: Get an Electronic Logging Device (Risky)

If you’re still using paper logbooks, you may be tempted to go out and buy an Electronic Logging Device from the list of registered devices, thinking that will solve your problem.

One would assume that would be the case but the fact is, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does not endorse any electronic logbook device. That is, none of those devices have been officially approved by the FMCSA.

How do electronic logging devices get on that registered devices list? Well, if you are an ELD manufacturer, you get to “self-certify” and then register. Basically, by registering a device, a company asserts that they believe, to the best of their knowledge, that their ELD device is compliant.

“It’s a nightmare scenario for carriers and particularly owner-operators who do not have the resources to determine which systems are compliant or not,” says Alexis Capelle, ELD program manager at VDO/Continental Corporation. “The fact that a vendor is on FMCSA’s list means nothing. There will be a lot [of] non-compliant product[s] on the market and a lot of vendors who never intend to be compliant. They are just in the market to make a fast easy dollar selling a device they call an ELD, and then they will close up shop and disappear. There are absolutely no consequences for those vendors.”

Over the next couple of years, as the Department of Transportation (DOT) begins to enforce the ELD rule, carriers will discovery “in the field,” by trial and error, whether or not their electronic logging devices are, in fact, compliant. Anticipating this, FMCSA has already set up a web page where you can keep tabs on which ELDs have had their self-certification revoked.

Bottom line: Opting for an ELD device before any are tested in the field and subjected to DOT scrutiny does not sound like a very secure option.

Option No. 2: Download a Smartphone App (Even Riskier)

You may already be using an electronic logbook app like Keep Truckin, BigRoad, or Simple Truck ELD but, as with ELD devices, there is no official, guaranteed ELD certification for apps; all of them are self-certified by the developers.

On top of that, there is the added risk of drop-off when you lose cell service or go through a dead zone if you choose to use cellular connectivity, rather than a Bluetooth or hardwired connection to your truck’s Electronic Control Module (ECM). Plus, factor in the usual frustrations that come with cell phone use such as poor battery life, freezing up, and simple failure.

Option No. 3: Use an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (Least Risky)

Switching to an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) before the December 18 deadline buys you until December 16, 2019 to transition to an electronic logging device. This means that you’ll have a year grace period to observe which ELDs are actually compliant.

And once a few devices become the accepted norms, you’ll have two great options:

  1. Buy a tested ELD
  2. Upgrade your AOBRD to an ELD

The fact is, most modern AOBRD devices can be turned into ELDs with firmware or software updates. All major AOBRD manufacturers have plans to observe what happens with the ELD mandate in 2018 and then update their products accordingly.

In fact, many ELD suppliers are recommending this approach as it will allow owner operators to avoid a year of confusion and make an informed decision when the time comes.

“I’m telling everyone I speak with to get an AOBRD as soon as they can so they can skip right over the crunch in December,” said Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar Systems. “It will take at least a year to get enforcement officials trained on the 80 to 100 devices that will be on the market by the end of the year. It’s going to be a mess at roadside for a long time to come.”

Get Your Tractor Outfitted with an AOBRD for Free

At PAM, we’ve done the research and are going with the AOBRD option, which seems the safest bet to keep our fleet rolling without any interruptions.

As a matter of policy, we outfit all our Owner Operators with AOBRDs —QualComm MCP50s — for free and don’t charge a rental fee.

So for all those Owner Operators out there who are looking for a secure way to handle the ELD mandate, we invite you to apply to PAM today or email us at We’ll keep you ELD compliant and won’t charge you a dime.

Plus, we’ve got some pretty good dedicated lanes on the docket with long miles and good home time.

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