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Transportation Trends: ELDs vs. AOBRDs – What’s the Difference?

Amanda Correa
by Amanda Correa on Aug 5, 2019 19:41:39 PM

As the final ELD deadline looms, all remaining carriers and drivers need to start transitioning from AOBRDs to ELDs before December 16th.


With just a few months to go until the December deadline to switch from grandfathered automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) to mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs), impacted carriers and drivers are rushing to make the switch and remain compliant.

The ELD rule – congressionally mandated as a part of MAP-21 – is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.

Who Has to Comply?

The ELD rule applies to most motor carriers and drivers who are required to maintain RODS. The rule applies to commercial buses as well as trucks. Canada-and Mexico-domiciled drivers are included, unless they qualify for one of the exceptions to the ELD rule (although the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators recently announced that it is now developing its own set of regulations).

As specified in the ELD rule, the following are not required to use ELDs (but carriers may choose to use ELDs even if they are not required):

  • Drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days during any 30-day period.
  • Driveaway-towaway drivers (were the vehicle driven is the commodity) or the vehicle being transported is a motor home or a recreation vehicle trailer (at least one set of wheels of the vehicle being transported must be on the surface while being transported)
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.

Similar, but Different

According to Heavy Duty Trucking, drivers and enforcement personnel are confused about the  the differences between an ELD and an AOBRD — particularly with both devices still presently in use — and sometimes can’t identify which is being used on vehicles during roadside inspections.

“While the two are similar, ELDs are more accurate and have more potential to be integrated into other fleet management solutions,” Heavy Duty Trucking points out. “The benefits of accuracy and the ability to integrate it into a telematics solution to leverage the ELD data should motivate fleets to begin the transition long before the December 16 deadline for ELD compliance.”

The FMCSA published a chart listing out the technical differences between AOBRDs and ELDs here, but Heavy Duty Trucking spells out the basic differences between the two devices as:

An AOBRD synchronizes with specific operations of the truck to record:

  • Date and time 
  • Engine use
  • Road speed
  • Miles driven
  • Locations covered
  • Duty status

An ELD synchronizes with a truck’s engine to automatically record:

  • Date and time
  • Engine power status
  • Vehicle motion status
  • Miles driven
  • Locations covered
  • Engine hours
  • Identification of driver/authorized user
  • Identification of vehicle and motor carrier
  • Log in and log out
  • Duty status
  • Malfunction data

AOBRDs and ELDs both capture RODS data automatically at each duty status change, but ELDs also capture RODS automatically every 60 minutes while a vehicle is in motion, whenever the engine is powered on or off, and at the start and finish of personal use and yard moves.

“In compliance with the regulations, an ELD creates an electronic log that must be assigned to a driver or annotated every time a vehicle moves, and also warns users about unassigned driving time when they log in,” Heavy Duty Trucking reports. “An AOBRD presents data through a display or printout, while an ELD is required to have the ability to transmit data immediately to authorized safety officials through a wireless service and email or by use of a USB2.0 and Bluetooth.”

Not Quite Ready Yet

Right now, about 8.6 percent of carriers are still holding onto their AOBRDs, FreightWaves reports. However, the latest data indicates that regional and super-regional carriers are continuing to close the compliance gap between themselves and nationwide carriers.  

“Of the carriers that are still running AOBRDs, the large majority still plan to make the switch during the fourth quarter,” it reports. “Almost 25 percent of carriers that are waiting to install ELDs are planning to put it off until December, pushing within two weeks of the official compliance deadline.”

At a recent industry conference, FMCSA’s administrator Ray Martinez advised truckers using AOBRDs to track driver HOS to replace them with ELDs now, not at the final deadline in December, JOC reports. “It’s important to prepare for this transition now,” Martinez said, “and I mean now, not in October, November, or December.”

For more information on the ELD rule and timeline, you can download the FMCSA’s ELD Fact Sheet here.

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Amanda Correa

Written by Amanda Correa

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