Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs or Electronic Logs) streamline the logging of driver hours, maintenance records, and other useful analytics, making them a popular and cost-effective alternative to traditional paper-based logging.
What is an EOBR?
An Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR) is a type of device that was formerly used to track the length of time for which a commercial vehicle was driven, until they were officially replaced by ELDs in December 2019. In the US, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates drive time and rest periods for commercial drivers. By law, commercial fleet owners must ensure that drivers keep detailed logs of their hours of service (HOS). This is done to reduce road accidents caused by driver distraction or fatigue.
EOBRs introduced more accuracy and accountability into the HOS logging process. The old method of using paper log books was time-intensive and prone to human transcription errors. Since the mass adoption of EOBRs, drivers enjoy less admin, safer roads and smoother roadside inspections.
In 2015 the FMCSA introduced a new term – ELD – to replace EOBR to refer to this category of devices. (see below)
EOBRs vs ELDs
In 2015, the FMCSA announced that EOBRs should be swapped for ELDs (electronic logging devices). An ELD is a logging device that can record a driver's HOS automatically. To be considered an ELD, a device must meet the technological requirements outlined on the FMCSA's website. To be clear, not all fleet management or vehicle tracking devices are recognized ELDs.
ELDs have also sometimes been referred to as:
- EDR (Event Data Recorder, in effect a “black box” for trucks)
- Digital Tachograph (fully automated, and most commonly used in the EU)
- Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) – a class of electronic logs recognized by the FMCSA from the late 1980s until the early 2000s
To be clear, not all fleet management or vehicle tracking devices are recognized ELDs. These acronyms refer to different types of devices, not all of which comply with FMCSA standards. It is incumbent on drivers and companies to ensure legal compliance.
What Does the Electronic Log Do?
EOBRs and ELDs are capable of tracking a wide variety of metrics. The exact data gathered generally depending on the service plan for which the end user has signed up. These metrics include (but are not limited to):
- Driver HOS compliance
- Vehicle maintenance tracking
- CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) tracking
- E-Log and E-DVIR (Driver Vehicle Inspection Report) auditing
- Vehicle downtime, idle time and fuel usage tracking
- GPS navigation data
- Fuel tax reporting for International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) compliance
The FMCSA maintains a national database on each truck, bus and commercial HGV company under its purview. In addition to driver HOS, the FMCSA records incidents of unsafe driving, impaired driving, crashes, cargo issues, vehicle maintenance, and driver fitness.
The FMCSA isn't the only party paying attention to fleet regulatory compliance. Insurance companies base their rates on these metrics, and shippers and consumers can look up data on any company.
Taking a proactive approach to your fleet's compliance is more important than ever, given that the FMCSA can levy heavy fines on non-compliant fleets. EOBRs and ELDs furnish fleets with insights about any compliance issues they face, so that they can be identified and dealt with fast.
The EOBR Mandate (2019 Update: The ELD Mandate)
The FMCSA first proposed mandatory EOBR installation for carriers with a history of HOS violations in 2007. Incentives for voluntary use were also tabled. In 2012, proposals were floated to make general use mandatory.
In December 2015, these proposals were given legal effect in the form of the ELD Mandate (or ELD Rule). The Mandate stipulates that commercial drivers must be using an ELD to track their HOS by December 2017.
The full Mandate lists the technical specifications that ELDs must meet in order to become FMCSA-certified. For example, compliant ELDs must:
- Be hardwired to the truck's engine to record when the vehicle is in motion
- Allow drivers to select their duty status (On-Duty, Off-Duty, or On-Duty Not Driving).
- Show drivers their Record of Duty Status (RODS) so they can keep track of their hours
- Package data in a standardized format and be able to transmit it via USB, Bluetooth 2.0, or wirelessly.
Information Which ELDs must Automatically Record
- Date and time
- Vehicle location
- Engine hours in each duty status for the 24-hour period, and total hours.
- Distance travelled (miles)
- Name of driver and any co-driver(s) and corresponding driver identification information (i.e. user ID and password). The name of the driver and any co-driver is not required to be transmitted as part of the downloaded file during a roadside inspection.)
- Duty status.
- Name and USDOT Number of motor carrier.
- 24-hour period starting time (e.g., midnight, 9AM, noon, 3PM).
- The multiday basis (7 or 8 days) used by the motor carrier to compute cumulative duty hours and driving time.
- Truck or tractor and trailer number.
- Shipping document number(s), or name of shipper and commodity.
While this regulatory regime hasn't yet gone into full effect, carriers can see benefits by incorporating logbook software systems early (examples are shown below). The good news is that if your fleet already uses a Telematics system, a simple application or software patch can enable the system to gather EOBR-compliant data.
In the event that your fleet has not previously used electronic logs specifically, or Telematics more generally, there are a host of options available both for sale and for lease. Similar to general Telematics systems, logbook software works in conjunction with the vehicle's existing sensors, and use a software suite or specific applications — often working through Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices — for monitoring and control.
Pricing is, as one would expect, variable, with add-ons to existing systems costing less than the installation of an entirely new EOBR suite. Broadly speaking, one should consider the cost not only of the system, but also of installation, training, maintenance, and fleet downtime. Careful planning will ensure not only a cost-effective solution, but also minimize financial and functional impact on your business.
▶ Now read: Top Five Fleet Compliance Software Deals of 2020
EOBR Case Study
LTL (Less Than Load) trucking company Con-way Freight installed DriveCam EOBR systems on 8,600 of its tractors over a four-month timeframe, demoing the benefits of EOBR. The company was able to leverage the performance metrics provided by the EOBR to streamline its delivery system, improving its on-time performance, cutting fuel consumption, improving drivers' situational awareness and behavior, and cutting costs overall. In short, EOBR systems aren't mere logging tools; used correctly, they can supplement — or even, with the right software, act as — the backbone of a company's fleet management.
The 2017 ELD Mandate signifies a definitive shift towards mandatory vehicle tracking. But the EOBR/ELD distinction causes needless confusion for commercial fleet operators.
The first important thing to remember is that ELDs are the new industry standard. EOBRs are a relic of the past.
The second point is that many modern fleet management solutions do include ELD functionality.
The Mandate offers fleet managers a great opportunity to invest in a fully-fledged fleet management solution.
With a bit of thought and creativity searching for the right one, you’ll find a true asset for your business.