✅The Best ELD 2021
Finding the best ELD for your business can be difficult. There is no one-size-fits-all for all transport businesses. What works for your buddy’s company may be a nightmare for yours.
Research, research, research. Every ELD provider is eager to tell you everything their system can do. Rarely do they mention what it can’t do. And it’s often extremely difficult to find answers on their websites, which have all been carefully crafted. We recommend calling up their help desk to get specific answers to your questions. That tells you two things: how good their customer support is; and how consistent and credible their information is. Compare the help desk answers with what the sales rep tells you.
As always, we offer a free ELD needs evaluation and recommendations: ELD Questionnaire
Let’s run through just some of the key considerations you should think about and ask about:
✅In-Truck ELD Hardware – Driver Interface
ELDs and VCRs
We recently got a call from a small carrier. They had done a bit of research and had acquired a test unit from a well-known ELD provider. They had been charged $1,200 for the single in-cab hardware unit, had high monthly payments, and were locked into a one year contract for that test unit. Yikes!
Their questions for us were around whether or not this was a good deal, and if we thought that this company would meet the Canadian requirements down the road.
We have major recommendation problems with proprietary in-cab hardware. Most are locked in a technological snapshot. Essentially you may be buying a $1,200 VCR, in 2020 – it works, but is way behind current technology.
We connected the carrier with one of our recommended providers, who is setting up the whole fleet with a free trial. If they do go with this provider, their overall cost will be about 12% of the cost of the VCR system.
The ELD technological landscape is changing rapidly. Much faster than the transition from Beta VCR, VHS VCR, giant movie disks, DVDs, Blue Ray, and finally streaming. The advances in ELDs just aren’t/won’t be available on the old hardware platforms. Try streaming Netflix with that old VCR in your basement. Please don’t buy an ELD ‘VCR’!
Proprietary vs BYOD ELDs
As with the VCR ELD problem, (above), proprietary or custom built hardware is simply not adaptive enough to deal with new technologies. We recommend BYOD or Bring-Your-Own-Device driver interface units. Smart phones or tablets offer a greater range of functionality, and are usually much cheaper than proprietary hardware.
The other key consideration is many of the proprietary units are wired into the cab. Most roadside inspectors won’t enter the cab to review the HOS history on the device. That means the records have to be transmitted to the officer or printed in the cab. That’s a pain. Mobile devices can be taken out of the cab, and the history reviewed with the officer onscreen.
Currently, we are recommending Android hardware vs iOS. While most of the ELD apps work on both systems, changes and updates are usually much easier to implement on Android devices. An iOS app used to take up to 6 months to get an update launched. While that time has reduced significantly, Android is faster.
We had a client who had a very specific requirement for their android ELD system. The Provider was able to rewrite the code and update their app across all their customers in 6 hours.
Current Drivers’ Technology ELD or Other
A key consideration of driver hardware is a review of what the drivers are using now. Some may just have their own smartphones. Others might be using an older AOBRD system. Training time is dependant on how much variance there is between what the drivers are used to, and what the new system is like. There is huge benefit to having the drivers use something similar to what they’re comfortable working with.
Bluetooth and ELDs
Many of our clients don’t supply their drivers with any in-truck technology – they just let them use their own smartphones. This led to significant problems when they implemented ELDs.
The main problem is that some drivers are using old technology – a flip phone probably won’t handle the ELD app. The phone or tablet needs to have up-to-date bluetooth capabilities, in order to talk to the ECM module.
Most in-truck failures, and frustrations, occur because the bluetooth function is weak, either in the device or in the ECM module itself. Drivers can’t log in, the system keeps disconnecting, they lose connection when they take the device out of the cab during the DVIR, etc.
ELDs and WIFI
One area that is still very much open for discussion is the need for the ELD to automatically shift to data transfer via wifi. If you have terminals or customers with good wifi towers, you’ll save a bit on the monthly data costs.
Some systems communicate with the ECM truck module via wifi, but we can’t see a discernible advantage.
✅In-Truck ELD Hardware – ECM Interface
A critical component of any ELD system is the connection to the Engine Control Module. As noted above, many systems need to be hardwired into the various sensors and diagnostics of the truck.
By far the most convenient systems are Plug and Play modules. In their simplest form, you simply plug the module, (often the size of a large mushroom), in the diagnostic port under the dash. The truck is then set up in the backoffice software that comes with the ELD. Most systems can be set up in 10 minutes per truck.
Other systems supply you with a splitter. You remove the kickplate around the diagnostic port and plug in a splitter. One lead goes to the ELD module. The other goes to the existing plug. This allows mechanics to access the ECM without removing the ELD module. It’s a nice feature.
✅Type of Operation
The size and nature of your trucking operation significantly impacts choosing the right ELD. If you’re a single driver, single truck operation, you don’t necessarily want all the bells and whistles. A multi-truck, multi-driver, multi-terminal company will probably require much broader backoffice capabilities, and in-truck functionality.
Larger operations usually have some form of electronic messaging, communications, tracking, Bill-of-Lading automation, etc. that need to be either part of the ELD system or able to integrate with current systems. If you need to integrate the ELD with your current system, it is critical to have the API documentation reviewed by your IT guys.
If the drivers have to share devices, eg. fixed unit, the number one problem is ensuring that drivers completely log out when they’re done their shift. Or drivers forget to log out, and the next driver forgets to log in – he ends up running on the other driver’s log. Carefully think through the log-in/log-out process you want the drivers to follow.
✅ELD Rule Sets & Exemptions
The number one issue we have in recommending an ELD system is the lack of HOS rule sets, cycles and exemptions. We’ve seen ELDs with everything from 64 rule sets to just 2 rule sets. As most of our clients are Canadian based, and most of the ELDs are US based, this has severely limited the number of ELDs we can even begin to recommend. Many of the US ELD Providers don’t have more than the 70/7 and 120/14 Canadian cycles, if they have Canadian cycles at all.
Having sufficient rule sets is critical, even though you may not need some of them right now. You definitely don’t want to be left hanging with an ELD that won’t let you run legally in the future.
Some of the most important rules and functionality:
- The ability of the driver to manually change rule sets, as required.
- Automatic rule set changes when the truck crosses the US/Can border. If you don’t want to allow drivers to change them manually, then your dispatchers will have to be available 24/7 to reset the drivers’ cycles/rules when they cross the border, each way.
- 160 km Exemption. If you have drivers who operate in the 160 km exemption, but who occasionally go beyond that, you need an ELD that can track hours within the exemption without triggering a violation notification. When the driver leaves the 160, he/she will need the last 14 days properly documented, and have his log transition to the standard 70/7 cycle.
- Oil Field Exemption. As with the 160 km exemption, you may have drivers who operate in and out of the exemption criteria. They’ll need a system that clearly shows the changed rule sets and history.
- North of 60. If you operate, even occasionally, north of the 60th latitude, you’ll need this rule set/cycle.
- 14 days of history. The US only requires 7 days of HOS history.
- DVIR history. The US only requires DVIRs for faults. Canada can require up to 28 days of all DVIRs.
✅ELDs for Your Owner Operators
If you use Owner Operators as part or all of your fleet, they have special requirements. They have to keep their own HOS history available for audits. This means that they may require backend access to the office system.
Another reason to use plug-and-play ECM modules – O/O’s usually aren’t keen on having their dashboards torn apart, or holes punched through their cabs.
✅ELDs for Rental Units
If you rent trucks, ELDs become an issue. In the US, if you rent a truck for less than 8 days, you don’t need an ELD. In Canada, it will probably be 30 days. Even if you rent trucks within those windows, from an operations standpoint it makes sense to be able to run your ELDs through the rental period. Otherwise, your drivers will have to run paper logs when they’re in the rental unit, then have to manually enter the history into the ELD when they return to a company truck.
Rental trucks are another reason why plug-and-play ECM modules are so practical. It takes 10 minutes to add the rental truck to your fleet. Drivers log in as they normally do. You have full system connectivity and continuity.
In both Canada and the US, having a second language in the ELD is a benefit for many carriers. Most ELDs do support a second language. Some have Spanish versions. Few have French versions. We have several recommended Providers who have a French version.
✅ELD Order Entry and Dispatch
We still have some clients whose Transportation Management System (TMS) runs on DOS. The transition to ELDs allows an excellent opportunity to jump into the 21st century. Many ELDs offer good quality TMS systems built into their ELD platform, for no extra charge. We’ve replaced TMS systems that originally cost $2 million with systems that come free with an ELD.
Efficient dispatch has, and always will be, the lifeblood of any trucking operation. We’ve been very impressed with some of the off-the-shelf ELD dispatch systems. A good dispatch system, combined with live visibility of HOS status and truck tracking, make a dispatcher’s job much easier.
Order entry is also an area where an ELD system may help, dramatically. Instead of taking customer orders on scraps of paper and passing them to the dispatchers, customers can place an order directly online. Some systems automatically create a dispatch order, BOL, and can complete invoicing after the load.
✅ELD Back Office
Almost all ELDs come with some form of back office administration system. This is required to centralize the HOS history of the drivers, process audits, set up trucks and drivers, view driver status, do live tracking, order entry and dispatch, IFTA, etc. Some systems are full TMS suites, others are basic.
It’s critical to spend some time and review what your current and future needs are. You need a system that meets all your requirements without becoming too burdensome.
✅ELD Live Tracking and Directions
Nothing, other than maybe bad office coffee, frustrates a dispatcher more than not having any idea where his trucks are. Most of the ELD backoffice systems come with live GPS tracking and history. When a customer calls, looking for his load, the dispatcher can see exactly where the truck is. Some ELD apps have live directions for the driver.
GPS geofencing is another great function. When a truck crosses a pre-configured ‘fence’, the dispatcher and/or customer gets a notification.
✅ELD Telematics and Telemetry
For bigger or more specialized operations, there are a variety of add-ons that can be set up with some ELDs:
One of the most requested is live engine diagnostics. A driver calls or messages to the shop that he’s got a problem, even if it’s a warning light. The shop foreman can log into the trucks diagnostic port via the ELD and see exactly what the problem is.
Integrated dash cams have become very affordable and provide critical accident documentation. There are now several ‘smart’ dash cams that can read a variety of road signs, even identifying construction zone speed signs.
Some businesses are paid separately for actual product pump time. PTO monitoring and reporting provides an accurate, documented invoice detail.
Some ELD Providers integrate tire pressure sensor technology with their app. We’re a little hesitant recommending these systems, having previous mixed results from the sensor accuracy and breakdowns.
There is a very wide range of IFTA features and complexity attached to ELDs. The best IFTA systems track each truck for fuel purchases and kms by each jurisdiction. The monthly data can be either downloaded to a CSV file, or directly into a preconfigured IFTA report.
For smaller fleets, the basic feature should be distance travelled in each jurisdiction. This greatly simplifies completing the IFTA report.
✅ELD Work Orders and Bills-of-Lading
For companies that rely on paper work orders and BOLs, ELDs are a good opportunity to go paperless. Look for systems that are simple: on-device forms that the driver can fill out. Or for a more streamlined process: the dispatcher creates the work order and BOL. It’s pre-completed for the driver when he logs in.
Portable ELD Device
With a driver device that is removable from the cab, a driver can do his pre and post trip report while he walks around the rig. Some ELD DVIRs have the ability for the driver to take a picture of a fault and have it automatically attached to the DVIR.
One of the best DVIR features we’ve seen is the ability of the driver to see the last or even the full DVIR history when he logs into a truck. He can then verify if a previous noted fault has been corrected.
DVIR Report to shop
Another nice feature is where any DVIR with a fault is automatically sent to the shop foreman. He can flag the unit in the dispatch system to put it out-of-service immediately or to have it booked into the shop when it returns to the yard. The mechanic completes a DVIR after the repairs.
The Canadian DVIR retention rules are very different from those in the US. Make sure that the ELD record retention parameters meet the Canadian specs.
✅Current ELD or Logbook System
A key factor in choosing an ELD is what your logbook starting point is. If your drivers are using paper logbooks, with no in-truck technology, then a complex, multifunction driver device is probably going to be a tough sell.
Several ELD Providers are offering an interesting solution to driver acceptance: you can run the system, with the full backend, but without the ELD app being connected to the engine. Drivers can set their own duty status. This lets them, and the dispatchers, be introduced to electronic logs and HOS management. When you want or have to use fully functional ELDs, it takes just a few minutes per truck to plug in an ECM module and configure it in the backoffice. For the latest: ELD Offer
✅Canadian ELD Requirements
Until we see the final ELD requirements for Canada, you should choose an ELD based on its ability to fulfil all the current Canadian Hours-of-Service requirements.
✅Offline ELD Functionality
There are two interesting functionality tests that should be performed live on a perspective ELD system:
- What can the driver do in the app when he is logged in, but not connected to any truck? This is important for drivers who have their own devices. They can track their off-duty time properly, was well as on-duty time when they’re not logged into a truck, (eg. helping in the shop).
- How does the ELD function when the truck and driver are out of cell range? This is a common problem in the oil patch and remote areas. Some ELDs have limited info retention when offline, leaving a big gap in HOS history when the driver returns to cell access.
✅ELDs and Integrations
For larger carriers, with an existing TMS (Transportation Management System), the ability of the ELD to integrate smoothly and efficiently is critical. Some ELD systems have no integration capabilities. Others can integrate with most of the major TMS systems around.
If you have trucking technology that you’d like to retain, ensure that your IT people request the API documentation from any prospective ELD Provider.
✅ELD Inspection Process
We have spoken with a variety of Transport Enforcement Officers on their perspective of ELDs. They definitely have their preferences. They’re looking for ELDs where any driver can easily navigate the app on the device out of the truck. They want to be able to quickly review the HOS history.
We usually recommend ELDs that have a specific inspection mode. This locks down the information that an Inspector can see. In this mode, the Inspector can’t see beyond the required history period. Nor are violations highlighted – he has to find them himself.
✅ELD Audit Process
For those of you who’ve gone through a complete DOT audit, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of most ELD backoffice audit functions. Instead of sifting through boxes of manual paper logs, the auditor has the digital version where he can very quickly perform random audits on drivers or vehicles.
The HOS documentation process with ELDs will dramatically change the requirement for office staff dedicated to this function.
✅ELD Back Office
ELDs come in the wide range of back office features, from the very basic truck and driver administration, to fully loaded TMS systems. While the driver app is critical, the back office can be a go/no-go for some carriers.
Look for robust reporting functions. One of the many insights that have come out of the US ELD experience is just what can we do with all that data being created. Even for 20 truck fleets, there is a wealth of operational and utilization data that can be used to create new and innovative management reports.
Timesheets are a nice feature for digitalizing driver pay data. Some ELDs systems allow for customizable forms, like timesheets. This is especially critical where the customer is billed from a driver’s timesheet. How many millions of dollars of driver time invoicing info are tucked under drivers seats and forgotten?
In the US, ELD devices are self-certified to comply with the FMCSA regulations. Simply put, the government does not certify the device. The ELD Provider does. Since implementation of the US ELD Mandate, it’s clear that self-certification isn’t working.
We’ve live-tested a least 6 methods to cheat ELDs. (No, we’re not going to disclose them!) Some cheats work because some self-certified ELDs really aren’t compliant. Other cheats work simply because even fully compliant ELDs have integrity faults.
It appears that Canada will require independent ELD certification. When choosing an ELD, it’s critical to ensure that the Provider you choose has a commitment to meet any potential Canadian certification requirements. We expect some major problems with carriers using US based systems that won’t or can’t comply with our certification specs.
ELD pricing is slowly stabilizing, but it’s still the wild west out there. You can get a fully compliant (FMCSA) ELD for $10 to $15 per truck per month, all the way to upwards of $100 per month per truck. Hardware ranges from free to $3,000 per truck and beyond. The highest cost systems often use satellite communications. Cell coverage is so good these days, that the need for sat com is only for very specialized needs. Also, many systems work fine offline, or via wifi.
✅ELD Data Load
Some of the early ELD systems had a very high data load. Most of the systems today function at around 500 mb per month per driver. If the driver uses his own device, this amount of data should fit most plans. Larger fleets usually negotiate pooled data rates with their cell providers.
✅ELD Customer Support
Another very important consideration is the nature and capacity of the ELD Provider’s customer service system. Some only have a email help desk running office hours. That’s not going to cut it when your driver needs a data reset at 3 in the morning.
Really drill your potential Provider about their help desk, and get their answers in writing.
✅Check out our list of 227 ELD Providers, including Big Road, Garmin, Omnitracs, Gorilla Safety, Blue Ink Bit, Stoneridge, Keep Truckin, Rand McNally, Eroad, Switchboard, & Geotab: ELD Providers List
ELD Advice – Global Logistics Canada Ltd.
We offer free ELD needs evaluations and recommendations to small trucking operations. Why? Because:
- The trucking industry has been very, very good to us.
- We’ve already built a digital catalogue of 424 ELDs to use with our consulting clients. An evaluation for a small company takes just a few minutes.
- We’ve identified ELD systems that we can’t recommend, and tested ones that we can recommend.
- No one should have to deal with a crappy ELD, and there are lots out there.
Free ELD needs evaluation and recommendations: ELD Questionnaire
Disclaimer: The guidance and information provided in the ELD Canada site is offered for convenience only. For accurate reference, please consult with the Federal Ministry of Transportation or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Information is provided on a ‘best efforts’ basis.