The Shift From AOBRD vs ELD – What To Expect?

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By James Johnson

The AOBRD and ELD are well-known terms in the trucking industry. The Automatic Onboard Recording Device (AOBRD) is known to have grandfathered the ELD. Back in the day, AOBRDs was a technological marvel. Of course, technologies keep evolving with time. Thus the ELD was born. Both devices track Hours of Service (HoS). They also exhibit other features like calculating the miles driven and recording engine use.

AOBRDs are now declared non-compliant since their features no longer support the needs of today. Still, the device is a crucial part of our mechanical history. So, let’s understand the work of both devices and see why the ELD has replaced the former.

Here in this article, we will discuss the shift from AOBRD v/s ELD. So go through them and stay will us till the end.

What is an AOBRD?

If you have been in the trucking industry for a long time, you are probably familiar with the AOBRD.

The Automatic Onboard Recording Device- also called AOBRD- is an electronic device that records a commercial driver’s duty status. It records accurate information automatically, as specified by the Department of Transportation. This device was the first to replace traditional paper logs.

The AOBRD is the predecessor of the modern-day ELD. It was introduced in 1988 to replace tedious paper logging methods. Though its features are outdated now, it was a pioneer for its time. The AOBRD was a boon for many in the trucking industry. It saved time as it recorded all data automatically. It also prevented truck accidents and mishaps because of its tracking abilities. The ELD replaced the AOBRD in 2019. Canadian drivers still use the AOBRD. However, it is likely to go out of use soon. 

The main tasks of the AOBRD include:
  • Recording Hours of Service
  • Recording the Engine Use 
  • Calculate the miles driven and the speed 
  • The date and time of logging 

This device requires synchronization with specific behaviors of commercial motor vehicles. The AOBRD is also plugged into the vehicle’s ECM port to record data automatically. The primary purpose of this logging device is to record the Hours of Service. Recording HoS is crucial; it aids in minimizing drowsiness and fatigue in drivers. Through HoS regulation, the department of transportation increases healthy productivity in drivers. 

Introducing the ELD

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is a newly updated and mechanized hardware that commercial drivers use to track their Hours of Service (HoS). The ELD, like the AOBRD, captures this data electronically. Like the AOBRD, its purpose is to track HOS and replace traditional paper logs. It also replaced the electronic onboard recorders used for recording before the ELD came into being. Using the ELD became compulsory for all commercial drivers on 1 April 2018. This law helped design a safer, more productive work environment for all drivers. It also made tracking, managing, and relaying information much more efficient than traditional logging. 

On 16 December 2019, it became mandatory for every commercial vehicle that operates for more than eight days in a month. Commercial drivers who had an ELD before 18 December 2017 were given an extension. However, they have also made the shift to an ELD. 

With ELDs, documenting authentic and accurate vehicular information has become very easy. You can record all this information at the tap of a few buttons only! Drivers no longer have to maintain handwritten copies of their tasks, thus enabling them to focus solely on the road and nothing else. The ELD is also a formidable fleet management solution, unlike the AOBRD. 

Using an ELD for your daily business tasks and jobs enhances the safety of your assets and comes with benefits beyond compliance. Once installed, the ELD is bound to seek countless rewards and advantages in the long run and is an overall good investment. It also makes the cost worth it.

Difference between ELD and AOBRD

The ELD is an advanced model for HoS tracking. Some of the aspects that these two models differ in are as follows:

  Location Data 

Both devices record data automatically. The AOBRD requires the truck’s location whenever you change the vehicle’s duty status. The ELD also captures the latitudinal and longitudinal data of the vehicle’s location. These coordinates are accurate up to two decimal places, making them quite sharp and exact. If the driver uses the truck for personal reasons, the ELD reduces its accuracy to one decimal place. The ELD captures the change of duty status automatically as well. 

 Automated Driving  

There is no mandated provision in an AOBRD to record the driving status automatically. Some AOBRDs have that feature. It depends on the service provider and whether they do or do not want to include automated driving. On the other hand, ELDs always have automated driving as a part of the product. They must provide a self-regulating driving status or are declared non-compliant. 


The AOBRD does not account for a smooth format after the data transfer during the inspection. The device does not offer this feature. Transferring data from an AOBRD to the inspectors, therefore, became a tedious job. The ELD shares its data smoothly; via mail, web services, USB Pendrive, Bluetooth, etc.

The AOBRD’s display is also quite simple. It only displays the time and duty status and nothing more. On the other hand, The ELD shows the standardized log information in a simplified form. You can print this log easily as well. 

 Driver’s Records 

There is less clarity in editing a driver’s records through AOBRD. This information depends on the provider and how much they choose to provide. On the flip side, an ELD compulsorily provides features for drivers to edit and annotate their records. Of course, all edits made by the driver must accompany an annotation explaining the changes. Carriers can also suggest changes to the documents. The drivers are free to accept or reject them. 

 Unidentified Trips 

The AOBRD does not record and track unidentified trips. The ELD records all miscellaneous driving trips every time the vehicle is operating. If the driver has not logged in, the device recognizes that too. As a driver, you will receive a notification to approve or reject unidentified trips. Additionally, the carrier for the vehicle will also be held responsible for the same. They must explain why the trip was not recorded and the driver unassigned. 

If you want to know more about the ELD buying guide. Read here

What New Features Does the ELD Offer You? 

 Lesser Paperwork  

As you already know, the chief task of the ELD is to reduce paperwork for fleets and drivers. Through automated technology, one no longer needs to go through piles of paperwork to track HoS. This data is easier to handle and navigate through. You save a lot of paper, money, time, and effort with ELDs. Through online tracking, Manual administration of data is redundant. 

The difference between the AOBRD and ELD in this aspect comes in the quality of data collected. The ELD collects very accurate data, with the geolocation being accurate up to two decimal places. That is something that the AOBRD cannot provide. 

 Safer Road Travel 

The device connects itself to the truck’s engine. It records data about harsh braking, speeding, and similar unsafe driving practices. This information makes the driver aware of their driving habits. Drivers become conscious and practice safe driving practices. Some ELDs also give alerts in real-time when they detect unsafe driving. 

Some ELDs, like the Matrack ELD, also include GPS tracking in their packages. With GPS tracking, you can keep an eye on the vehicle wherever you are. With the current GPS technologies, you can plan the safest, shortest, and traffic-free routes for yourself. This feature saves time, fuel, and maintenance. 

 Vehicle Efficiency  

With ELDs, your cost goes down, and your productivity goes up. As the data is collected electronically, no written logging is required. This feature is very ecologically efficient as well. This data is taken in real-time only. It covers vehicle productivity, fuel usage, maintenance of vehicles, etc. All these records improve the vehicle’s quality, resulting in improved customer service.

Depending on the provider, there may be additional features that you may get. For example, the Matrack ELD also tracks fuel usage and fuel costs for the vehicle. Hence, with an ELD you can also improve vehicle behavior. This device, therefore, promotes not only safe but also responsible driving in the fleet industry. 

 Diagnostic Services 

As stated before, you must connect the ELD to the vehicle’s diagnostic port. Enables it to monitor fault codes 24×7 in real-time. The device recognizes the issues as they arise and notifies you immediately. With ELDs, you can also generate thorough reports on the defects detected. With this information in your hand, you can also prevent further problems. The device may suggest preventive measures as well. 

An easier IFTA process 

As you may already know- fleets must provide IFTA reports at the end of every quarter. This process is a conventional burdensome one. It requires time and effort. 

We’ve already understood that the primary function of the ELD is to reduce paperwork. This rule applies to IFTA as well. ELDs can do IFTA calculations on their own. Moreover, since they are automated records, they don’t have any errors. This feature negates the chance of tax audits. 

So, now you know that the ELD’s features go beyond recording HoS. It is an essential part of today’s fleet management process. It is an integral bone of the industry as well. The transition from the AOBRD to ELD has been a smooth one. The legacy of the AOBRD is recorded in the history of trucking. 

What Questions Should You Ask Before Buying an ELD? 

Is the ELD registered with the FMCSA? 

The ELD makes drivers more compliant. Hence, buy the right ELD. It must be registered with the FMCSA and should be on its list of certified ELDs. Please note that not every ELD is compliant, so you must choose an ELD from the given list. 

What makes an ELD compliant? The Department of Transportation has listed some specifications the device must meet for the fleets to be compliant. These specifications are laid down as per federal regulations. So to sum it up, choose your device from the DOT’s list of certified ELDs. 

How much does it cost? 

For most ELDs, you will have to pay the device charge and then make a monthly payment. Some ELD providers have a cost-effective pricing system. However, some charge a lot of money for the same. Some sell high-end ELDs and therefore have a higher price. While others have a simpler model and therefore do not cost that much. So when you choose an ELD- consider what you need from an ELD and what your finances permit. Your solution should fit well within your budget. 

Also, check for any additional charges that may arise. There may be any installation or implementation charges that are not included in your package. Therefore you must ask about them and ensure that you are not paying extra. 


What features does the ELD have? 

Of course, all ELDs track your HoS and reduce administrative work. However, depending on the provider, it will have additional features.

  • Idle-time time tracking 
  • GPS integration 
  • Real-time notifications
  • Messaging 
  • Log audit reports 

Is the interface user-friendly? 

The ELD solution must have a user-friendly interface that is easy to use. It is crucial as the device should make work for fleets easy, so the user experience should be good. If the solution gives them a tough time to users, they will not be productive. This lack of understanding between the driver and the device can also result in a high driver turnover rate. This change can be very costly for your fleet. 


When FMCSA and DoT made it mandatory to shift to ELD from AOBRD, the idea was to implement compliance. However, several fleet management companies like Matrack have evolved these devices to offer more than simple compliance. These electronic logging devices can integrate with any FMS and give fleet owners, managers, and drivers access to useful information, which can help streamline fleet operations and increase the safety of assets and employees. 

Fleets that have adopted ELDs are already seeing a significant boost in their productivity and profitability. Your business can also reach its full potential with Matrack ELD – an FMCSA-approved device that easily integrates with FMS and gives you the results you need. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is there a shift from AOBRD to ELD?

A: The shift from AOBRD to ELD is required by federal law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated that all commercial motor vehicle drivers switch to ELDs by December 16, 2019, to improve accuracy and compliance with HOS regulations.

2. What are the benefits of using ELDs over AOBRDs?

A: ELDs offer several benefits over AOBRDs, including more accurate recording of HOS data, reduced administrative burden, and improved compliance with federal regulations. ELDs also provide real-time tracking of driver and vehicle data, which can help fleet managers make informed decisions about their operations.

3. What should drivers and fleets expect during the transition from AOBRD to ELD?

A: Drivers and fleets should expect some initial challenges during the transition from AOBRD to ELD, such as learning new software and hardware systems, updating procedures and policies, and potential disruptions to operations. However, with proper planning and preparation, the transition should be manageable and result in improved compliance and efficiency.

4. Are there any exemptions from the ELD mandate?

A: There are a few exemptions from the ELD mandate, including drivers who use paper logs for 8 days or less within a 30-day period, drive pre-2000 model year vehicles, or operate within 100 air-mile radius of their work reporting location and return to the same location each day.

5. Can drivers still use AOBRDs after the ELD mandate deadline?

A: No, drivers and fleets must switch to ELDs by the deadline specified by the FMCSA. After December 16, 2019, the use of AOBRDs is no longer compliant with federal regulations.

Editor at YourBestFleet | + posts

James Johnson is a former truck driver who now works as a writer, specializing in the trucking industry. With over 15 years of experience on the road, James has a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities faced by truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole. His writing focuses on issues such as safety, regulation, and the latest industry trends. His work has been featured in several trucking publications and he has received recognition for his contributions to the industry. In his free time, James still enjoys being around trucks and often attends truck shows and other industry events.

Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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