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Are AOBRD Devices Still Compliant

By Brad Penneau June 1, 2021

Updated: June 1, 2021

In the United States, 2018 was the year of electronic logging device (ELD) headlines, and for good reason. That year marked a major shift from paper logs for drivers, fleet managers, and compliance officers alike. Because the mandate involved driver logs, a core function of daily operations for commercial vehicle fleets, it has understandably soaked up the industry’s full attention.

So what does that mean for AOBRD users? It means that now is the time to get an AOBRD strategy in place.

FMCSA’s ELD implementation timeline

The ELD rule is essentially being implemented in three phases:

Phase 1: Awareness and transition (deadline 12/16/2015)
This two-year period was all about starting the conversation and providing a period for carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers to begin their preparations to comply. ELD-use was voluntary.

Phase 2: Phased-In ELD Compliance (deadline 12/18/2017)
This two-year period started off with some chaos, with officers not even aware of how to evaluate or enforce compliance.

Though some confusion still remains, especially regarding who qualifies for exceptions, Joe DeLorenzo, from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) highlighted during his session at 2018 GATS in Dallas that the “number-one point of confusion on roadside inspections is whether the driver has an AOBRD or ELD.”

Phase 3: Full Compliance (Deadline 12/16/2019)
After December 16, 2019, all drivers and carriers subject to the rule must use self-certified ELDs that are registered with FMCSA.

What is the AOBRD grandfather clause & AOBRD rule exception?

Phase 3 of the final rule, focused on ELD implementation but also allowed an exemption for AOBRDs that were installed prior to December 18, 2017. With the influx in vendors providing ELD solutions following the passing of the mandate, there’s been much more focus on ELD implementation vs AOBRDs and less information about where the difference in functionality lies.


AOBRDs and ELDs are alike in the fact that they both record a driver’s hours of service, and connect to a vehicle's engine. 

The primary difference between ELDs and AOBRDs, however, is that ELDs track more information more accurately. For example, an ELD can identify information on duty statuys changes, logging in and out, location information, and ECM data such as engine power status, vehicle motion, engine hours, and system malfunctions.

Additionally, there are differences in edit history capabilities, where ELDs have a greater level of accuracy and HOS compliance. ELDs readily display log edit history—for review by DOT inspectors, for example—whereas AOBRDs do not. This is important when it comes to unassigned driving time.

AOBRDs and compliance issues

Though enforcement may be getting easier and clearer every day, some DOT safety officials may yet be unable to discern whether they are dealing with an AOBRD or ELD, perhaps due to a lack of training and the large number and broad variety of devices in the field. There have been instances of ELD-related citations being issued in several states against drivers and carriers who were in fact using an AOBRD that complies with Section CRF 395.15.1

This means that it is especially important for your truck drivers to be knowledgeable and fluent in communicating to officers exactly what telematics device they have on board and confidently state that it is compliant.

If your drivers cannot confidently articulate which device they are using, they could be at increased risk of violation even if they are using a perfectly compliant AOBRD.

More valuable insights into drive time: Seeing the detail of how much driving time your drivers have left in their day allows you to assign routes in the most effective way. And, this info goes way beyond what you get from AOBRDs alone.

AOBRDs are becoming the minority: Because phasing out AOBRDs has always been part of the FMCSA regulation, you may begin to see decreased levels of support with your existing system. Many AOBRD providers have already started to make the move to ELD devices, shifting their attention to this now in-demand technology.

Building your AOBRD transition strategy

In developing your strategy and execution plan to transition from AOBRDs to full ELD-usage, there are a few areas you want to pay special attention to:

Implement a midterm plan 

To help your drivers with unjust violations for utilizing AOBRDs between now and December 2019, make sure your bases are covered. Planning now will keep you ahead of the curve and help you avoid logistical issues when businesses inevitably make the switch in droves.

Driver logs are only required to be kept for 6 months, but an exception exists for fleets who were using AOBRDs prior to Dec 2017. In order to prove that you were using an AOBRD prior to Dec 2017, print off and make accessible a driver’s log for every truck operated, especially since we’re now well past 6 months after implementation.

Prepare for vendor analysis and selection

One area where we can look to the Phase 2 rollout for some “lessons learned” is in vendor selection.

For the initial implementation of the ELD mandate, many fleets and owner operators chose vendors that either had a product that wasn’t yet up to par or who provided an insufficient level of training. This hasty choice ultimately led to a lot of frustration across the entire industry, resulting from the poor quality of product and customer service.

As you dive into ELD vendor analysis, make sure you include reputable and experienced vendors, and be sure to ask about post-sale training and ongoing support.

Allocate adequate time for testing

In determining your timeline for the transition, make sure you build in time for technical tests of the system as well as practical tests like pulling information for maintenance schedules and other operational details.

Making sure a new system has all the kinks worked out ahead of time can help you avoid any last-minute issues.

Establish your training schedule

Because your drivers are the ones most affected by the implementation of a new logging system, it’s important to make sure that your drivers fully understand exactly how they will interact with the system. Practice runs for how to share logs with DOT officers will help your drivers be comfortable with the new system.

Especially when you’re moving from an AOBRD device to a full ELD system, your drivers will have access to information that they’ve never seen before, like log revision history. Make sure your drivers understand the difference between your new system and AOBRDs, and plan to review those differences over a period of time, instead of boring them with all of the details in a one-and-done training session.

Build in enough time for some wiggle room

In the initial implementation of the ELD enforcement, many fleets wait until the last minute and ultimately find themselves delayed by lack of information, poor planning and even vendor and technical problems.

When you’re building out your AOBRD to ELD migration calendar, give yourself some wiggle room for completing the initial implementation phase and don’t wait until the 11th hour. 

You can expect that come December 16, 2019, enforcement officers will be well aware of how to evaluate compliance. Don’t expect another delay in enforcement for phase 3.

The time for planning ahead is now

With any new system, it's important to make sure the system is online and operational, and that and that your whole team is up-to-speed and bought in. Planning ahead can help significantly in preventing delays and potential noncompliance issues.

Especially in the case of an issue as business-critical (and potentially costly!) as electronic logging, it's never too early to develop your game plan.


1 https://www.truckinginfo.com/157661/what-you-need-to-know-about-eld-mandate-enforcement

Disclaimer: The information contained in here may or may not be correct and/or complete at the time of reading and is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific professional or legal advice or opinions. No recipients of content from this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of content of the post without seeking appropriate legal advice or other professional counseling.

Brad Penneau

With a career in transportation safety spanning 30 years, Penneau’s experience includes progressively responsible safety, regulatory compliance, and training in (and in support of) the trucking industry.

Tags: Data & Analytics, ELD & Compliance, Performance & Coaching, Safety, Team Management, Training

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