What’s the difference between ELD and AOBRD?

What’s the difference between ELD and AOBRD

Did you know that up to 20% of commercial truck and bus collisions in the United States involve exhausted drivers? 

That means that one in five of these cases is caused by a driver suffering from a general lack of alertness and decline in their mental and physical performance. It is one of the reasons why the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of driving hours one driver can travel. 

This is covered by the rule on Hours of Service (HOS), which also requires that commercial vehicle drivers keep their Record of Duty Status (RODS) for enforcement of the law and inspection by the Department of Transportation (DOT). 


Lots of acronyms, what does the law say in layman words?

At the moment, the HOS rule states that commercial truck drivers can work no longer than 14 hours a day. They can spend no more than 11 hours driving, after which they have to take a minimum of 10 hours off-duty before they can get to work again. Also, during their first eight hours of duty, drivers have to take a 30-minute break before they’re allowed to continue driving beyond eight hours.

Before technological advancements began shaping the fleet operating business, drivers used to keep their RODS by filling out paper logs, which they would then hand over to their superiors. This was time-consuming, cumbersome, wasteful, and not to mention environmentally unfriendly, but there was no other choice.

Filling out and keeping track of hundreds of paper logs is impractical and time-consuming  (Source: Giphy)

To modernize this part of fleet management and remove some of the related problems, technology came up with a solution – an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD). As technologies come and go, AOBRDs have become obsolete. They started being replaced by Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in the past few years and commercial fleet managers had to complete the switch by December 16, 2019.

But what exactly is an AOBRD you ask?

An Automatic On-Board Recording Device or AOBRD is a piece of hardware that is attached to a vehicle’s engine, from where it records a driver’s hours of service. 

Technically, an automatic onboard recording device can be seen as a type of an electronic logging device but with much fewer capabilities than a modern ELD solution.

Quick history lesson: first introduced in 1988, AOBRDs replaced paper-based logs with a digital option to record details such as vehicle’s engine operating hours, miles driven, locations, date, time, and driving times. Their use in this area is described in the U.S. Hours of Service of Drivers regulations Section § 395.15, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

And what is an ELD?

An Electronic Logging Device or ELD is a newer form of automatic digital HOS recording device which includes many advantages and features that make it far superior to AOBRDs.

To ensure the transition to these more advanced recording devices of a driver’s hours of service, the ELD Final Rule or ELD mandate was published in 2015, coming into effect in 2016. It laid out the technical requirements for these types of devices, as well as a two-stage compliance timeline for making the switch from AOBRDs, various logging software, and paper logs to ELDs. The ELD Final Rule was predicted to affect around 3.5 million drivers of commercial fleets, of which 1.8 million are long-haul drivers.

That said, your fleet may be exempt from this rule if it includes tow trucks, vehicles with engines predating 2000, drivers who keep RODS for up to eight days in a 30-day period, as well as drivers who aren’t required to keep RODS (e.g. short-haul drivers, except on days when they cross the short-haul limitations laid out by the FMCSA).

AOBRD vs ELD:The core differences 

Even though they both ushered a more modern way of keeping track of hours of service by removing the need for bulky and complicated paper logs, the AOBRD vs ELD differences are tremendous. Due to these differences, a switch from AOBRDs to ELDs was mandated in the first place. Let’s get a closer look at these dissimilarities:

Information they record

Both ELDs and AOBRDs are designed to keep track of information about your vehicles that includes:

  • miles driven
  • engine hours
  • location
  • date
  • driver’s duty status

They’re also used for displaying all of this information to drivers, fleet managers, and DOT officers upon inspection. However, ELDs are much more advanced and useful in this area as, unlike them, AOBRDs miss to record a few crucial indicators

  • on/off status of the vehicle
  • driver information
  • engine diagnostics

All of these are important factors in giving you (and other involved persons) the complete picture of your vehicles’ functioning and driver activities.

Data presentation upon inspections

If you were bound to using AOBRDs before the switch to ELDs, you and your drivers would have often faced complications in terms of transferring their logs to DOT officers upon inspection because these devices were only focused on the interface between them and printers. On the other hand, ELD data has to be sent via either one of these two methods as a minimum:

  • Telematics (email or wireless web services)
  • local (Bluetooth and USB 2.0)

Either of these transfer methods needs to be capable of presenting standardized ELD data to the DOT inspector via display (viewed by the inspector without entering the vehicle) or a printout.

Graph grid presentation

A graph grid of your driver’s daily duty status changes, be it on a display or printed out, is required under the ELD mandate. No such thing is required under the 1988 AOBRD rule, which only requires the time and sequence of duty status changes.

Speed recording threshold

Another thing that makes ELDs the winner in the AOBRD vs ELD race is its practicality in terms of setting the threshold at which driving time begins recording.

Specifically, ELD devices are required by law to automatically trigger recording when the vehicle reaches the speed of five miles per hour (unless a special driving category is selected by the driver, like Personal Use and Yard Move). Once the speed drops to zero miles per hour and stays that way for three consecutive seconds, the vehicle is considered stopped.

AOBRDs, on the other hand, are not required to automatically record driving status and have to be manually set up for a specific speed threshold that sets off drive time recording.

ELDs automatically start recording driving time when the vehicle reaches the speed of five miles per hour (Source: Giphy)

Editing transparency

Sometimes there can be missing information, discrepancies, or mistakes (like accidentally logging Driving Time as Yard Move or vice versa) in RODS and edits are necessary to correct them. Both ELDs and AOBRDs allow you to keep track of who made each edit and at what time. 

However, the ELD rule stipulates that each edit shall include annotation and that edit history needs to be made available upon DOT inspection. The driver can edit, review, and annotate the ELD data. ELDs also require that the driver accepts or rejects any proposed edits.

Vehicle integration

The AOBRD Rule mandates the integration of AOBRDs in fleet vehicles. In contrast, the ELD Final Rule states that the vehicles must include internal synchronization interfacing with the vehicle’s engine Electronic Control Module (ECM) to automatically record a driver’s traveled distance, engine hours, vehicle motion status, and engine power status.

Capturing location information

Under the AOBRD rule, a manual or automated entry is required at each change of duty status. On the other hand, ELDs provide automated entries:

  • at each change of duty status
  • every 60 minutes when the vehicle is in motion
  • at engine-on and engine-off instances
  • at the start and end of Personal Use and Yard Move modes

Moreover, ELDs record latitude and longitude with the precision of two decimal places, unless the Personal Use driving category is chosen which lowers the accuracy to one decimal place. The information about the vehicle’s geographical location will show an approximate distance and direction to a nearby identifiable location, in terms of a city, town, or village, with a State abbreviation.

Default duty status

ELDs automatically make the change of duty status to “On-Duty, Not Driving” when the vehicle hasn’t been in motion for five consecutive minutes and over, and the driver hasn’t responded to an ELD prompt within one minute. AOBRDs aren’t required to trigger duty status changes when the vehicle isn’t in motion.

HOS driver advisory messages

ELDs need to record any unassigned driving time, i.e. when the vehicle is taken on a trip without a driver logged in. Under the ELD mandate, a warning on unassigned driving miles must be provided to the driver upon their login. The driver then has to verify or reject the unassigned driving miles. The AOBRD requires no such thing.

Personal Use and Yard Move driving modes

ELD devices recognize special driving categories – Personal Use and Yard Move. Under the ELD mandate, the carrier controls the permissions on the support system that allow the driver to select either one of these modes. When the driver selects or deselects such an option, he or she has to state the reason in the annotation.

In general, AOBRDs do not recognize Personal Use or Yard Move options. There are exceptions but they still document the same information as under the regular Driving mode.

UTC synchronization

Under the ELD rule, the device’s time needs to be synced with Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). The absolute deviation cannot be more than 10 minutes at any given time. The AOBRD rule does not address this matter.

Resistance to tampering

Both ELDs and AOBRDs are tamperproof, to a certain degree. However, ELDs deploy more advanced monitoring capabilities and tougher rules which increase their detection of data inconsistencies and resistance to tampering. For example, neither you nor your driver can’t change, delete, or edit the vehicle operating time using an ELD solution unless in very few situations and all edits require annotation.

There’s only one winner in the AOBRD vs ELD race

The technology powering ELDs is far more advanced than the one behind AOBRDs, making the ELD devices considerably more useful to fleet managers in many ways. Their primary purpose is to help enforce the law more efficiently, which is why the switch to this more modern system has been mandated in the first place.

However, the usefulness of ELDs spans far beyond the mere adherence to the regulation and avoidance of potential legal issues. These devices can also provide you with much more data than AOBRDs and help keep you and everyone else involved in your fleet’s operations informed and aligned because all vehicle miles are accounted for.

They may also prevent drivers from working beyond their work schedules, as well as anyone demanding them to do so (so there goes your evil plan) and getting exhausted, which not only puts them and your vehicles at risk, but also jeopardizes other traffic participants, with potentially tragic consequences.

Safe Drive Systems integrates ELD data into a uniquely holistic fleet management ecosystem that consists of:

  • electronic logging device
  • Telematics
  • AI cloud data
  • real-time dash camera
  • a radar-based collision prevention system

All these elements work in perfect sync with each other to deliver the most detailed data set available on the market. This provides you with real-time visibility into all parts of your fleet maintenance and management operations, with information about:

  • ELD compliance
  • vehicle location and geofencing
  • fuel consumption
  • driver scoring (ECO)
  • harmful driving habits (e.g. harsh braking and aggressive acceleration)
  • distracted driving
  • accident events
  • road hazards

Ready for an advanced fleet management operation that makes compliance with all the regulations a walk in the park?

You can hit the brakes in the search for an ideal fleet management solution because you’ve just found it. Contact us for a free consultation with one of our advisors and you’ll get a recommendation of the best product for your fleet.

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