AOBRD vs ELD – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: July 22, 2021

Just because the AOBRDs and the ELDs do the same thing doesn’t mean they do it the same way.

While both track hours of service, the ELD does it in a high-tech multi-featured way, and AOBRDs keep it old school and simple.

Which one do you think would work the best for you?

TL;DR: AOBRD vs ELD

AOBRD

ELD

Pros

Pros

 

  • Less Complicated to use

  • Less restrictive and invasive

  • Easier to understand

 

Cons

Cons

 

  • Not FMCSA compliant

  • Does not automatically record driver status

  • Does not record as much information or log as many details as ELDs

 

  • Very invasive

  • It can become costly, especially with a large fleet

  • Hard to learn when switching from AOBRD

Best For

Best For

 

  • Short-haul drivers who use timecard exceptions and drivers who operate a drive-away-tow-away service.

 

  • Large fleets and all commercial vehicles over 10,001

What is an AOBRD and What Does an AOBRD Do?

Let's find out.

What Does AOBRD Mean?

AOBRD, otherwise known as an Automatic Onboard Recording Device, connects to a truck’s engine and records its hours of service. The information is then stored in the device for truckers to track their driving time and mileage.

Photo credit: ttnews.com

These devices are similar to ELD devices. They're just older versions, do not offer nearly as many features, and do not track information as closely or precisely.

Since December of 2019, AOBRD is not ROD compliant through the FMCSA, and for commercial drivers to become compliant, they have to switch over to ELDs.

What is an ELD?

An ELD or Electronic Logging Device is a tool used by truck drivers and trucking fleets to keep logs easily accessible and accurate. These devices must collect data automatically at a certain amount of time and distance during every haul. And it is required that all ELDs offer transferable data from the device to the enforcement requesting it easily and in the right format.

An ELD easily hooks up to your battery and transmits data directly to the device. They have associated apps accessible by the driver, the trucking company, and some offer information that can be shared directly with the customers. 

Photo credit: freightwaves.com

The most important information the ELD is responsible for capturing is the mileage driven by truckers, ensuring the HOS (Hours of Service) rules set by the state are compliant. If you do not stay within these HOS limits, you will end up facing hefty fines.

The ELD logs tracked also help companies and drives with things like fuel efficacy, violation alerts, drive time remaining, etc.

Every commercial truck driver in 2021 will need to have an ELD in their vehicles at all times during their drive.

Relevant Characteristics Between AOBRD and ELD

AOBRD


ELD

image


image

Required but is not noted in the FMCSRs

Integral Synchronization

The interface automatically captures the power status of a truck engine, the miles and hours drove, and the motion status

Does not have the proper format to place driver data into logs

Roadside Inspections

Transfers information to inspectors through telematics, Bluetooth, or USB

Records are required after each duty status change

Location Records

Changes with each on and off status of the engine


Changes automatically with every duty status change


Changes every 60-min

None

Automated Driving Status

The ELD devices must have an auto switch to drive past five mph

Not clearly defined

Editing Function

Must annotate edits and cannot edit drive time.


Administrative edits must have the driver signature

Required for all change of duty status.


Can be manual or automated

Tamper Resistance

Automated entry at each change of duty status


Logs 60-minute intervals while the truck is in motion


Logs when the engine is turned on and engine-off

Similarities and Differences 

Both AOBRD and ELDs have one main purpose, to log driving mileage on commercial driving vehicles. However, that is pretty much where the similarities end. There are many differences between the AOBRD. Here is a breakdown of how these two devices compare and contrast.

AOBRD and ELD Differences

Roadside Inspections

You are required to hand over all documentation and logs to proper authorities when stopped for a roadside inspection. You must maintain these logs in the proper format and ensure they are easily transferable. While the ELD offers easy access and transfer logs and documentation, the AOBRDs do not. These devices do not track in proper formatting. 

Driving Status

Your devices are required to automatically log any commercial vehicle once it hits the speed of 5mph. The AOBRD does not automatically record driving statuses, although some providers of these devices may require automatic logging. The ELDs are required to log information automatically and in real-time. ELDs start to record once the vehicle has reached the speed of 5mp unless specific mileage is programmed.

Photo credit: bestelddevices.org

Location Records

When using an ELD, records containing information on the truck's location are automatically recorded every 5 miles of drive time, including longitude and latitude coordinates. The AOBRD could be recorded automatically or manually but was only required at every change of duty status.

Unidentified Trips

There are no requirements for AOBRDs when it comes to logging unidentified driving trips. WIth the ELDs, you must log all unidentified trips when there are no drivers logged into the system, and the driver has to approve or reject the trip once they are logged in.

Editing Logs

Editing logs without proper guidelines can create a lot of trouble between all parties involved. There are no clear rules regarding the editing of driver logs with the AOBRD. With the ELDs, driver logs can not be edited without the driver’s consent, and every edit must be annotated explaining the changes.

AOBRD and ELD Similarities

There are some similarities between the AOBRD and ELD, mainly because an ELD is an upgraded version of the AOBRDs. These were both created to keep track of commercial driver’s mileage and driving time to comply with HOS guidelines.

Information Logged

Although ELDs may log more information and offer many more features when it comes to the basics, they both capture driving mileage information, including date and time, driving location, drive time, vehicle miles, and duty status.

Set-up: Each of these devices hooks up to your commercial truck through the ECM port to automatically log HOS information by connecting to and pulling data from the engine.

Photo credit: wlius.com

Many of these devices are simple to install and can be set up within 10-15 minutes. Although they fit most trucks, some vehicles may require adaptors.

Vehicle Location Tracking

Both devices are required to automatically track the location of a vehicle (even though the ELDs are known to do it much more specifically) so that the routes can be traced for clarification and education.

Updates location information is automatically logged into the device, and data is then accessible for verification when needed.

Tamper-proof

While we already discussed how tamper-proofing was different, they are similar in that they are required for both devices, and they must be automatically tracked and explained.

Neither of these devices should offer a way for someone else to access and change any information without the driver’s knowledge.

Advantages of AOBRD

Although the AOBRD system uses fewer features and offers a very basic form of information logging, they still have their advantages when it comes down to it. Advanced technology comes with flaws, proving that keeping it simple isn’t always a bad thing. Some of these advantages include.

Better Than Paper Records

AOBRDs were the first tool used to phase out handwritten paper records kept by truck drivers. These paper logs were less organized and sometimes difficult to read and understand. Using an AOBRD system simplified tracking miles on commercial vehicles.

Photo credit: ttnews.com

Less Restrictive

The AOBRDs are not required to document nearly the same amount of information as ELDs. On top of that, ELDs also record information that is not required. Many drivers feel like they are being looked at as criminals and feel uncomfortable driving under such strict and monitored situations.

Less Interactive

Sometimes less is more, and that goes without saying when tracking truck driver’s every move. Because of the high-tech built into the ELDs, truck movement and interaction is easier to manage and track. If a driver’s truck doesn’t move for more than 5 min and the driver doesn’t respond within 60 seconds, the ELD will automatically log the driver as off duty.

Another example of how ELD tracking can become complicated is in situations where someone else (i.e., a mechanic) is driving your truck on a test run. That information is automatically logged onto your drive time. That kind of situation wouldn’t be an issue with an AOBRD.

Less Complicated

When logging your miles with an AOBRD, you simply kept a log and showed it to the enforcement worker requesting it. With the ELD, you need to provide a graph grid, either by displaying it or on a printout sheet.

Advantages of ELD

There are many advantages of using an ELD device compared to using an AOBRD device. Thanks to the upgrade in technology and the extremely large addition to their features, ELDs can give so much more information to drivers, trucking companies, customers, and enforcement officers. Some of the largest benefits associated with ELD devices are as follows.

Safety

With upgraded technology and stricter rules, truck driving has never been safer.

Having the ability to keep an eye on location, drivers, and even accessing personalized driving coaches and dashcam information makes the road much safer for everyone.

Easier and More Detailed Logging Information

Photo credit: Verizonconnect.com

ELDs can log information in the right format and offer extra storage for information needed during a roadside inspection. You can also access information regarding fuel purchases, violations, and maintenance updates.

Better Communication

Having the ability to establish an open line of communication with the driver while they are on the road can, at times, be very crucial. That’s why having ELD devices that offer in-app messaging and chat options make added loads, route changes, and more so much easier to handle.

Real-Time

When recording data with an ELD, you get up-to-date, real-time information that you can log for everything. You will never have to worry about missing time or miles again. You can easily see where your fleet is at and determine an estimated ETA for your customers.

Holding Drivers Accountable

When using an ELD device, you can see when drivers are making traffic violations, taking too many breaks, or not following other important rules and regulations. When you can see where drivers are at fault and can provide proof, you can then confront the drivers and get rid of those who are not willing to correct their mistakes, saving you money in future fines.

Photo credit: fleettrax.net

Bottom Line

When logging information properly, safely, and accurately, the ELD is the clear winner between the two devices. Although the AOBRD systems are easier to use and less invasive, they do not offer nearly as much help and convenience as the ELDS.

People Also Ask

We know you probably still have a lot of questions about AOBRD vs ELD. Here are some of the things that people wonder about the most.

What is the ELD Mandate?

The ELD mandate is guidelines set by the US government enforcing all commercial truck drivers to use the ELD devices and no longer allow AOBRD devices to be considered compliant. This mandate gave truck drivers two deadlines to meet over a few years to transfer from one device to the other.

Are AOBRDs Allowed Under The ELD Mandate?

No. From 2015 through  December of 2019, the government required drivers to make the switch, and AOBRDs are not compliant unless they fall under the exceptions set forth by the government.

When Should I Replace or Upgrade An AOBRD Already In Use? 

If you are still using an AOBRD, you will need to change over to an ELD device ASAP. If you are caught driving without the change, you will face some legal ramifications. Switching over is easy, and you can do so by contacting your carrier.

How Do I Change From AOBRD To ELD?

Changing from AOBRD to ELD is going to vary depending on the company you are contracted through.

Photo caption: bestelddevices.com

Some companies may require you to purchase new devices, while others can walk you through the change-over process step-by-step.

Who is Exempt From The ELD Rule?

There are very few commercial drivers that fall under the ELD exemption rules. Those who are exempt from these rules and may still use AOBRDs include.

  • Short-haul drivers with timecard exceptions

  • Drivers who record duty status for fewer than nine days in a month.

  • Drive-away tow-away service drivers

  • Operators who drive vehicles made in or before the year 2000

To find all the exemptions listed under the laws, please visit the FMCSA website.

Can Truckers Still Use Paper Logs?

The only vehicles that are still allowed to log their driving time manually are the short-haul truckers that qualify for the exemption. 

You may also use paper logs if your ELD devices malfunction for up to 8 days.

Is AOBRD legal?

An AOBRD is only legal for those who are allowed to use them through the mandate exemptions. Using AOBRDs when you are legally supposed to be tracking your information with ELDs can get you into some serious legal trouble.

What is the ABORD Phase-Out Deadline?

In 2015 the switch to ELDs began taking place and was required to be completed within two years. In 2017, some truckers received a grandfather clause that lasted another two years but was up in December 2019. As of 2021, all truckers (except for those exempt) should have already switched from ABORDs to ELDs.



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.