According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you can use your phone as your electronic logging device (ELD) as long as the requirements are the same as on a dedicated ELD system. That includes syncing up with the engine control module to record engine power and vehicle motion status automatically.
Requirements That Qualify a Phone or Tablet as a Certified ELD
Using a phone as an ELD, you will have your driving data at your fingertips. The ELD app will log all your time working behind and outside the truck. However, it is vital to know that FMCSA has decreed various requirements that qualify a phone, tablet, or other devices as a certified ELD. Installing apps on your phone will not automatically bring it to those requirements.
Under FMCSA, any certified electronic logging device must meet the following performance criteria:
- GPS location accuracy to within one mile
- Automated recording of location engine hours, miles, driving time, and driver identification at 60-minute intervals, retaining this data for seven straight days
- A display that provides data in a standardized format to review on demand for safety officials
- Data transmission using specified data protocols
- Synchronization with the truck’s engine control module
- Tamper-proof safeguards
- A function for annotation and verifying records by drivers or other users
- A user manual including instructions for transfer of data to officials and recordkeeping in the case of a malfunction
Separately, your phone should be mounted in a set position during commercial motor vehicle operation and visible to you from a normal seated driving position. What if something happens to your phone? If you rely on your phone as your ELD, you must fully understand the consequences of moving the truck if you leave your phone at home or forget a charging cable.
E-logs Mobile Apps Vulnerabilities
In theory, using your phone as an ELD can track your service hours, but in practice, it may show some vulnerabilities. Smartphones cannot record your truck’s motion activity without an ELD connection. Because your truck’s activity must be recorded continuously, any data gaps in your hours of service are not permitted.
Some of the most common vulnerabilities of using phones as ELD devices are:
- The battery power generally discharges very fast, and you will always have to deal with the discharging and charging process.
- Phone’s life cycle is typically short, and the manufacturers often upgrade their systems. You may need to change the phone every couple of years, and the daily exposure to handling and hazards results in its short life expectancy.
- Your phone might be dead due to forgetting the charging cable or dropping it on the pavement.
- You may need to contact the support team, which may or may not be around, but with ELD-dedicated devices, that will rarely happen.
- ELD buyers generally prefer to update their truck trucking system instead of replacing them with newer models
As a result, using your phone as your electronic logging device is prone to recording inaccurate data. As you can see, durability, reliability, battery life, and even technical support are only some of the issues that make phones a risky choice when it comes to meeting the FMCSA’s rules. While you can use your phone to track your hours of service, you will also need an electronic logging device physically installed in your truck.