What is an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD)?

In 1988, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) approved Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) as an alternative to paper logs, revolutionizing how commercial drivers tracked their hours of service. This technological leap forward paved the way for more accurate record-keeping and improved compliance in the trucking industry.

However, with the advent of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), AOBRDs have become a relic of the past, marking a significant shift in fleet management practices.

The transition from AOBRDs to ELDs represents a broader trend towards digital transformation in the transportation sector. While AOBRDs served their purpose for decades, the more advanced capabilities of ELDs offer fleet managers and drivers enhanced accuracy, efficiency, and compliance.

This article will explore the world of AOBRDs, their differences from ELDs, and why understanding this technology remains relevant for today’s fleet operators.

[IMAGE: Timeline graphic showing the evolution from paper logs to AOBRDs to ELDs, with key dates and milestones]

What is an AOBRD?

An Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) is an electronic or mechanical device designed to automatically record a driver’s duty status information as mandated by Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. These devices were a significant upgrade from traditional paper logs, offering more accurate and reliable data collection.

AOBRDs are installed in commercial motor vehicles and synchronized with specific vehicle operations. At a minimum, an AOBRD must record:

  • Engine use
  • Road speed
  • Miles driven
  • Date and time of day

This automated recording system helped reduce errors associated with manual logging and provided fleet managers with more reliable data for compliance and operational decision-making.

How AOBRDs Work

AOBRDs operate by connecting directly to the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM). This integration allows the device to automatically capture and record essential data points related to the vehicle’s operation and the driver’s activities.

[IMAGE: Diagram showing how an AOBRD connects to various vehicle systems and what data it collects]

Importance in the Transportation and Logistics Industry

The introduction of AOBRDs marked a significant milestone in the transportation industry’s efforts to improve safety, compliance, and efficiency. These devices:

  1. Reduced paperwork burden for drivers
  2. Improved accuracy of Hours of Service (HOS) records
  3. Enhanced fleet managers’ ability to monitor driver compliance
  4. Provided more reliable data for audits and inspections

By automating the recording process, AOBRDs helped streamline operations and reduce the risk of costly violations related to inaccurate or falsified logs.


While AOBRDs represented a significant technological advancement in their time, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) have since surpassed them in functionality and regulatory compliance.

What is an ELD

An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is a more advanced version of an AOBRD. ELDs synchronize with a vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time and other aspects of driver behavior and vehicle operation.

Key Differences between AOBRD and ELD

Data RecordingBasic (engine use, speed, miles, date/time)More comprehensive (includes location data)
Edit FunctionalityMore flexible editing allowedLimited editing with required annotations
Data TransferManualElectronic transfer to law enforcement
Malfunction ReportingNot requiredMust be reported within 8 days
Location TrackingNot requiredRequired at each duty status change

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each System


  • Advantages:
    1. Simpler to use
    2. More flexible editing
  • Disadvantages:
    1. Less detailed data
    2. Not compliant with current regulations


  • Advantages:
    1. More accurate and comprehensive data
    2. Compliant with current FMCSA regulations
    3. Enhanced fleet management capabilities
  • Disadvantages:
    1. More complex system
    2. Stricter edit limitations

[IMAGE: Side-by-side comparison of AOBRD and ELD interfaces, highlighting key functional differences]

AOBRD and the Transition to ELD

The shift from AOBRDs to ELDs represents a significant milestone in the evolution of fleet management technology. This transition was mandated by the FMCSA to improve safety, compliance, and efficiency across the transportation industry.

Explanation of the Shift from AOBRD to ELD

The ELD mandate, which went into effect in 2017, required all commercial motor vehicles subject to the rule to record Hours of Service (HOS) electronically. While existing AOBRDs were initially grandfathered in, this grace period ended on December 16, 2019. Since then, all devices must meet ELD specifications to satisfy regulatory requirements.

Reasons for the Transition

The transition to ELDs was driven by several factors:

  1. Improved accuracy in HOS recording
  2. Enhanced data security and integrity
  3. Reduced paperwork and administrative burden
  4. Increased compliance with safety regulations
  5. Better tools for fleet management and optimization

Implications for the Transportation and Logistics Industry

This transition has had far-reaching implications for the industry:

  • Increased initial costs for fleets to upgrade or replace systems
  • Improved data accuracy leading to better operational decisions
  • Enhanced ability to prevent HOS violations
  • More efficient roadside inspections
  • Potential for reduced insurance premiums due to improved safety records

[IMAGE: Infographic showing the timeline of the ELD mandate implementation and key dates for compliance]

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an AOBRD?

An AOBRD (Automatic On-Board Recording Device) is an electronic device used to record a driver’s duty status information automatically. It was the predecessor to the modern ELD (Electronic Logging Device).

What is the difference between ELD and AOBRD?

The main differences lie in the level of detail in data recording, edit functionality, and compliance with current FMCSA regulations. ELDs provide more comprehensive data, have stricter edit limitations, and are compliant with current mandates.

Can carriers still use AOBRDs?

No, as of December 16, 2019, all commercial motor vehicles subject to the ELD mandate must use ELDs. AOBRDs are no longer compliant with FMCSA regulations.

Can a carrier purchase and install a new AOBRD device?

No, new AOBRD installations are not permitted. All new electronic logging devices must meet ELD specifications.

Can a company switch to a new AOBRD provider?

No, companies cannot switch to new AOBRD providers. Any change in electronic logging systems must involve ELD-compliant devices.

Are all ELD providers equal?

No, while all compliant ELDs meet minimum FMCSA requirements, providers may offer different features, user interfaces, and additional fleet management tools. It’s important to choose a provider that best fits your fleet’s specific needs.

AOBRD’s Main Function

The primary function of an AOBRD was to automate the recording of a commercial driver’s hours of service (HOS). This automation helped improve accuracy and compliance with DOT regulations.

Key functions of AOBRDs included:

  1. Recording engine use, speed, and miles driven
  2. Tracking date and time of driver activities
  3. Storing driver log information
  4. Generating reports for compliance purposes

While these functions were revolutionary at the time, they have since been surpassed by the more advanced capabilities of ELDs.

[IMAGE: Flowchart illustrating the main functions of an AOBRD and how they interact with driver activities and fleet management]

Can You Use & Buy ELD or AOBRD in the USA and Canada?

In the United States, the use of AOBRDs is no longer permitted for vehicles subject to the ELD mandate. All such vehicles must use ELD-compliant devices. ELDs can be purchased and used freely, provided they meet FMCSA requirements.

In Canada, a similar ELD mandate was adopted in 2019. The country is gradually phasing out AOBRDs, with full ELD compliance required by 2022. As in the US, carriers operating in Canada should focus on acquiring and implementing ELD solutions.

Can AOBRD Providers Offer their Services?

AOBRD providers can no longer offer AOBRD-specific services for vehicles subject to the ELD mandate. However, many former AOBRD providers have transitioned to offering ELD solutions. These providers often leverage their experience with AOBRDs to create user-friendly ELD systems that meet current regulatory requirements.

Old vehicles: AOBRD devices for sale

While new AOBRD installations are not permitted, some older vehicles not subject to the ELD mandate may still use existing AOBRD devices. However, it’s important to note that the market for these devices is extremely limited and declining.

For fleets with older vehicles, we recommend considering the benefits of upgrading to ELD-compliant systems, even if not strictly required. This proactive approach can improve operational efficiency and prepare your fleet for future regulatory changes.

Elevate your fleet operations with our innovative solutions

At SalComms Trackers, we understand the challenges faced by fleet managers in today’s rapidly evolving regulatory landscape. Our cutting-edge fleet management and telematics solutions are designed to not only ensure compliance but also to optimize your operations and drive business growth.

Our suite of products includes:

  1. Advanced ELD solutions
  2. Comprehensive fleet management software
  3. Real-time vehicle tracking systems
  4. Driver safety monitoring tools

By partnering with SalComms Trackers, you gain access to over twelve years of industry expertise in the Nigerian transport sector, combined with state-of-the-art technology to keep your fleet running smoothly and efficiently.

Learn more about our fleet management solutions

About Our Solutions

SalComms Trackers offers a range of fleet management and telematics solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of the Nigerian transport industry. Our products are designed to:

  • Ensure compliance with local and international regulations
  • Improve driver safety and reduce accidents
  • Optimize route planning and fuel efficiency
  • Enhance vehicle maintenance scheduling
  • Provide real-time visibility into fleet operations

Our user-friendly interfaces and robust reporting capabilities empower fleet managers to make data-driven decisions that positively impact their bottom line.

By choosing SalComms Trackers, you’re not just investing in technology – you’re partnering with a team of dedicated professionals committed to your success. Let us help you navigate the post-AOBRD era and unlock the full potential of your fleet with our innovative ELD and fleet management solutions.

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