ELD devices are mandatory for any long-haul vehicles. For owner operators, that can be a problem, especially as many cost several hundred a month, per vehicle. Luckily, there are plenty of ELDs suitable for owner operators and small fleet managers. Modern e-logging devices are versatile, connect to phones, and deliver a lot of data for relatively low monthly costs.
For example, you might want simple FMSCA compliance. On the other hand, you might want to track several vehicles in your fleet. Or you might want security. HOS functionality with multiple driver support is also a great call for many. Choosing the best ELD for your needs means reviewing those needs and choosing an ELD accordingly.
While your needs might vary, the following include 12 of the best electronic logs for owner operators.
The table below gives a quick price comparison of the top owner operator ELD devices.
|Gorilla Safety ELD
|Blue Ink Technologies
|BYOD or Integrated
|BYOD or BYOD + Tablet
|Brick House Security
|AT&T Fleet Complete
Pricing, device details, and other information were correct at the time of writing in July 2021. Brands may change pricing and device availability at any time.
Below we profile each of the companies’ services and features in a bit more detail.
Note: Companies are ranked in no particular order and this no way indicates one solution is better than another.
1. Gorilla Safety ELD
Gorilla Safety builds and delivers ELD hardware to numerous fleet tracking companies in the United States. In addition, it sells a low-cost ELD solution, perfect for small fleets and owner operators. In fact, the BYOD ELD costs just $250. From there, you can expect to pay $19.99-$36.99 per month for services including HOS, ELD, and GPS tracking.
The plug and play ELD is compatible with any OBD-II port. This means you’ll need an adaptor or another ELD for any other port type. Additionally, you cannot hardwire this model. However, the plug and play installation is ideal for moving the ELD between vehicles.
Gorilla Safety also offers features like GPS tracking. This uploads to the cloud over LTE, so you can see where vehicle are in real time. That GPS data links to IFTA fuel tax reporting, helping you to improve calculations. The app also includes document management, so you can upload receipts for fuel purchases as well.
Like any FMSCA compliant ELD, Gorilla Safety automatically tracks driving time when the vehicle exceeds 5mph. Drivers can set driving mode for personal use. However, Gorilla Safety does not support multiple drivers. However, it stores records for up to three months. Drivers receive compliant alerts when it’s time to take a break, when they have to stop, and when they have to find a place to rest for the night.
You also get plenty of extras. Gorilla Safety integrates DVIRs and eDVIRs into its basic service. With a more expensive subscription, you also get a mechanics portal. .
Gorilla Safety ELD at a Glance:
- $19.99-$36.99 per month
- $250 upfront for the BYOD device
- FMSCA compliant
- DVIRs and mechanic portal
- Automatic HOS
- IFTA Fuel Tax Support
- Document manager
- Compliance alerts
2. Blue Ink Technologies
Blue Ink Technologies or BIT is one of the highest rated ELDs on the market. It’s also one of the only options without monthly fees. That makes it a perfect eld for owner operators. Of course, the BIT ELD also has plenty of tools for small fleets as well. In fact, the app is designed to submit data to the back office for management and processing. If you’re driving by yourself, you can manage that from a computer. Otherwise, it’s easier to manage small fleets.
BIT’s ELD stands out with no monthly costs for the free version. You will have to pay a $295 startup cost for the hardware. The ELD itself is plug and play. It’s also compatible with OBD-II, 6-pin, and 9-pin diagnostics ports.
However, this BYOD device does not include GPS. That means you’ll have to link it to an iOS or Android tablet with GPS capabilities. You’ll also need a cellular connection to comply with the ELD mandate during road stops. The ELD also automatically logs driving time when the vehicle starts moving.
The free account offers full ELD compliance. That includes HOS e-logging and RODS. This is included in the basic app. If you upgrade to the premium service, you can connect additional sensors and features. This costs $30 per month. It also supports air scales, IFTA fuel tax, fault code reading, and geofencing. Of course, the GPS is still only used through your phone.
BIT ELD at a Glance:
- $0-$30 per month
- $295 per month for the BYOD device
- FMSCA compliant with a smartphone
- HOS and RODS
- IFTA Fuel Tax Support (premium)
- Air Scales (Premium)
- Geofencing (Premium)
- Does not include its own GPS
3. Drive ELD
Drive ELD offers a simple, affordable ELD solution ideal for owner operators. This solution stands out with no upfront hardware costs – unless you need cables and adaptors. While this BYOD device is one of the cheapest ELD solutions on the market, it still offers full FMSCA compliant ELD.
The ELD device is free with a subscription. It’s plug and play and pairs with a JBUS 9-pin cable. You can also buy adapters (OBD-II, 6-pin, and pre-2008 J-BUS) for $25. The ECM converter costs $225. While you have to pair a GPS-capable smart device with a cellular connection, you get full ELD compliance.
In addition, Drive ELD costs just $14-$20 per month. Subscription terms last for one year. However, that’s significantly lower than most competitors. The subscription also covers hardware, which means you are not responsible for repair or replacement.
The app also offers integrated turn by turn navigation with CoPilot (Google Maps or TomTom). That means you can keep the app open without sacrificing navigation on your phone. Drive ELD also offers other extras. For example, you can create IFTA fuel tax reports. You can also build workflows for pre and post trips, DVIRs, route management, etc. That pairs with CoPilot, to help you reduce time spent on routing.
Like most competitors, you also get HOS violation alerts. These alerts are shown in-cab and in any back-office software you have running. Drive also offers a DOT mode, which shows everything you need to pass a roadside inspection on screen.
Drive ELD at a Glance:
- No upfront costs unless you need an adapter
- $14-$20 per month including hardware
- FMSCA compliant
- Full HOS and RODS
- Integrated Routing
- Workflows for automation
- IFTA Fuel Tax Reports
4. Rand McNally
With multiple ELD options, including one with an integrated screen, and low monthly costs, Rand McNally has a lot to offer for smaller fleets. It also stans out with a selection of asset trackers and Dashcams, ideal for fleets of every size.
Rank McNally offers two basic ELD options:
- DC 200 – $399.99
- ELD 50 – $149.99
The is an integrated ELD. You get a display, integrated GPS, and integrated cellular data. The ELD 50 is a plug and play model that relies on your phone to function. All three are compatible with 6 and 9 pin cables in types 1 and 2. That means you can fit most vehicles.
Rand McNally’s models all include full FMSCA compliant electronic logs. It also stores eLog data for up to 6 months. If you use dispatch and a back office, you can use two-way communication in the app. Plus, HOS data is available with the tap of a button for roadside inspections.
While Rand McNally is a good fit for owner operators, it also offers solutions for larger fleets. For example, you can integrate driver safety alerts. Plus, Rand McNally offers multiple dash cam options. Subscriptions range from $19.95-$24.95 and include a lot of extras. For example, you get DVIRs, driver coaching, IFTA data, engine diagnostics and alerts, and vehicle analytics.
Rand McNally at a Glance:
- Devices cost $149-$399
- Costs $19.99-$24.99 per month
- All devices are plug and play
- Integrated GPS is available
- DVIRs and Engine diagnostics included
- HOS and RODs
- One of the best options if you need a standalone ELD
- Integrated routing
Switchboard offers customizable ELD with a low monthly subscription plan, perfect for owner operators. Plus, with third-party integrations, Switchboard is an ideal solution for low-budget ELD.
For example, the ELD device costs $200. For another $200, you get an ELD tablet with the app integrated in. From there, you can link tools like Drivewyze and routing for a full-service solution. That means you won’t have to use a smartphone to run the ELD.
In addition, the device is compatible with most truck types. You get OBD-II, J-Bus 6-pin, 9-pin, and 12-pin (Volvo/Mack) adapters for just $40. That allows you to easily move the ELD between almost any vehicle.
Plus, Switchboard charges just $0-$10 per month plus data costs. In most cases, data will run you anywhere from $15-$20 depending on your route. However, the premium services mean you get GPS tracking which can extend to trailer tracking.
In addition to FMSCA compliant HOS and Rods, you get some extras. These include DVIRs. You also get back-office diagnostics. For example, vehicle diagnostics and fault code reading. You can also link scales and add weigh station bypass. Plus, with IFTA fuel reports linked to GPS, Switchboard can save you time.
Otherwise, Switchboard is one of the best reviewed ELD options out there. That makes it especially attractive to drivers, whether you’re driving one vehicle or managing a small fleet.
Switchboard at a Glance:
- $200 for the ELD device (BYOD)
- $200 for the integrated tablet
- $0-$10 per month
- Adapts to most vehicles
- FMSCA compliant
- GPS tracking with trailer tracking
- Vehicle diagnostics and fault code reading
- One of the highest rated options on the market
Samsara is one of the largest ELD providers in the United States. Despite the size, it still provides attractive e logs for owner operators. For example, with pricing starting out at $129 with a $30 per month subscription, it’s also affordable. But, Samsara truly stands out for its range of features. In fact, it’s one of the few ELD options on this list with reefer support.
Samsara’s ELD, the VG34 Vehicle Gateway, is a GPS-equipped BYOD solution. This means you can use any tablet with it and remain FMSCA compliant. It also contains onboard LTE and WIFI capabilities. So, the black box sends data to the cloud without using your phone.
Samsara also stands out by offering a single subscription rate. Annual service fees cover all services, so you won’t have to keep adding on expenses if you want to add trailer tracking. Or, if you want to add a camera, temperature sensing, etc. All of it is covered under the basic subscription fee.
Of course, Samsara is more expensive than many ELD on this list. However, if you do want reefer tracking, it’s one of your best options. EM21 and Em22 environmental sensors cost $99-$139 each plus a $60 annual service fee.
Samsara is also one of the few ELD solutions to partner with Ford and McLeod. If you have a new vehicle from these companies, you can use the integrated vehicle diagnostics. That means there’s no need to buy an ELD device.
Samsara at a Glance:
- $129 ELD device
- $30 per month subscription
- Integrated GPS
- Trailer trackers and temperature sensors
- DOT Mode
- Plug and Play or hardwire solutions
- IFTA fuel management
Stoneridge offers affordable electronic logbook devices for owner operators with low monthly costs. The brand is also one of the oldest ELD providers in the United States. That means it’s available across the U.S. and has a very well-developed solution.
The EZ ELD is a plug and play BYOD. It costs $169 with a $15 per month subscription – although you can choose to pay yearly at $150. Stoneridge’s device requires a smartphone with GPS and cellular data for FMCSA compliance. And, the subscription cost does not include a data plan – so keep that in mind when comparing costs with plans that do.
However, the EZ ELD is a simple plug and play device, with everything you need to stay compliant. It’s also an excellent option if you have co-drivers. In fact, it’s the only option on this list to offer unlimited co-drivers per device. That makes it a perfect fit for fleets with rotating drivers, if you partner with other companies, or otherwise have several co-drivers. Additionally, you can switch to a new driver without resetting or updating logs – or pausing for a break.
Stoneridge offers GPS and tracking through your phone. Additionally, you can pair the ELD to a phone by scanning it through the app. That makes it extremely easy to switch between drivers. And, with 6-pin, 9-pin, and OBD-II connectors available out of the box, this is one of the best solutions for moving between vehicles.
Stoneridge at a Glance:
- $169 bring your own device ELD
- $15 per month subscription /$150 per year
- FMSCA compliant when paired with a GPS and LTE capable phone
- Unlimited co-drivers
- No DVIRs or engine fault data
- 6-months of data storage on the device
- Free app with DOT mode
- Easy to move between vehicles
Geotab offers a low-cost ELD with GPS and HOS. The device is ideal for owner operators but offers plenty of small fleet management tools as well. It’s also one of the most commonly after marketed ELD on the market. In fact, dozens of brands resell this ELD.
While the Geotab ELD costs $99 and $79 for the ruggedized version, Geotab customizes subscription costs. They won’t give you a rate until you share fleet details like location and size. However, many resellers market the ELD at $30 per month for software and hardware.
The Geotab Go is a plug and play device. However, it’s only compatible with OBDII. If you have a different vehicle, you’ll have to buy an adaptor. It’s also BYOD, so you’ll need a phone with an LTE connection to be FMSCA compliant.
Additionally, the Geotab Go allows multiple drivers. Once someone checks in, the vehicle logs their hours based on vehicle movement. If no one checks in, you can edit the driver in the back end. All HOS are logged automatically, with support for up to 3 co-drivers.
In addition, with integrated GPS, the Geotab is a good option for vehicle security. You can also buy sensors and trackers in the marketplace. For example, you can add on temperature sensors, fuel trackers, tire air pressure sensors, and more. These are ideal for weigh station bypass, reefer management, etc.
Geotab at a Glance:
- BYOD Device costs $79-$99
- Subscription costs are tailored to the fleet
- Integrated GPS
- 3 Co Drivers supported
- Reefer management and fuel tank management available
- Dangerous driving tracking
- Plug and play device
- IFTA fuel tax reporting
Transflo offers extensive fleet management tooling. Its ELD series are low-cost but offer added features. For example, you get GPS, engine diagnostics, and accident detection. While the Transflo ELD is a Geotab device, Transflo’s software is a great option for small fleet owners and owner operators alike.
For example, Transflo delivers automated ETA estimates. That means you can send live ETAs to customers. Plus, with report generation, it’s easier to share HOS and RODS with DOT. And, with back-office tools like routing approval and load management, Transflo offers a lot of compliance tooling.
Transflo also charges $109.99 for its ELD device. That’s a $9.99 markup over Geotab. However, with a $28-$31 subscription fee, it’s otherwise roughly the same cost. That’s important considering you get more scheduling, automation, and workflows. If you want those features, Transflo is definitely the better option. In addition, Transflo devices are available at many Pilot Flying J and Loves truck stops. So, you won’t have to wait for your ELD to ship out to you.
That also means you get more service locations. And, if something goes wrong, it’s easy to return the hardware directly on your route and replace it. That can add considerable value if staying on the road is your primary concern.
Transflo at a Glance:
- $109.99 ELD device
- Plug and play with support for 6,9, and 12 pin + OBD I and II
- You need a Smartphone with LTE
- Back office tooling like fleet tracking
- HOS and Rods
- Full FMSCA compliance
- Automation and workflows
- DVIRS and Engine data
10. Garmin eLog
Garmin’s eLog is a BYOD device without a subscription. While you will have to pair it with a mobile phone equipped with LTE and GPS. Alternatively, you can pair it with a Garmin dēzl™ navigator. The ELD costs just $249.99 with no recurring costs. Plus, with a simple app focusing on HOS and Rods, it’s perfect for owner operators looking for no-frills ELD.
Garmin’s app also doesn’t share data to the cloud. That means you can track and see log data without sharing it over the internet. That reduces total costs over time. It’s also all you need if you just want to show your phone during a DOT inspection. However, it does mean using internal storage on your phone.
Otherwise, this app is simple, easy to use, and as straightforward as they come. If you want add-ons or extra features, you’ll want another app. On the other hand, if you just want to be FMSCA compliant without the extras, this is a perfect choice.
Garmin eLog at a glance:
- Plug and play device costs $249.99
- Compatible with 9-pin, 6-pin, and 16-pin vehicles. Not compatible with OBD-II vehicles
- Syncs to a smartphone or dēzl navigator
- Includes a free app
- Automatic HOS tracking
- Stores data on your phone
- No subscription costs
11. Brickhouse Security
Brickhouse Security offers wired and plug and play ELD. Plus, you can get battery powered devices for trailer tracking. Brickhouse Security may be the cheapest option you can choose. For example, its flagship ELD costs $29.99 upfront. Then, you’ll pay $13.99 per month for ELD with GPS tracking. A well suited solution for an owner operator.
Brickhouse Security is primarily a GPS tracking company. That means the software and app are built around tracking vehicle locations. If you have multiple drivers, you can also track behavior and driving habits. However, the ELD is fully FMSCA compliant when paired with any device with a screen. The ELD has its own LTE coverage.
Brickhouse Security also offers full support for multiple drivers. You can also sync GPS with IFTA fuel tax calculations. That makes handling some paperwork significantly easier.
Brickhouse Security at a Glance:
- Multiple ELD options
- Prices start at $29.99 for hardwire and plug and play ELD
- ELD software costs $13.99 per month
- Back-office platforms offer fleet tracking and driver support
- No DVIRs or Engine Diagnostics
- No IFTA fuel tracking
- Hardwire or plug and play devices
- Extra trackers available
12. AT&T Fleet Complete
AT&T Fleet Complete is an enterprise-level platform available to even the smallest fleet. In fact, with costs starting at $14.95 per month including hardware, it’s also one of the cheapest options on the market. However, there is a $25 startup fee.
AT&T is also a great fit for drivers who use vehicles during off time. You can easily set personal driving time. However, that time will still log on the ELD. In addition, you can automatically track HOS and RODS.
Like most plug and play trackers, AT&T’s ELD offers vehicle diagnostics and engine fault codes. You can also set up alerts to the app or via SMS in case something goes wrong. You’ll also see trip and driving report data – which is also accessible to the back office.
That makes this ELD a great fit for owner operators with any size fleet.
AT&T Fleet Complete at a Glance:
- No device costs
- $14.95 per month
- Contracts are subject to a credit check
- Contracts are a minimum of 1 year
- GPS tracking
- Full FMSCA compliance when paired with a smartphone
- Add personal driving time
- Integrate vehicle maintenance
How to Choose the Best ELD for an Owner-Operator?
If you’re looking for an ELD, there are dozens of options. Choosing one is about budget, functionality, and how the device fits into your daily life. The following considerations should be a priority.
Dedicated vs BYOD
Both dedicated and bring your own devices have pros and cons. Making that decision should partially depend on whether you hire drivers and what they want to do with their phones.
Dedicated – The device includes a screen or tablet. You connect the ELD to your vehicle and it is fully compliant. Data might be stored on the device or in the cloud. However, the screen to show a DOT officer is part of the ELD.
BYOD – The ELD pairs with a smartphone for a screen. This might also use the phone’s LTE/WIFI or even its GPS. However, the driver has to use the phone to set and track HOS. You’ll also have to hand your phone to the DOT inspection officer. BYOD devices are significantly cheaper. They also prevent drivers from using their phones in cab while driving. However, not all drivers want this. In addition, you cannot force a driver to use their phone.
Most of the ELD on this list are plug and play. That means you can install them in a matter of a few minutes via the OBD or JBUS port. Others are hardwired. These are harder to remove. They also tend to cost less. However, they might require a technician to install them.
In most cases, owner operators prefer plug and play ELD. However, this might not be the case if security is a concern. If you want to know where your vehicle is in case it’s stollen, a wired ELD is harder to find and to remove.
Functionality / Technology Use Difficulty
Apps offer different levels of functionality. For example, some allow you to track literally everything about your vehicle. Others offer extremely stripped-down HOS only apps. The simpler the app, the easier it is to use.
Additionally, some apps are just better designed than others. You may want to look at the app, especially if it’s available on your phone’s app store, before committing. Most also offer free trials.
Cloud services may be a good or bad thing. For example, cloud services increase costs because you have to pay for data transmission. In most cases, you can expect it to increase your LTE bill by $10-$15 per month. However, it does mean data is secured in the cloud. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about losing it on your phone or running out of space. Plus, you can very quickly push data to the DOT inspection on demand.
If you choose an option without cloud services, you’ll have to share data via Bluetooth or USB. That can be more of a hassle. However, it does mean you get more privacy because you’re the only person who normally sees logs.
Customer support is always an important thing. For ELD, if your device isn’t working, you cannot drive. That’s why good customer support is essential. It might be a good idea to review options to see who responds, how people respond, and how you get along with customer support before committing to the ELD.
However, many of the options on this list have local, U.S. based customer support. ELD suppliers are aware their customers rely on fixing problems fast, so they try to facilitate. You can try to make that easier by choosing a “local” supplier who can ship items more quickly.
Peripheral Accessories (Add-ons)
Peripherals such as sensors can be a great help for many driers. For example, temperature management for reefers is critical to compliance. You might also want tire pressure sensors, fuel tank sensors, and air scales. Any add-on device can be beneficial.
You need an ELD device to drive. But, how else does the ELD contribute? Does it account for overhead? Are additional costs worthwhile? Is a free app costing you time and therefore money by having glitches and issues? It can be difficult to answer all of these questions upfront. However, you can assess what you need and if it would save you money. Some top features to look for include DVIRs, support for co-drivers, workflows, editing rules, GPS, etc.
Look for tools that save you money by saving you time. For example, if you can cut DVIR time to a few minutes a day, you can warrant a few extra dollars. On the other hand, if you never look at GPS, there’s no need to choose a solution that charges extra for it.
ELD Mandate for Owner Operators
The ELD mandate forces distance drivers to automatically log driving hours using a vehicle diagnostics device. For most owner-operators, that means investing in a device. While that does save significant time on keeping logs over paper, it can also be expensive. For example, many of the early ELDs cost $30-$100 per truck, per month. Today, ELD compliance is a lot cheaper.
There are plenty of solutions geared towards small fleets. That means:
- Basic ELD functionality without driver tracking
- Low costs (how does ELD fit into monthly budget, can ELD move between vehicles with you)
- Tracking tools built around safety and theft-prevention
- Tools to easily share inspections with DOT officers
- Alerts while driving
What’s Involved in ELD Costs?
ELDs cost anywhere from a few hundred a year to well into the thousands per vehicle. Those costs depend on hardware, maintenance, management, and brand. However, there are three major influencing factors:
Upfront Hardware Costs
Upfront hardware costs are the first thing most drivers notice. The ELDs on this list mostly do not go over $300. However, ELDs can cost over $1,000 per vehicle upfront. Others don’t have hardware costs. And, some incorporate the hardware costs into the subscription fee as part of a rental model.
In most cases, owner operators can and should look for an ELD with lower upfront costs. Chances are, you don’t need the more extensive features in higher-end ELD anyway. However, even a cheap ELD can add up. If you choose a $150 ELD with a $100 fuel sensor, a $100 trailer tracker, and then spend $300 on air pressure sensors and air scales, you’re still spending a lot on hardware.
Monthly Subscription Fees
Monthly subscription fees normally cover software costs but may cover hardware as well. Here, most drivers seem to prefer apps with low monthly costs to apps with no monthly costs. That’s likely because the fees allow the manufacturer to update the app more often. However, that isn’t always the case. Monthly subscription fees can range from $0-$100+ depending on the app and features.
Again, most owner operators can choose lower-cost software. You likely mostly want HOS and RODS. You’ll also benefit from engine diagnostics and DVIRs. However, everything else is an extra that may or may not add value. Look for something that specifically suits your needs to make sure you’re not over paying.
Here it’s also important to pay attention to data charges. Some subscriptions include LTE data and others do not. Therefore, a plan that might look comparable might be $10-$15 more expensive.
If you choose a hardwire model, you might have an installation fee. Many ELD suppliers also issue one-time hardware fees on free hardware. That’s important because it can add upfront costs. These normally range from $40-$150. However, many modern ELD are plug and play. That means you won’t likely have any installation fees unless you specifically request them.
Fleet Management Service: Additional Functionality
ELD save time and offer FMSCA compliance. However, most fleet owners save money by using additional functionality. In fact, many modern ELogs were originally designed for other functions and adapted to meet the Elog mandate. For example, many larger options include full fleet management and telematics. Some on this list even include integrated mechanics portals. More functionalities does mean the app is more complicated. However, it can save you time and money.
- GPS Tracking
- In-cab routing
- Tire pressure monitoring
- Air scales and weigh station bypass
- Track and trace and ETA alerts for customers
- Theft prevention / Vehicle recovery
- Load management
- Reefer management
- Trailer tracking
- DVIRs and fault code management with mechanics portals.
- Load management
- Dispatch integration
Essentially, you need the ELD. But, there’s no reason why you can’t choose other, time-saving technology at the same time. Chances are, it will save you money as well. However, it is important to keep an eye on total costs to ensure it really is delivering value.
Every long-distance trucker needs an ELD. If you’re an owner-operator, it’s crucial to pick a model that offers the features you need without cutting into margins. The options on this list are a great place to start. However, the best e-log devices for owner operators don’t have to be cheap – you might want something higher end depending on your needs and fleet. If you’re ready to choose a model, fill out the form at the top of this page. We’ll use your information to request quotes from ELD suppliers that meet your needs and we’ll send you the best options. ELD suppliers know we’re comparing options, so they’re more likely to send us their most competitive quote. And, you benefit by saving money on your subscription. And, of course, there’s no obligation.
Arnold is a trucking veteran, recognized trucking expert and founder of ELDfocus. Arnold has spent the last 25+ years in the trucking industry & travelled thousands of miles across the US.