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What is an Engine Control Module?

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The Computer That is at the Heart of Every Modern Vehicle

11/18/2015 by Parth Raval

Buried in the definition of “electronic logging device (ELD)” is this phrase: “engine control module (ECM).” Yet another acronym that gets mentioned when the subject of federal compliance comes up, ECMs are the heart of modern vehicles. Simply put, they are computers that control electronic systems within the vehicles. They control how the engine runs, monitor vehicle performance, and issue fault codes when something goes wrong. They deploy the airbags upon impact, or hold an airbag back if an occupant’s weight is too low. They are at the center of modern vehicle operations. And they will soon be on every over-the-road carrier’s radar – ECMs are also at the center of the ELD mandate.

To understand why ECMs are central to the ELD mandate, it’s important to understand the wealth of information ECMs can provide businesses. Fleet management software lives and breathes by diagnostic information. Through a connection to the ECM, fleet managers can do much more than read fault codes. They can tell when a driver has applied the brakes too hard, signaling unsafe road conditions. They can see how much fuel their fleet has used sitting at traffic lights and jobsites. Tapping into an ECM breaks down a business into simple numbers. It provides the raw data needed to push a fleet forward.

In the varied history of federal compliance devices, ECMs only recently entered the conversation. AOBRDs, or Automatic On Board Recording Devices, do not have an integral connection to the vehicle. These devices are currently regulated by the federal government and do not have a built in method to validate the data that is entered. ELDs take care of that problem by connecting to the vehicle’s ECM. This connection enables the ELD to automatically record when the vehicle starts and stops, creating an accurate portrait of a driver’s work day. ELDs also provide a wealth of information regarding a vehicle’s fuel use, maintenance needs, regular and irregular usage, and safety performance. This pushes an ELD past its obvious use – tracking driver hours – into a device that can reside at the heart of a fleet’s operations, just as an ECM is the center of a vehicle’s operations. The right device can help a company run smarter, not harder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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