Opinion: Canada’s ELD mandate is coming, and quick

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Everyone knew that Canada was preparing to mandate electronic logging devices (ELDs). It was only a matter of time before the rules took hold.

Now we have a timeline.

This June, Transport Canada announced that it will mandate ELDs by June 2021 – largely mirroring rules the U.S. has had in place since December 2017 and enforced since April 2018.

But there will be differences in the rules on each side of the border.

While the U.S. will allow pre-existing automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) until December 2019, there will be no such grandfather clause in Canada.

Every ELD sold in Canada will also need to be certified by an independent third party, although the specific technical standards and testing regime have yet to be announced.

South of the border, it’s up to device suppliers to confirm whether their systems comply with the 460-page technical standard published by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – a regulatory environment which led to some equipment that’s prone to tampering. Depending on the device, for example, some drivers have actually been able to edit their driving time.

While Transport Canada’s federal rule applies only to federally regulated carriers, the Canadian Council of Transportation Ministers and First Ministers has already committed to rolling out the regulations at a provincial and territorial level as well.

Nobody should be caught completely off guard by these rules. The draft text was first unveiled in Canada Gazette Part 1 as early as December 2017. In fact, Canada has been working on the underlying technical standards for years, even before the U.S. announced its own mandate.

But for those who have held back, now is the time to begin choosing, installing, and introducing ELDs.

There is an undeniable learning curve, particularly when it comes to preparing customers for the new operating realities. The hours of service rules established in 2005 remain unchanged, but an ELD places an unblinking eye on any equipment moves that take place outside allowable duty cycles. There is no room to absorb unusually long dwell times at a loading dock; no more turning a blind eye to such delays and fudging the lines in a logbook to make things work.

“As we learned from the previous era of paper logbooks, the non-compliant segment of our industry – while a minority – have a history of finding workarounds of the rules,” added Canadian Trucking Alliance president Stephen Laskowski. “We must ensure that there are no gaps or opportunities to manipulate the technology, and that compliance is the only option.”

With ELDs on their way, however, it’s also time for industry lobby groups to join forces and call on governments to review the hours of service rules themselves. The rules and devices alike are inflexible. We need to ensure that drivers have the opportunity to find a safe place to park as their daily hours tick away.

Watch for the August edition of Today’s Trucking for a full report on Canada’s march toward ELDs.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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