The state of Canadian fleets discussed during in.sight User Conference

HOUSTON, Texas – Several issues affecting the Canadian trucking industry were addressed today in Houston, including the idea of mandating onboard video for fleets.

Discussed during the PeopleNet and TMW Systems in.sight User Conference and Expo, several attendees, who either owned or were employed by a Canadian carrier, were already using onboard cameras, both forward and in-cab facing, in an effort to protect their operations, but more importantly, their drivers in the event of an incident.

Jason Gould, director of operations for PeopleNet Canada, said the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is looking at how video is used for fleets, and posed the question if those in the room would support a mandate on cameras.

Bill Shannon, logistics and transportation manager for Shandex Truck out of Pickering, Ont., said he would support a mandate for the use of onboard cameras, partly because his company has already employed their use.

Shannon said video evidence can be used to protect drivers from being blamed for collisions where they are not at fault, and can also be used to ensure company drivers are operating their equipment in a safe manner.

Whether insurance companies would recognize fleets that use cameras to prove or disprove driver error by lowering premiums, Gould said it’s not just about having video proof of an incident.

“You can install an onboard computer, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to solve your company’s problems,” he said, adding that several insurers he has spoken to have indicated that a carrier’s use of cameras could mean no increases in rates, but not necessarily a decrease.

Shannon said carriers using cameras would see cost savings down the line, particularly if it gets them out of paying a large settlement where a driver was not at fault for an incident.

Driver retention was also discussed during the state of Canadian fleets roundtable, and the consensus in the room was that increasing pay is the best way to keep drivers around.

Shannon said his company has bumped up driver pay around 22% in the last few years, which has had a positive impact.
Other incentives to keep drivers from walking out the door include good equipment, automatic transmissions, and other driver comfort accessories in the cab.

Technology also plays a role in driver retention, as well as hiring. Some carriers in the room said they use technology as a recruitment tool, as they have found that the easier they make the job for the driver, the happier they are.

The upcoming Canadian ELD mandate will soon result in more uniformity between Canada and the U.S., which is coming up on a year since implanting its e-log regulation.

Canadian fleets have seen mostly a positive impact with the U.S. ELD mandate, according to those in the discussion. Increased rates of up to 25%, better driver pay for less miles, and making HOS compliance that much easier to follow were reasons many said “it’s a great time to be a truck driver.”

Attendees felt the Canadian ELD mandate would result in the retirement of some older drivers who simply do not want to make the switch at such a late time in their careers, while younger drivers would welcome the change.

Ongoing negotiation between Canada and the U.S. over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was an issue for cross-border carriers.

Some believe failure to reach an agreement would result in significant cost increases with added surcharges, and have even seen costs rise with uncertainty surrounding NAFTA negotiations and freight coming into Canada from the U.S. decline.

U.S. ELD update

By far, the session with the most attendees in the first day of the conference was the ELD update from FMCSA director of the Office of Enforcement Joe DeLorenzo.

The good news since the implementation of the U.S. ELD mandate is that HOS violations have declined dramatically, which DeLorenzo said is not a big surprise.

But there remain several areas of the regulation that continue to confuse people and have caused issues during inspections.

DeLorenzo touched on three key aspects of the mandate that needed clarification, the first being what he called a simple one: make sure your driver know what device they are using.

Whether an ELD or AOBRD, a driver’s lack of knowledge of what they are using has caused issues during roadside inspections and dragged the process out.

“It’s maybe the most important thing you can do as a company,” DeLorenzo said of properly training drivers on the use of ELDs and AOBRDs. “If they know what device they have, it will make process go a lot smoother.”

How to transfer data during an inspection was another area drivers need to have a good handle on.

With U.S. officers focusing on HOS compliance during the early stages of the ELD mandate, DeLorenzo said there are times when e-log devices malfunction, and when this occurs, drivers can use the display screen, a PDF, or printout form the ELD as proof of compliance.

Drivers must make a note when a device malfunctions and carriers must maintain paper logs generated during the malfunction. One of the most common causes of a malfunction is incorrect odometer readings.

FMCSA also urges drivers to use an ELD’s edits and annotations feature.

DeLorenzo said drivers would routinely make edits or an annotation on paper logs when something happened on the road, but few do the same with e-logs.

When drivers make an annotation, which are required to explain an edit, DeLorenzo said it is much easier for drivers to explain to an officer during an inspection.

The last topic DeLorenzo addressed was the usage of a truck for personal conveyance.

Unlike Canada, where there is a 75-km maximum on driving a commercial truck for personal reasons, there is no limit in the U.S.

Drivers, however, must remember that they are still subject to regulations when driving for personal conveyance.

Determining whether a truck is being used for personal conveyance or for work purposes can be tricky. DeLorenzo underscored some common scenarios where it is not personal conveyance, such as any movement of a truck in order to enhance the operational readiness of a motor carrier; continuation of a trip in interstate commerce in order to fulfill a business purpose; time spent driving a passenger-carrying commercial vehicle while passengers are on board; driving to have the vehicle maintained; and driving to a motor carrier’s terminal after loading or unloading from a shipper or receiver.

If, however, you are moving your vehicle in order to get rest, which is required by law, because you have reached your max HOS, it can be classified as personal conveyance given you stop at the nearest, more reasonably safe location.

Top issues

The ELD mandate is the top concern for drivers, according to the most recent list by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), and it’s not far behind for motor carrier executives.

Rounding out the Top 10 list of industry concerns for drivers were parking, HOS, economic impact of trucking regulations, driver distraction, CSA, health, driver retention, infrastructure, and autonomous vehicles.

For executives, the top issue is the driver shortage, which did not make the drivers’ list. ELDs were second, with driver retention, CSA, HOS, economic impact of regulations, infrastructure, driver distraction, parking, and tort reform rounding out the Top 10.

One of the main causes of the driver shortage, explained Alan Hooper, research associate for ATRI, is age, with the average age of today’s driver being around 45 and only one in five under the 35 years old.

“We’re facing a demographic cliff,” Hooper said of the high age demographic of truck drivers.

Hooper said the American Trucking Associations predicts a shortage of approximately 51,000, and could reach 174,000 by 2026.

Though commonly pointed to as a culprit in the driver shortage, wages have been on the rise for several years, and is now the highest cost center for carriers, with an average cost per mile of $0.523, significantly high than any other factor, including fuel at $0.336.

Alan Hooper, research associate for ATRI.

ATRI also released its Top 10 most common predictors of why drivers get into collisions.

Reckless driving habits was tops, making drivers 114% more likely to be in an accident. Failure to yield to right-of-way was second, proper lane conviction, improper signal conviction, a past crash, lane location, improper pass conviction, negligent driving conviction, erratic lane changes, and improper lane conviction made up the remainder of the Top 10.

“You really want to be aggressive with your coaching so you can reduce their likelihood of getting into a crash,” said Hooper. “If you coach your drivers effectively, you can really mitigate whether your driver will be in a crash further down the road.”

Statistically, men are 20% more likely to get into a collision than women.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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