ELD suppliers face steep certification costs ahead of mandate

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Certifying an electronic logging device comes at a cost, and no one knows that better than the ELD suppliers themselves.

But as Canada’s federally regulated fleets move ever closer to a June 12 deadline that will require such devices, those who want to serve the market will need their technology approved by FPInnovations.

Omnitracs ELD
Omnitracs ELD (Photo: Omnitracs)

“This certification process is not free,” Omnitracs vice-president – regulatory affairs Mike Ahart stressed during a recent webinar on the issue. “For each ELD it’s going to cost the ELD provider between $40,000 and $60,000 to get the device certified. Every single device has to be certified.”

The costs don’t end there, either. Each year, 25% of the ELDs will have to be retested. Suppliers will have to pay $12,000 to $25,000 per model for that work.

“The ELD is all the components. It’s the telematics device that connects to the ECM. It’s any middle tablet, or the OS for a middle tablet solution, and it’s the back office solution. All comprise the ELD and those components together make up one certification,” says Florence Dougherty, director – product management.

It will be an undeniable barrier for some smaller device suppliers who serve the U.S. market. South of the border truckers can choose from close to hundreds of ELD options, but each is self-certified as meeting technical standards. No third-party testing is required.

No devices have been certified as meeting the Canadian standard so far. And FPInnovations is the only testing body approved to do the work.

Costs for carriers

ELD users can expect some initial costs of their own, and not just in the form of the price tag on the technology itself.

Tim O’Brien, director of safety, compliance and recruitment for Pride Group Logistics, praises the capabilities that can be realized with ELDs. But introducing them to the fleet involved a coordinated effort involving multiple departments from operations teams, to dispatchers, maintenance teams, and installers.

“Don’t just think the safety department will do it,” he said during the webinar. “You’ve got to really engage everyone at the fleet.”

The hands-on training involved no more than three to six drivers at a time.

Don’t delay investments

“You really need to come up with a plan,” O’Brien says. “If carriers are out there saying, ‘Ah, we’ll just wait a month or two, we’ll figure it out as it becomes closer,’ it’s here and it’s too late [to delay].”

“Transport Canada has indicated that they have every intention to move forward with the mandate on June 12,” Ahart says. While there has been “chatter” calling for deferrals or some form of soft enforcement, there has been no movement to date.

It is possible to move forward with investments now if suppliers commit to meeting any mandate.

Omnitracs, for example, will be pushing required updates over the air and in stages to prepare equipment for the June 12 demands, Dougherty says.

Canada vs. U.S. devices

There are clear differences between U.S. ELDs and those that will meet the Canadian requirements.

Look no further than the way data is transferred at the roadside. In Canada, PDFs and .csv files will be transferred by encrypted emails. In the U.S. the data is transferred through an eROD (electronic record of duty status).

Canadian ELDs will also incorporate the Hours of Service rules themselves, triggering warnings 30 minutes before a truck driver reaches their limit in duty status or hours.

“Drivers must also have the ability to change their operating zone or jurisdictions,” Ahart adds, referring to those who cross the Canada-U.S. border, or travel across the 60th parallel. “In the past, a lot of motor carriers used to like to handle that themselves and not give that to the driver.”

At most, the carrier can propose an edit. A driver would have to make the decision.

Neither will it be possible to edit drive time — even if it’s a mistake.

“Once it’s recorded it can’t be edited,” Ahart says. “They have to stop and think about what they’re doing.”

Omnitracs ELD
Omnitracs ELD (Photo: Omnitracs)

Slow moves

There will be differences in yard moves as well.

While U.S. ELDs will automatically shift to a yard move after a key cycles, drivers will have to reconfirm that status in Canada, much like they do when moving a bobtail tractor under personal conveyance rules. And once someone in the midst of a yard move travels faster than 32 km/h, the ELD will automatically shift to a driving mode.

“All movement of a commercial vehicle with an ELD installed is going to be recorded by the ELD. So if somebody moves a vehicle where a driver has not authenticated into an ELD, all these movements will be recorded as an unidentified driving segment,” Ahart says.

“Drivers have to slow down and understand purposely what they intend to do with their duty status.”

Pride Group Logistics has addressed some underlying needs by giving maintenance personnel driver IDs, which they use to log into the truck to avoid “unassigned driving” time.

Who needs an ELD?

Not everyone will need to use an ELD, like those who operate within 160 km of their terminal each day. But just one regional trip beyond that will require an ELD to be used.

“If a driver is required to break 160 air [kilometer] radius, they’re going to have to be on an ELD. That’s just the way it’s done. There’s no exemptions,” Ahart says.

Not even if the equipment is being moved just a little further to get to a garage.

“It’s not a question of over-the-road or short haul or LTL.”

Despite the challenges, O’Brien knows ELDs offer plenty of benefits.

Even in a shorthaul operation, fleets can use them in the name of managing risk, and helping drivers track their time in the name of compensation, he says.

“The technology in these systems is amazing and you can pull anything from unproductive idles, short idles, fuel consumption,” he adds.

“You’ve got to think outside the box.”

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

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  • Hello John,
    I hope you’re correct on everyone exceeding the 160 km air mile radius but I think you might be incorrect. I’ve talked with the DOT at a major Alberta inspection station and they said that provincial carriers, similar to intrastate carriers, will not need the ELD. I disagree with this as either everyone or no one.
    Let me know if you know something different.