With reports indicating that the federal government may follow the US’s lead and mandate truck drivers’ use of electronic logging devices (ELDs), trucking associations in Western Canada appear to all be in favour of the move for a variety of reasons.
Safety was the primary reason for support of ELDs. Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) said that although there were many positive implications for bringing in ELDs, safety was the certainly the largest.
“If compliance with the hours-of-service (HoS) rules increases road safety, which we all believe they do,” said Shaw, “then everyone that is subject to those rules should be utilizing this technology that will help drive increased compliance levels.”
Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) executive director Lorraine Card also voiced her approval of ELDs, and said all levels of government should provide leadership to get them mandated for the transportation industry.
“Carriers currently using this technology are doing so on a voluntary basis and most have made the decision to keep them in their fleet,” Card said. “This will improve safety and productivity.”
Louise Yako, president and CEO of the British Columbia Trucking Association (BCTA) said her group has been advocating for the mandated use of ELDs for several years, and that drivers already using them have reported a reduction in stress that was either self-imposed or put on by dispatchers or customers to make a delivery quicker.
“The ELD clearly demonstrates the driver is doing his job in a responsible, safe and legal way,” she said.
Lowering fuel costs and increasing a driver’s productivity was another benefit of using ELDs underscored by the associations.
“Drivers operating in an ELD environment realize a net gain in available driving/on-duty time of 30-120 minutes per seven-day cycle, leading to an increased earning potential,” said Card.
Shaw said that Transport Canada has done a study on the use of ELDs, and that the MTA has been told that the return on investment is somewhere in the area of two-to-one.
“Increased HoS compliance from all heavy commercial road users is a benefit,” he said. “Administratively, for companies there are benefits through streamlined awareness of a driver’s hours, and for drivers, the administrative burden of tracking and managing their hours is certainly reduced. As well for the enforcement community both roadside and during audits, ELDs provide clearer and more reliable information than paper logs do.”
Making a person’s job easier seems like it would be a simple way to garner support, and according to Western Canada’s trucking associations, ELDs do just that.
“Our members, who have introduced electronic logging devices into their operations, report that after an initial period of adjustment, virtually all of their drivers not only accept the devices, but appreciate being able to use them,” said Yako of drivers in B.C.
Yako added that drivers said they preferred ELDs to paper logs because they were simpler to use and saved them time. Card said using ELDs makes it easier to track a driver’s HoS and more up-to-date driver records, which puts less pressure on the driver to keep both his/her logs up-to-date and not be pressured to work beyond the legal limits.
“Carriers that have installed ELDs report a 40-50% reduction in citations for hours-of-service violations,” Card said, “which has led to an increase in safety and compliance by reducing fatigue-related incidents, making roads safer to all motorists.”
With any type of new technology or change to an employees daily work process, there will be challenges to overcome, and ELDs are no different.
“In speaking with members, the biggest challenges we’ve heard have simply been training the drivers on the new technology,” said Shaw. “At the larger industry level, we are well aware that enforcement policies will need to be discussed, and while we would like to be further down the path with those discussions, our members should know that they have already started.”
Yako said she has been told that the biggest challenge to implementing ELDs has been the transition from paper logs and related technical aspects.
“It requires new processes, policies and procedures as well as training to use the equipment,” Yako said.
Cost could also be a factor for some.
“ELDs represent a dramatic technology investment for drivers if they operate an independent business,” said Card. “It’s these smaller fleets and independent drivers who may see this as a challenge due to financial issues.”
Just give them a chance
There have been voiced of opposition when it comes to mandated use of ELDs, most notably from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in the US, which has proclaimed concerns with driver harassment and privacy as reasons for its disapproval.
Western Canadian trucking associations, however, either don’t understand why someone would be against ELDs or simply have not seen this negativity from drivers using the new electronic system.
“Drivers may be defensive with the implementation of ELDs,” said Card, “but very quickly after they start using them, they adapt to the technology with a positive attitude as they get comfortable with the timing required in daily routines and the free time from doing paper logs.”
Yako said that in B.C., ELDs have had a positive effect on drivers.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments about privacy or intrusiveness,” she said. “There is a great degree of comfort knowing that there is a clear, unequivocal and accurate record of the work they are doing.”
Shaw said Manitoba truckers should not be concerned with any king of invasion of privacy or a company’s ability to track their driving, as technology has been able to do this for some time now through various devices.
“All trucks today are equipped with technologies that allow for those outside the truck to access location, movement and position histories,” Shaw said, “and none of those technologies have been labelled as an invasion of privacy to my knowledge.”
Shaw said communication between drivers and dispatch through the use of cellphones, email and other forms has always been a positive for the industry.
He also said the notion that a driver would be forced to work any available hours even though they may not be ready to, is nothing new to the trucking industry, and placing the blame on ELDs in disingenuous.
“If a driver has hours but isn’t ready or able to work for a variety of reasons we all encounter, (like) fatigue or illness,” Shaw said, “then that can present challenges, but those challenges aren’t new and they certainly haven’t been brought about by ELDs.”
The Saskatchewan Trucking Association said its board was currently reviewing the possible mandated use of ELDs and did not yet have a firm stance on the matter.