E-log enforcement inconsistencies punish early adopters
April 1, 2011
The widespread adoption of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) as a means of tracking driver hours-of-service has hit a bump in the road, as carriers operating in Quebec have received mixed messages about the acceptance of the devices....
The widespread adoption of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) as a means of tracking driver hours-of-service has hit a bump in the road, as carriers operating in Quebec have received mixed messages about the acceptance of the devices. Proponents of the systems only hope it’s a speed bump and not a roadblock.
As you can read in this month’s cover story on the subject, enforcement officers in Quebec have been fining carriers for failing to provide paper logs during roadside inspections. And it’s no small fine, either. Total Logistics Group received a fine of $956 for failing to provide paper logbooks and I’ve also heard from a motor coach company that has twice been fined for the same infraction. By the same officer, no less.
Both companies use electronic log systems that comply with all the federal requirements. What’s most disconcerting, however, is the flagrant disregard for – or ignorance of – the rules that some enforcement officers in Quebec seem to carry. In the case of the motor coach company, I’m told the bus driver informed the enforcement officer that e-logs are legal in Canada, only to be told “You’re not in Canada, you’re in Quebec.”
I’m sure such instances are rare. The SAAQ officer I spoke with assured me electronic logs are accepted in the province, however he admitted there are enforcement-related challenges. For starters, every system that’s in the market displays information slightly differently. And while most systems offer the option of faxing paper records to the scale house, Arnold Yetman pointed out that in Quebec, enforcement is often conducted in the field from the officer’s car and not at brick-and-mortar inspection stations.
Fair points, both of them. Still, it’s not right to punish carriers that have been early adopters of EOBRs, especially considering most have made the investment in an effort to improve hours-of-service compliance and to more easily identify discrepancies or violations. These carriers should be rewarded, not punished. And yet, I’ve heard from some of these very carriers that they have been centered out for increased scrutiny since they began installing EOBRs in their vehicles.
Encouragingly, since I first wrote about the enforcement inconsistencies in Quebec on Trucknews.com March 4, a meeting involving several stakeholders has been held. Quebec Trucking Association president Marc Cadieux tells me it was a productive meeting, lasting nearly three hours. By the time it concluded, SAAQ policymakers promised to remind their front-line enforcement officers that e-logs are to be accepted in the province, provided they meet all the regulatory requirements.
Cadieux chalked the entire episode up to poor communication and dismissed the widely held notion that Quebec was unilaterally rejecting electronic logs because it was finding tickets would not hold up in court when not supported by paper evidence.
Policymakers, suppliers and carrier groups such as the QTA are to be commended for acting quickly to straighten out this mess.
However, until the courts dismiss fines pending against carriers that are using electronic logs and until there’s some evidence on the front lines that enforcement officers have gotten the message that they are in fact legal, this situation bears continued monitoring.