MONTREAL, Que. - If a Quebec pilot project works out, on-board computers could be the logbooks of the future, and electronic pre-trip inspection reports may not be far behind.When Dominic Joly, a driv...
MONTREAL, Que. – If a Quebec pilot project works out, on-board computers could be the logbooks of the future, and electronic pre-trip inspection reports may not be far behind.
When Dominic Joly, a driver with Martin-Brower of Canada, in Baie d’Urfe, Que., is ready to begin his daily deliveries, the first thing he does is enter his driver number into the on-board computer. The system asks whether he has done his pre-trip inspection, and he replies by pressing the YES key.
The second he begins to roll out of the shipping yard, he pokes the DRIVE button and the computer’s brain starts recording the time, the number of kilometres driven and his speed. If he forgets, it starts automatically after a mere 200 metres. Every time he makes a delivery, stops for lunch, crosses the border between Quebec and Ontario, or any one of a page full of other possible activities, he enters a short code into the computer.
“I like it. It is simple,” Joly says. “It doesn’t bother me at all. It is my work tool.” Martin-Brower, the exclusive distributor for McDonald’s restaurants in Canada, has been using E-logbooks as part of its fleet management system for seven years.
“In the past we used the disk and it took at least a day to do the payroll,” says Benoit Bourbonnier, the transportation manager for the company’s distribution centre in Baie d’Urfe. “Now, by extracting data from the electronic logbook and exporting it to another software, Catoc, the payroll reports are generated automatically.”
The E-record-keeping also makes it easy to know the available hours that drivers have. “When we assign the departure times to drivers every day, we know exactly how many hours he’s done and how many hours he has left. We can make sure he is not in violation on the road,” explains Bourbonnier.
It came as a surprise to Bourbonnier when he was told last year – during a training session for Quebec’s recently introduced safety ratings – that Martin-Brower had, by using E-logbooks, been operating illegally.
“The federal regulation adopted in ’88 or ’89 on hours of service specifies certain characteristics the on-board computers must have to be used as electronic logbooks … one of these is that they should be able to print the pages,” explains Claude Corbeil of the Societe de l’Assurance Automobile du Quebec (SAAQ). Martin-Brower’s on-board computers cannot do that.
“In Quebec, we are trying to find a new way to express or give opportunity for people to be compliant with regulations, using current, state-of-the-art, on-board computers,” explains Corbeil. “This project is one way to take advantage of the investment companies have made in on-board computers and fleet management systems. It is [also] good for SAAQ and the government because it results in more compliance to hours of service.”
Bourbonnier’s trucks had been stopped for hours-of-service checks before, but baffled inspectors simply waved them on. “You’re MacDonald’s, you’ve got to be clean. Have a nice day,” was the thinking, figures Bourbonnier.
Before anyone could say ‘pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun’, SAAQ and three Quebec trucking companies had a pilot project rolling to officially test the E-system. It began last February and will last until Jan. 31.
The companies are: Martin-Brower, with 18 trucks; Transport Jacques Auger in Levis, with 50 trucks and; Transport Asselin in Saint-Georges-de-Champlain, with 30 trucks.
All of Transport Asselin’s 100 trucks have on-board computers. But drivers not in the pilot project keep both paper and E-logbooks. The company’s Arthur Servant says that Asselin will keep using the E-logbooks whether SAAQ amends the regulations or not.
He offers an example of how the E-logbook can be used for more than just hours of service compliance and fleet management: “Last week one of our trucks was in an accident. The police were able to retrieve the on-board computer. It showed that the driver was going 90 km-h.” Without that record, the question would always have remained whether the driver had been speeding or not.
All of the truckers in the project drive around armed with a copy of a contract that makes their E-logbooks temporarily legal; highway inspectors in Quebec and Ontario have been told about the program.
The deal, though, is that drivers have to keep hard copies of their logs for the prior trips they made that week; a hard copy of the daily E-logbook contains a chart that looks almost exactly like a page from a paper logbook. “Drivers must carry printouts of the preceding six, seven or 13 days, depending on the cycle he is on, excluding the current day,” says Corbeil. As for current-day log information, Corbeil adds, “the on-board equipment should be able to show the information – hours of driving, work and rest for the total of the day – so when an officer stops a truck, the driver can show the information on the digital display.”
Upon request, the driver displays a summary of this information on the one-line display that sits over the keyboard. But if the inspector requests it, the company has to fax a copy of the current day’s report to a SAAQ office within 24 hours of the driver’s return to his terminal. For this pilot project, most drivers are usually out of town no longer than two days.
“The SAAQ is looking to see how many times we get stopped and asked for our logbooks. At our meetings (with SAAQ) we discuss problems we experience when we are stopped,” says Bourbonnier. The only problem so far, he explains with a little smile, is that, “We don’t have any problems.”
The only real problem to date is with showing a summary of multiple drive, rest, drive cycles that clearly indicates that a driver has followed the hours of service rules on a multi-day trip. “But it’s not insurmountable,” says Corbeil.
“If this management system can be adapted to all companies,” he adds, “then the regulations should be changed … to allow the equivalent of the steps in the pilot project, applicable to all carriers.” n