Little by little

by Derek Clouthier

SURREY, B.C. — A couple of months removed from electronic logging device (ELD) mandate day in the U.S., western Canadian carriers are dealing with the new paperless reality, but there have been some hurdles along the way.

Accord Transportation out of Surrey, B.C. has been on the ball when it comes to the implementation of e-logs for some time, and as with any type of change from the norm, concerns remain.

Ken Davey, director of IT and loss prevention for Accord, said the implementation of ELDs has increased competition for space at truck stops.

“The most common driver complaint is the difficulty getting to a truck stop before the day’s hours run out, but not before they have maximized their earnings for the day,” said Davey. “Unfortunately, even when they do everything else right, they can get to a truck stop where there is no room to park and there are no hours left to get to somewhere else safe with bathroom facilities.”

Davey said one of the unintended effects of ELDs is that drivers are being forced to sleep at the side of the road in industrial areas near trucks stops.

“They are torn between a reasonable healthy comfortable rest stop and loosing 10% or 20% of the day’s earning potential for them and the truck,” Davey said. “I find it unfortunate that laws designed to help them get rest have a detrimental effect when adequate facilities are unavailable.”

From a company perspective, Davey said the reality of e-logs is that they are designed to limit operations, as they provide stricter enforcement of a driver’s hours-of-service (HOS).

Davey said most of the changes he has seen with the use of ELDs involve a loss of productivity and personal time for drivers.

To combat this, Accord, which has nearly 200 trucks, 70% of which go cross-border, made plans to minimize the impact on both its drivers and customers.

“These involve increased use of trailer pools and increased use of switches where trailers are exchanged between power units mid trip so the power units can end up at home at the end of a trip,” Davey explained.

The company is also increasing the use of technology to help reduce non-productive driver time with such efforts as weigh scale bypass transponders, apps that allow drivers to scale and pay without leaving the truck, and apps that show the fastest fuel lanes.

Accord, a TL van carrier that operates primarily between Southern California and Western Canada, has long been a company that embraces technology.

Accord started installing and training its drivers on ELDs in June 2017.

Bushell Transport of St. Albert, Alta. has been using e-logs for two-and-a-half years, and was fortunate to have a roster of drivers who were open to the new technology.

“The largest learning curve was for dispatch and getting the feel of how the trucks run and learning the instances where you could face potential operational issues,” said Grant Glattacker, president and CEO of Bushell. “Planning way further in advance than we ever did prior to adoption was the common theme in the office. We also had to ensure that if we saw potential issues with timelines, clients were informed well in advance and the reasoning why we knew the potential issue so far in advance.”

Glattacker said the Dec. 18 U.S. ELD mandate has had absolutely no impact on his company or drivers because of his company’s early adoption of the technology.

“In fact,” said Glattacker, “one of our drivers received a positive inspection in Washington State and the officer had commented to our driver they were issuing a lot of tickets for non-compliance that day and commended our driver and company for compliance.”

Established in 1963, Bushell specializes in oversize and overweight long haul cargo and operates a 100% company-owned inventory of 21 trucks and 65 trailers, with more to be added this year.

Glattacker said his heritage is very old-school, one that is proud of all the miles and hours a driver can achieve. This, however, is not the mentality he likes to employ.

“Drivers need to be paid properly for their skills, service, and time. They are of immense value to our economy and we cannot have a system that allows them to be continually burned out,” said Glattacker. “The ELD mandate is the first step in that direction because we all need to be on the same playing field with the same set of rules.”

For both Glattacker and Davey, the Canadian ELD mandate cannot come soon enough.

Davey said auditing and enforcement of paper logs is expensive, time consuming, and ineffective.

“I believe it to be safer for the driver and other highway users, especially when there is a communications unit attached to the e-log device,” said Davey. “It will deter and combat crime like hijacking and thefts. It will reduce all the threats that face anyone working in isolation.”

“It’s embarrassing to me that the Canadian government could not get in line with the U.S. mandate. What could possibly be the holdup?” Glattacker added. “The mandate in the U.S. was set upon approximately 323 million people and the market did not implode. We have approximately 36 million and the rules are already in place.”

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