To say 2020 has been a year of disruption in the trucking industry would be a gross understatement, particularly when it comes to drivers who have been on the front lines since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s for this reason and many others that carriers and fleet managers want to minimize the number of external factors disrupting their drivers.
But with Canada’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate to be cemented into the lawbooks this coming June, those who have not already made the switch from paper logs will have to face yet another factor disrupting their livelihoods.
Fleets can take several steps to ensure their drivers experience a seamless transition from paper logs to ELDs.
Don’t wait for the mandate
One of the largest carriers in North America says the key to that success is to start the transition early to ensure drivers have plenty of time to be properly trained and get comfortable using the device.
“We also did a staggered rollout by fleet so we could provide the necessary support to the drivers who needed assistance,” said Stephanie Fensom, safety manager for Bison Transport. “It also allowed us to make adjustments along the way if we found gaps, to make the continued rollout smoother. Every second week we added another fleet.”
Greg Munden, president of Munden Ventures of Kamloops, B.C., agrees that getting an early start is important for a successful transition to ELDs.
And, with only eight months until Canada’s ELD mandate kicks in, Munden said the time is now to make the switch.
Identify internal champions
“There is plenty of time to make a smooth transition to ELDs. Switching drivers hastily in May 2021 for a June deadline is going to increase pressure on everyone,” he said, recommending that fleets pick “internal champions” who are tech-savvy or already have experience with ELDs, to help other drivers with the change.
“Switching them over to an ELD right away will allow your other drivers to ask them about the new solution, as well as have in-house, driver-to-driver help once they are rolled out more broadly.”
Chris Stepto, safety manager for Berry and Smith Trucking, echoes this approach.
“Get some of the more technology-savvy drivers involved first. Have these drivers be a part of the ELD provider selection and testing,” he said. “These drivers will be your best-selling feature to other drivers. These drivers will help in getting something that is better for the company and drivers.”
Take it to your driver group
Munden also advised carriers to be smart with which ELD they select for their fleets, and to have a conversation with their drivers about what they can expect with the transition.
“A big mistake would be surprising drivers with a quick transition without having had discussions with your driver group ahead of time,” he said. “No one likes change, and companies can help the transition by dispelling a lot of the myths that are associated with ELDs.”
A big part of the process is education.
James Mott is the senior instructor for Gennaro Transport Training, which works with Women Building Futures to help teach new Class 1 drivers the ins and outs of ELDs.
When it comes to ELDs, Mott said they “educate that there are many apps on your phone and programs that many carriers provide that will satisfy carrier and driver requirements.”
Mott also said that even with the advent of new technology to help track a driver’s Hours of Service (HoS), it’s important to not forget to maintain a backup in the event of a malfunction.
“At the end of the day,” said Mott, “I truly believe that every commercial driver, regardless of experience, should understand how to fill out the paper format of a log book in case of technological breakdown.”
Stepto added that those who are training drivers to use ELDs should be well versed in related platform. They should also have knowledge of HoS regulations in both Canada and the U.S.
“Trainers will have to answers questions regarding the new ELD system and why the new system will create violations a driver does not understand,” said Stepto.
Develop education campaigns
Dan Columbus, vice-president of health, safety, and environment for Westcan Bulk Transport, said along with a gradual ELD rollout, education campaigns can include posters, tailgate sessions, safety meetings, and a comprehensive training program with theoretical and practical components.
“Select elite drivers to start testing the new system,” he said. “They will become the ambassadors, and the coaches for other drivers.”
Don’t forget the dispatchers
Dispatchers also have a direct impact on drivers, given the close relationship between the two. And as Fensom points out, it is important for fleets to remember that the use of ELDs does not in any way change HoS regulations.
“What it does is allows a dispatcher to have a live view of a drivers’ hours to support the planning process,” she said.
Munden believes carriers that are operating legally with paper logs will see little to no operational impact with the use of ELDs.
Dispatchers, however, will see a change for the better.
“ELDs will make their job simpler,” Munden said, “as they will have ready access to real-time data about available hours for their drivers and allow them to proactively juggle their load assignments to drivers who have the available hours to match customer needs.”
On the flip side, Munden pointed out that carriers operating outside the legal HoS rules will see a significant impact on their operations, and dispatchers who push drivers further because “the load just has to get there” will need to change the way they operate.
This, he said, is a good thing.
“For those companies and drivers who have long been frustrated by operating legally while they compete with those that do not, ELDs represent the industry’s best opportunity to ‘level the play field,’” said Munden.
“We transitioned to ELDs over six years ago. We don’t have a driver who would switch back to paper logs.”
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