Every successful trading society throughout history – from the Persian and Roman empires of ancient times to the European Union and United States of today – has understood the importance of an effective, harmonized, transportation system.
I wonder when Canada will learn that lesson?
From the ridiculously long time it took to get anywhere close to harmonized weights and measures and the mess we have endured at our busiest border crossing for decades, it would seem that narrow-minded and short sighted provincial thinking too often places the greater good in jeopardy. What has been happening in Quebec over electronic onboard recorders is just the latest example.
Forward-thinking motor carriers have begun investing in electronic onboard recorders to improve their hours of service compliance and respond much more quickly to discrepancies and violations than is possible through the outdated paper log method. These carriers should be commended for their initiative. And also for having the patience and determination to deal with all the driver fears surrounding e-logs. I have had candid conversations with several early adopters of e-logs so far and they all say the same: they are a much more efficient way to deal with hours of service than the paper logs currently being used by the majority in our industry. And they are much less likely to be falsified.
Yet, for some reason beyond understanding, enforcement officers in Quebec recently took to fining carriers for failing to provide paper logs during roadside inspections. And they weren’t holding back on the fines either. For example, Total Logistics Group received a fine of $956 for failing to provide paper logbooks. The company reported that one of its drivers was pulled in for inspection by an enforcement officer who was not familiar with e-logs. The driver first offered to provide a paper copy of the records by faxing the documents to the inspector’s office, however after some consideration the officer reportedly said a fax wouldn’t suffice. The driver, who had a paper logbook with him, then offered to update it to match what was displayed by the EOBR. But the officer told him he had to update his logbook before leaving the terminal, according to Total Logistics, adding that the officer said he’d never seen an e-log before and it was not accepted in Quebec.
The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) EOBR working group labored for some time to come up with an EOBR protocol for enforcement agencies across the country. This way how inspectors from various regions accepted, viewed and interpreted electronic logs would be harmonized. That’s what countries that are serious about having a national transportation system do. They ensure that carriers and the supply chains they serve are not handicapped by conflicting regulations and practices as they cross each provincial boundary.
The CCMTA’s policy recommends that inspection officers first try to interpret the logs via the device’s display screen, which is usually attached by cord to the dash so it can be handed out the window to an officer. Failing that, the CCMTA’s policy suggests inspection officers allow the driver to fax the records to the scale house, where they can be viewed in printed form.
Sounds pretty reasonable but I guess it wasn’t good enough for some of the enforcement folks in Quebec. We even heard of one instance where the 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.”
Such actions by Quebec’s enforcement officials have left carriers who were wise enough to be early adopters of the e-log technology either second guessing their decision or, worse, holding off on moving to e-logs.
Since our executive editor James Menzies brought this issue to the industry’s attention on trucknews.com and with a front-page story in our sister publication, Truck News, a meeting involving several stakeholders has been held. By the end of the three-hour meeting, SAAQ policy makers 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.
Now the whole fiasco is being chalked up to a simple lack of communication between policy makers and enforcement officials and confusion over whether the enforcement folks should be accepting CCTMA policy.
Isn’t it funny though how enforcement officials are always quick to point out that ignorance of the law is no excuse? Perhaps Quebec’s enforcement officials should follow their own advice and understand the law before enforcing it. It would be one small step towards removing the small-minded actions that routinely interfere with Canada having a truly national and harmonized transportation system.
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