U.S. experience with ELDs offers lessons for Canada

Canadian carriers hauling south of the border have gained valuable experience with electronic logging devices (ELDs) over the last couple of years.

With that experience, they can expect little to no change in their operations when Canada’s ELD mandate kicks in. It will be business as usual come June 2021.

Here are a few of the key lessons that some Canadian carriers learned after introducing ELDs on both sides of the border.

ELDs are nothing new for some fleets, and they learned some lessons along the way. (Photo: Bison Transport)

Ensure your ELD recognizes different HoS rules

Because the U.S. ELD mandate was the first to become law, many ELD providers tailored their products to comply with American Hours of Service (HoS) regulations, creating some confusion when drivers were operating in Canada.

“The Canadian rules would not work properly because the machine was trying to apply more U.S. rules in Canada,” said Chris Stepto, safety manager for Berry and Smith Trucking. Even enforcement teams struggled to understand how to read the systems when they were first launched.

This, Stepto said, underscores the importance of choosing a device that will apply Canadian and U.S. regulations where needed.

“The more valuable lesson we learned is to find a system that works best,” he said. “There are a lot of providers, but that does not mean they are user-friendly or apply rules properly.”

Confirm the device is certified for the jurisdiction

One of the most significant lessons that Canadian regulators learned from the U.S. ELD rollout was the need to take a different approach to certification.

While the U.S. elected to go with self-certification – leaving suppliers to confirm that their devices complied with technical specifications – Canada will require devices to be certified by an approved third party.

That will result in a much smaller number of ELDs being certified, since some suppliers may not pursue the extra approval.

“The reason a majority of our industry wanted ELDs was to ensure that everyone operated on the same level playing field and operate within the HoS regulations,” said Stephanie Fensom, safety manager for Bison Transport. “We are extremely pleased that the Canadian ELD mandate requires a third-party verification process for each ELD provider.”

Stepto agrees, saying there are several ELD providers that should not be in the marketplace.

“It does not matter what system you make, there are people out there figuring out how to beat it,” Stepto said. “So, it is important to have a good safety program and support from owners and management in order for it to work. Companies looking for an ELD provider, it is important that they do reference checks with actual companies that are already using it. Ask lots of questions.”

Leverage added ELD capabilities with experience

The longer you use a device, the more you’re going to learn about what it can do. Carriers that made the switch to ELDs years ago are now reaping the benefits of that experience, which underscores the importance of making the transition sooner rather than later.

Thomas McKee, vice-president of driver services for Payne Transportation, said the U.S. mandate, along with early adoption, means his drivers are prepared and there will be no disruption to his company’s operations once the Canadian mandate becomes law in June 2021.

Instead of focusing on transitioning to ELDs and training drivers and staff how to use them, Payne Transportation is tapping into all the benefits the new technology offers.

“With our telematics provider, we now have the ability to compile information and data immediately at our fingertips,” said McKee. “To mention only one benefit is hard.”

From a liability standpoint, Payne Transportation is using data to identify drivers who would benefit from coaching to correct specific driving behaviors.

“Accident investigations now provide us details, such as real-time speed, which lane we were traveling in, seat belt usage, idle data, and the list go on,” said McKee. “We would never want to revert back to the way things were prior to electronic logs.”

Recognize that ELDs track exact times

An ELD sees the world in black and white. It tracks time down to the minute.

Dan Columbus, vice-president of health, safety and environment at Westcan Bulk Services, admits that can be frustrating at times.

“Violations counted by the seconds, and even by minutes, are only technical and have no direct impact on the driver’s overall fatigue, or on their ability to operate the vehicle safely,” he said.

Depending on the approach to scheduling, such pressure could lead drivers to resort to extreme measures – such as speeding, driving erratically, or selecting unsafe parking locations – to remain compliant.

The tightly tracked timelines should be recognized during any trip planning activities, to ensure drivers have an opportunity to safely get where they need to go.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • Ok over 75% of the Canadian Trucking Industry goes to the USA and they have had to operate ELD’s for two years now. Many good Canadian fleets installed ELD’s years ago. We installed ELD’s in our 350 unit AB based fleet 20 years ago.
    The only fleets left to installed ELD’s are smaller regional fleets.

  • My question is does Wa. State require my B.C Canada based truck to have a ELD or can I continue to run my paper book ?
    I only run 80km into the u.s to unload before I turn around and go home…and this is daily.

  • All the ELD did was turn good drivers/operators into bad ones. The bad ones,made them worse. Why? Because you have no time for nothing. Everything is a rush. The companies know you only have some much time now so the push is on to get X amount of miles a day. You take your life in your hands at a truck stop its like a race to get fuel and get gone again. Why you think truck stops are getting rid of restaurants?? Cause hardly any truckers are using them, no think. Everything is on the run. It’s like being in communist ruling. Told how and what to do.

  • I heard on news that Quebec is not going to make there trucks use ELD , this is a federal law ???