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Wheels moving on Canada’s EOBR mandate

KING CITY, Ont. – The federal government is currently looking at the development of a Canadian standard for the use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) that would also apply in the North American context.


KING CITY, Ont. – The federal government is currently looking at the development of a Canadian standard for the use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) that would also apply in the North American context.

Many companies have implemented EOBRs on a voluntary basis, not just for hours-of-service compliance.

But they are adopting the technology under the following conditions: the lack of a North American standard, the proliferation of products, the fact that inspectors are frequently not familiar with the products, and the fact that there are driver reservations about using EOBRs in the first place.

Peter Hurst, chair of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators’ (CCMTA) steering committee on EOBRs, presented an update on the committee’s work to attendees of the Private Motor Truck Council’s annual conference in June.

Hurst, a professional engineer who has worked for two provincial governments, is director, carrier safety and enforcement branch, at the Ontario Ministry of Transport.

In the US, said Hurst, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) was actively developing a new EOBR rule that was to be effective this June, and that would target carriers with a 10% or higher violation rate. The rule would have assisted in the enforcement of HoS, while incorporating new performance standards.

The rule was vacated by US courts, however, and the FMCSA is working on new legislation for a universal EOBR mandate, to apply to all carriers operating in the US.

“They ran into some issues, many of which were related to driver harassment,” said Hurst. “We have no idea yet on the status or rollout.”

In 2010, the CCMTA conducted a review of issues around the feasibility of EOBRs.

The development of a proposed NSC standard for EOBRs is underway. The final phase is a review of options for implementing a new National Safety Code EOBR standard.

The CCMTA undertook a literature review, developed a discussion paper, and solicited stakeholder input with key considerations, including factors such as application and implementation (scope), data requirements and privacy, and whether the standard would be technically flexible or specific, noted Hurst.

Input came from various carrier organizations, like the PMTC, Canadian Trucking Alliance, Motor Coach Canada, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, manufacturers, the Truck Manufacturers’ Association, the Canadian Construction Association, and the Ontario Provincial Police.

“Four things stood out. There was a divergence of opinion on how it should be applied – should it be a targeted mandate? A universal mandate? Technically flexible and performance based?” said Hurst.

It also emerged that EOBRs should be used for HoS enforcement only, and no other info should be considered.

The use of EOBRs is the future, he said.

“They are mandated in Europe, and under consideration in the US. It’s my view, and not necessarily the view of other regulators, that if we had an environment where everyone was using them there’d be no need for our inspectors to ask for HoS at roadside inspections – it would save everyone a lot of time,” said Hurst. “We know driver fatigue is a significant causal factor in many collisions. The stats we have seen would suggest driver fatigue is an issue, paper logbooks are antiquated, it’s easy to cheat with a paper-based system, and it’s not uncommon to have two logbooks and to present the one that’s needed.”

Because of the inconsistencies in enforcement and standards, there is a ratified national protocol for inspectors who encounter EOBRs. In some cases, it involves a request for a faxed report.

The development of an EOBR standard is currently underway in Canada. In the winter of 2011 the development of a draft EOBR standard was initiated, assessing the US rules against provincial laws, regulations and other limitations.

“It has to be flexible enough to be used in the US,” said Hurst.

Quebec, Ontario and Transport Canada have also been working on an EOBR pilot.

“There’s a consultant looking at this. Now we’re drafting a standard,” he said.

The core principle will be to stick to the HoS rule, focus on what is required, and not what it’s capable of, and make sure the standard is applicable to all trucks, markets and jurisdictions.

“Some drivers feel they are being monitored too closely, and we feel some of the harassment charges are coming from this,” he said.

The work outline set by the project team which met in late spring identifies the key elements of the standard.

The first layer would be system requirements and performance: driver ID, date, time, location, distance travelled, odometer, jurisdiction (because of different rules in jurisdictions “North of 60,” the standard would not be designed around this), duty status, driving cycle, off-duty time deferral, availability, submission, information recording, review, display and reporting.

“It needs to be as flexible as possible otherwise we might as well go back to paper. Our officers will not go into a cab, so how are they going to see a display? We had a huge debate about this. We just said let’s stick with a graph grid – everybody is familiar with that,” said Hurst.

With the first round of consultations complete, the committee has reviewed stakeholder input, and will prepare its next draft towards mid-summer, with a penultimate draft standard ready for the Deputy Council of Ministers in the fall of 2012.

“It’s penultimate for two reasons: I don’t want us to get too far ahead of the United States. My experience is that every time we harmonize with the US it causes us nothing but grief. We end up adopting the US standards. But if we build a standard that is out of step with the US it’s going to lead to more problems at the border, so we want to wait and see what’s going to happen in the US and make sure we’re at least consistent. We really do also need to do a final policy review. There’s a variety of systems out there and vastly different costs associated with them,” said Hurst.

He said that no matter how the standard is rolled out “there’s going to be opportunity for tampering as well. If you were to ask my opinion, in this day and age and fiscal environment, I don’t see all 14 ministers agreeing to implement, all at once, mandatory EOBRs. They might be willing to introduce them on the basis of poor carrier performance and for carriers with safety issues. But I’ve been wrong before,” said Hurst.

The next steps are to finish the standard, and examine some implementation options.

“We haven’t decided whether it will be done internally or by a consultant. The whole intent of this is to get everyone doing the same thing at the same time, not an easy feat. There will be pressure, when we’re done, for at least one province to move forward,” said Hurst.


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