MONTREAL, Que. — Are enforcement officers in Quebec shunning electronic hours-of-service logs?
That’s the message some fleets are receiving; a message that threatens to disrupt the widespread adoption of electronic on-board recorders for the tracking of driver hours-of-service. However, Arnold Yetman, carrier enforcement officer, Control Routier Quebec, insists carriers are welcome to use electronic logs in Quebec, as long as the systems fully comply with federal guidelines.
“They are accepted if they meet the regulatory requirements,” Yetman told Trucknews.com. “It’s that simple. If they don’t meet the regulatory requirements, they will get fined.”
But tell that to Jim Harris, fleet safety manager for Total Logistics Group, which has recently equipped its fleet with Shaw Tracking’s electronic logging system – a system that was designed to meet the regulatory requirements of any jurisdiction. He told Trucknews.com his company recently received a $956 fine for, in his words, “allowing a commercial vehicle on the road without a logbook.”
The driver, Harris says, 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 Harris.
“He said he’d never seen this kind of thing before and it was not accepted in Quebec,” Harris recalled. “I’ve hired a lawyer and I’m waiting for my court date.”
Meanwhile, Bessette & Boudreau, a 100-truck fleet out of St-Hyacinthe, Que. recently began installing Shaw Tracking systems in all its tractors, with the intention of automating their hours-of-service. But Yves Letarte told Trucknews.com the carrier was informed at a Quebec Trucking Association meeting that SAAQ was not accepting e-logs at all, causing B&B to second guess its investment.
“We were in the process of installing the Shaw Tracking units in our fleet,” Letarte said. “We were told by Shaw Tracking that when the officer asks for the logs, we could hand him the screen that we had in the truck for him to see the log. Maybe that’s not enough, maybe we will have to print the log? That would be quite expensive, to have printers in the trucks.”
Not to mention counterproductive. Geoff Wood is the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s resident EOBR expert and a member of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) EOBR working group. That group laboured over the creation of an EOBR protocol for enforcement agencies across the country, aimed at harmonizing how inspectors from various regions accept, view and interpret electronic logs.
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.
“Those are the options that are available and for the most part, it’s working,” said Wood. “In Quebec, there are some issues and there seems to be some confusion about whether or not the enforcement folks should be accepting the CCMTA policy. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the policy folks and the enforcement folks.”
A disconnect may also exist within the ranks of the enforcement folks themselves. While Harris said his driver was informed he could not update his paper logbook during the inspection, Yetman told Trucknews.com that it would be acceptable for a driver with e-logs to bring a paper logbook with him and update it at the request of an inspection officer in order to provide a paper copy. However, he also said such decisions are at the discretion of the agent on duty.
Harris said when the Shaw Tracking systems were first deployed in Total’s trucks, he invited enforcement officers to the carrier’s headquarters for a training session on how they work. The invitation was declined, he pointed out. Yetman, however, says Quebec enforcement officers have all received training.
Some industry insiders have heard that SAAQ is reluctant to accept e-logs because charges for violations have little chance of holding up in court when they’re not backed by paper-based evidence.
However, most systems from leading suppliers have the ability to send paper records to a fax machine at the touch of a button.
“A lot of times if we get the fax and everything is there and it’s all within the law, we will probably give the person a break,” Yetman says. “But we’re not always near a control station, sometimes we’re doing it from our car and we have no printer.”
Kate Rahn, director of operations with Shaw Tracking, says she finds it interesting that Quebec seems to be “the only jurisdiction in North America” to have that problem.
“I don’t know what Quebec is thinking,” she said. “These big US carriers like J.B. Hunt, Schneider and Werner have adopted them. Are you going to force them to put printers in their cabs just for their routes through Quebec?”
The widely held belief that SAAQ is unilaterally rejecting e-logs when the rest of North America is embracing them has not been good for EOBR sales, Rahn admits.
“We don’t have a lot of fleets in Quebec that are using electronic logs,” Rahn says. “But this whole thing has put a halt on anything our sales guys were doing in Quebec.”
The CTA’s Wood, however, doesn’t think complications in Quebec will slow the widespread adoption of electronic logs, which continues to gain momentum across Canada and the US.
“I’d say it’s isolated but it’s something that needs to get addressed,” Wood said of enforcement challenges in Quebec. “It’s only a matter of time before the issue is resolved in Quebec. Is this seen as something that’s going to derail the whole process? I’d say no.”
And Total Logistics’ Harris agrees, noting the benefits of moving to electronic logs far outweigh the occasional enforcement-related hassle. He continues to use EOBRs to track driver hours, despite the risk of further fines.
“I still think it’s the way to go,” Harris said. “I still see benefits. I’m hoping they become mandatory for everybody. If everybody was using it, everybody would win.”
Harris said the system allows him to keep on top of driver hours daily rather than waiting for his weekly audits (which were outsourced) to uncover discrepancies.
“I monitor them daily instead of finding mistakes at the end of the week when we’re auditing them,” Harris said. “I have 100 guys here and it was impossible to stay on top of them. I can do them daily now in about an hour.”
If the court rules against him, Harris says he won’t give up his e-logs without a fight. “You can bet I’ll go out kicking and screaming, that’s for sure.”
What’s required? Arnold Yetman, carrier enforcement officer with Control Routier Quebec, said electronic logs are accepted in Quebec, as long as the system meets all regulatory requirements. When asked which requirements must be met, Yetman referred to Sec. 83 of the Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations (SOR/2005-313). The regulations indicate a driver may use an electronic recording device for recording their duty status if the following conditions are met:
a) the information contained in the electronic recording device is the same as the information that would have been provided if it had been submitted as a daily log in paper format;
b) when requested to do so by a director or an inspector, the driver can immediately provide the information for the previous 14 d
ays by producing it on a digital display screen of the electronic recording device or in handwritten form or on a print-out or any other intelligible output, or any combination of these;
c) the device is capable of displaying:
(i) the driving time and other on-duty time for each day on which the device is used,
(ii) the total on-duty time remaining and the total on-duty time accumulated in the cycle being followed by the driver, and
(iii) the sequential changes in duty status and the time at which each change occurred for each day on which the device is used;
d) the driver is capable, if so requested by an inspector, of preparing a handwritten daily log from the information stored in the device for each day on which the device is used;
e) the device automatically records when it is disconnected and reconnected and keeps a record of the time and date of these occurrences;
f) the device records the time spent in each duty status of the driver;
g) any hard copy of the daily log that is generated from the information that is stored in the device is signed on each page by the driver attesting to its accuracy; and
h) the motor carrier provides blank daily log forms in the commercial vehicle for the driver’s use.
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