‘ELDs are here to stay’

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Truckload Carriers Association vice-president of government affairs Dave Heller had a blunt message: “ELDs are here to stay.”

BRAMPTON, Ont. – Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are now the law in the U.S., and Canada is approaching ever closer to a mandate of its own.

Major device suppliers are meeting in Toronto this week to explore a uniquely Canadian approach to certifying the equipment, confirms Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. The hope is to avoid the U.S. self-certification process that has allowed devices prone to tampering.

“Self-certification has opened up the door to devices that will not allow the industry to get what we’re looking for,” he told a Truckload Carriers Association audience, adding that the compromised  technology can make cheating on a paper logbook look elementary.

“Those devices are out there,” he said, suggesting they number in the thousands of units. Representatives of his organization saw proof during a demonstration by insurers at The Guarantee.

The federal government has already published proposed regulations in Canada Gazette, with finalized rules expected to appear in Canada Gazette Part 2 by 2019, said Kerri Wirachowski, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) director of roadside inspection programs. From there it will be up to the provinces and territories to decide whether to adopt the mandate.

“Ontario will, based on what I’m hearing,” she said.

As for those who continue to challenge the U.S. mandate, Truckload Carriers Association vice-president of government affairs Dave Heller had a blunt message.

“ELDs are here to stay,” he said. “The appetite for exempting some of these devices is waning.”

To prove his point, he cited a dropping number of co-sponsors behind different bills that are proposing exemptions for agricultural haulers in the U.S.

Heller is among those who applaud the arrival of the devices, which are now generating the data needed to tackle challenges ranging from detention time, to problematic loading and unloading procedures, congestion and pricing.

“It’s a proverbial data explosion for this industry that we’ve never seen before,” he said. “The data being mined through ELDs is astronomical … we’re painting a picture of a driver’s daily life that we haven’t seen.”

The data is also being used to explore changes to the underlying hours of service rules. Even the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has said for the first time that the total amount of sleep in a 24-hour period is more important than accumulating sleep in a single block.

It normally takes five years for regulators south of the border to move from an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to a final rule. Heller expects changes to U.S. hours of service rules in a maximum of three years.

“This is what ELDs bring this industry – the better opportunity to have real conversations,” he said.

Not everyone is a fan, though. Heller admits the mandate has been “hotly contested”. He even spoke with one driver whose ELD caught fire. But within a month of the mandate rolling out in the U.S., one survey showed that 96% of the industry was complying with the new rules.

It hasn’t been easy.

“It’s probably the most confusing thing at roadside, to be honest,” said Wirachowsky.

One source of confusion involves the right to choose between ELDs or existing automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) until Dec. 16, 2019. Many drivers still don’t know which type of device they are using, and the differences affect how files can be transferred.

“They look the same. They’re all on phones, but every single one of them is different,” she said, adding inspectors will never know all the nuances of the hundreds of options that exist. “If he [an inspector] doesn’t know, that’s where the frustrations come in.”

To compound matters, there is a long list of exemptions, covering such things as glider kits with an engine older than the 2000 model year.

Wirachowsky stressed the need to ensure drivers are equipped with manuals describing how their device operates, an instruction sheet for producing and transferring the data, and a printout of any related exemptions that apply to the operation. “They come, they go, they expire,” she said of the shifting rules. “The 30-minute break rule, it’s a pain to be honest, because there’s a myriad of people who are exempt.”

There are even differences in how the data is treated in Canada and the U.S. Rules for personal conveyance are much more flexible south of the border, allowing drivers to extend their time at the wheel when traveling a reasonable distance to a safe location. But once they cross back into Canada, all that time is added to the driving cycle, she said.

“They won’t charge you with a false log, but they will add them back in.”

“Make sure that it runs under both U.S. and Canadian rules,” she added, stressing the value of basing equipment on tougher Canadian rules.

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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