Still a place for AOBRDs, Isaac stresses

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CHAMBLY, Que. – Isaac Instruments is reinforcing the benefits of automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) as Canada moves ever-closer to mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs).

“AOBRD is much more flexible than the ELD,” said vice-president of sales Jean-Sebastien Bouchard, during a webinar on the topic. “Most people are still using an AOBRD-compatible device that will be upgraded to an ELD later on.”

Indeed, there are differences between the devices that track hours of service, and the U.S. mandated ELDs in December 2017. But AOBRDs are still accepted south of the border as well as Canada.

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that those using such devices prior to Dec. 18, 2017 don’t have to update additional trucks to ELD software before a grandfather period ends. That means growing fleets don’t have to juggle two different systems, and grandfathered devices can be used until Dec. 16, 2019. These fleets also enjoy some added flexibility that comes with the technical platforms.

The four main differences between an AOBRD and ELD involve the automatic detection of driving status, the approval process for changes to logs, the managing of unassigned driving, and roadside inspections, Bouchard explains.

While an AOBRD has a speed limit that can be configured to allow for yard moves, for example, an ELD sets the limits at 8 km/h unless the unit is off duty for personal conveyance. The tightly defined speeds could be a challenge if a driver makes the smallest of yard moves during the time when they’re supposed to be off duty.

An AOBRD’s data can also be instantly modified on a driver’s log. The “anti-harassment” rules that apply to ELDs, however, mean that changes of any sort have to be confirmed by a driver before they are added to the log. Drivers with an ELD also need to accept or reject any unassigned driving that was recorded in the previous eight days.

“Roadside inspection is one that changes quite a bit,” Bouchard added.  An ELD’s data has to be supplied to officers through a web service or email, and fed through ERODs software. Those using an AOBRD can simply show officers the information on a screen.

Of course, enforcement teams need to know exactly what kind of device is being used, and that’s where the required documentation comes into play.

Those with an AOBRD need a quick reference document showing how to produce required hours of service information at the roadside, and carry enough paper log pages to record duty status and other related information during the duration of the trip. An ELD user needs a full user manual as well as an instruction sheet on how to generate the hours of service records. They also need to have a supply of blank pages able to cover eight days.

“Inform your drivers which system you are using,” he stressed, referring to the different procedures.

In the meantime, Canadian fleets continue to wait for finalized rules for this side of the border. It leaves Bouchard to believe ELDs won’t be mandated here until 2020. Still, he’s confident that the final regulations will largely mirror those in the U.S., as was the case with draft versions of the rules.

And he hopes Canada will require devices to be verified by third parties.

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had listed 350 ELDs that were certified by the companies that made them. “Nobody came to check if we were really compliant,” he says of the flaw in the self-certification system.

Suppliers should ensure such devices are tested, certified and compliant, he says, noting that the process would not be too onerous.

“We’re already mandated to do this for other things like cellular network requirements,” he said. “It’s a really similar approach to what we need to do for the certification process for ELDs.”

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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,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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