Canadian truck drivers can start throwing away their pens and pencils over the next few months. Traditional paper logs used to track hours will be phased out in favour of electronic logging devices (ELDs).

A Canadian Press report in February said that Transport Canada intends to introduce legislation to mandate electronic logging devices. The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) confirmed this report.

“It’s something we’ve been working on with the government to bring about,” said the CTA’s vice-president of communications, Marco Beghetto. “There’s a good percentage of companies that are using them voluntarily already. They’re a no-brainer.”

The regulations for hours-of-service (HOS) are not changing. The legislation will simply require that logs are done electronically, rather than manually.

“It’s enhancement on safety and fatigue compliance. The vast majority of companies comply, but in terms of enforcement abilities, log books aren’t bulletproof; you have situations where they can be manipulated,” said Beghetto. “We’ve heard of dual log books, one for the enforcement officer and one for yourself.”

Beghetto said the logic behind the mandate is to bring tighter compliance to hours of service, decrease fatigue, and cut down on administrative costs.

The U.S. mandated ELDs in December and implementation is expected to be complete by late 2017. The American Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has opposed the move, saying it violates driver privacy, and that the installation costs could be prohibitive.

The OOIDA’s Northern counterpart, the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada (OBAC), questions whether a mandate is necessary.

“We don’t share OOIDA’s outright opposition to a mandate of ELDs, although we still have outstanding concerns that haven’t been addressed,” said Joanne Ritchie, OBAC’s executive director.

Ritchie said that they have not been given any evidence of improved safety or lower fatigue associated with ELDs, or seen the results of a cost-benefit analysis by Transport Canada. However, she said that the devices show clear operational and administrative benefits.

“If there’s no safety benefit, and ELDs are cost-effective for both industry and enforcement, why do we need a government mandate?” said Ritchie.
“We are strongly in favour of voluntary adoption of ELDs. If governments want to get involved, they might be better off considering some kind of incentive for their use.”

As for the question of cost, Beghetto said the $2,000 price tag quoted by opponents is exaggerated, and refers to a certain model of ELD, not ELDs in general. Cheaper options are available.

“All the regulation requires is an electronic form of recording hours of service — it can be an app on a phone. By no means are these things going to be prohibitive,” said Beghetto.

Manitoulin Transport has been using ELDs since 2012, and most of its fleet has been equipped since 2013. Their ELDs don’t save them money, but they do save the company time.

The ELDs Manitoulin Transport use are closer to the $2,000 mark, but president Don Goodwill said devices in this range do more than simply log hours.

“The devices themselves cost money so overall there aren’t significant savings, but there’s a lot less manual administration,” said Goodwill.

He said that drivers have welcomed the change.

“Prior to this, we used paper log books and then you had the challenge of gathering and cataloging and auditing all of those documents,” said Goodwill.
“With a network of 70-plus terminals you can imagine the logistics in that.”