On December 18, 2017 a significant change was imposed on the way transportation trucking companies operate in the USA. Fleet operators were officially required to make the switch from daily paper-based driver logs to Electronic Logging Devices, or “ELDs”. Though initially met with great resistance from drivers and the industry in general, the efforts to block the new regulations failed, and those who remained are forced to make the transition. So what are impacts of Electronic Logging Devices on trucking?
With new ELD compliance standards now being enforced in the States, and that soon will be in Canada, it’s important to understand how the trucking industry will be impacted. Just what steps will truckers and freight transport operators need to take?
The Electronic Logging Device (sometimes known as “e-logs”) is a small piece of equipment that looks like a cross between a GPS and a tablet. It sits mounted on the dash, and connects into the truck engine’s control module to automatically log hours of service (HOS) and measure driver activity. It captures driving data including dates, times, locations, distances driven, and engine run times to ensure compliance with the new regulations. It is also able to produce notifications and warnings for vehicle malfunction and unassigned time at the wheel.
This data is collected and reviewed by trucking companies and transportation officials to monitor the vehicle’s and driver’s status, while being stored in standardized format as easily-read statistics.
For an industry and a workforce that have been doing things essentially the same way for decades, a drastic change like this was certainly a shock to the system. A huge number of truckers and smaller independent agencies threatened not only to refuse compliance, but even quit or shut down their operation completely.
Seen as an invasion of privacy, drivers feel like Big Brother is now watching too closely, and they are losing their autonomy. Many have gone on record as saying this would also take food off their tables, as the reduced driving day (11 hours maximum) and increased mandatory rest period (10 hours) would cut productivity sharply. From the client point of view, there are concerns about more expensive rates and longer transit times before the goods are delivered.
There is also legitimate doubt about the technology itself, as compliance specs for ELD manufacturers have been fuzzy. Many operators are still unsure about how ELDs should collect and record the data, or which manufacturers have been approved, which makes choosing their hardware difficult. Truckers are worried about how the info can be used by their management and government officials, especially since they were essentially on an “honour system” until now.
The intended impact of Electronic Logging Devices on trucking are revolved primarily around safety. This system will surely improve drivers’ habits, driving shorter stretches and forcing them to respect tighter safety standards. It is projected to greatly reduce the number of (preventable) accidents, injuries and deaths. Not to mention the material loss and related expense to transport companies and their insurers.
In standardizing the way driver activity is documented and transmitted, it puts accountability into the right hands: those operating in the trucking industry. ELDs will minimize honest errors and prevent fudging in logbooks (known to many as “cheat sheets”).
With billions of dollars of goods crossing the US/Canada borders every year, it’s only natural that Canadian authorities will follow with a similar system and legislation. It will closely mirror the American model, in making the switch from paper logs to ELDs. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and Federal Government have announced it will require all commercial truck and bus drivers in Canada to install ELDs in their vehicles by 2020.
Following a course similar to the implementation of the US mandate, new regulations will be enforced in phases in Canada. However, there are also several differences expected between the US and Canadian mandates. With details of the Canadian ELD mandate still to be finalized, it’s crucial for Canadian transportation companies and fleet operators to follow its development.