Transport Canada has reaffirmed the compliance deadline for using electronic logging devices. As of June 12, 2021, all carriers operating in Canada, who are currently required to use paper or electronic records of duty status, will be required to use a certified ELD.
“Transport Canada is committed to the coming-into-force timeline for electronic logging devices,” a spokesperson told HDT in an emailed response to an inquiry about the compliance deadline. The spokesperson gave no indication of whether a period of soft or educational enforcement was being considered.
That uncertainty puts carriers in a difficult position. With fewer than 110 days remaining before the deadline, there are still no certified ELDs on the market. Estimates provided by Canada’s so-far only ELD certifying body, FPInnovations of Pointe Claire, Quebec, indicate it takes about four to six weeks to complete the certification process. FPInnovations has not disclosed how many devices it can process simultaneously, nor has it provided any indication of how many devices have been submitted by vendors or that are currently under evaluation.
In an emailed response to that question, an FPInnovtions official said the only party they inform about that is Transport Canada.
For the past few months, ELD vendors have been urging fleets to discuss certification with their suppliers to determine whether or not those companies plan to submit a device for certification. Informed estimates suggest that only about 10 to 15% of the ELD suppliers currently producing product for the U.S. market will even attempt to certify in Canada. That will leave somewhere between 25 and 50 devices potentially certified in the early stages. And since ELD certification is device specific, suppliers producing several devices may narrow the range of product they choose to certify.
Canada built a lot of protections into its technical standard to prevent tampering. It’s almost a given that none of ten-dollar, app-type ELDs currently used here will pass certification in Canada. If an operator uses such a device now, they’ll have to either talk to a travel agent about those Canadian loads or source a Canadian-compliant ELD.
Adding to the uncertainty is the lack of an absolute guarantee that the product submitted for certification will pass on the first attempt. Many suppliers are claiming they will meet the compliance deadline, but that could depend on circumstances beyond their control, such as where they are in the queue awaiting certification, or whether they pass or fail the first attempt.
“One of the things that is going to be a barrier to this, over and above the complications of getting the code right, is the cost of the third-party certification,” warns Omnitracs’ vice president of regulatory affairs, Mike Ahart. “It’s going to cost between $40,000 and $50,000 or more to certify each device we submit for certification. And then on top of that, there is an ongoing fee, every single year, of $10,000 to $15,000 to surveil the product because they have to retest 25% of the test steps every year to get to a total of 100% in four years. You have basically a new complete certification every four years.”
Those costs are paid by the ELD provider, not the motor carrier, Ahart added.
Getting Certified ELDs to Market
At this late stage of the game, carriers forced to adopt a new device, or perhaps even new supplier, will have the triple-whammy challenge of evaluating and procuring a new device and training drivers and staff. As we learned with the U.S. roll-out, there we many cases of buyer’s remorse. Evaluating an ELD is more complex than, say, adding trailer skirts to the fleet. ELD are often deeply integrated onto TMS systems, and that takes time.
Ahart says Omnitracs is already pushing out over-the-air updates to the devices it will certify for Canada. These are not complete updates mind you, because they have not yet, as far as we know, been certified, but they include some of the underlying code that’s need to meet Canadian regulations. The risk in waiting is one of logistics.
“You can’t possibly think that if a device gets certified on May 15, that somehow you’re going to update 1,000 customers,” he said.
This will be a real challenge for carriers that have change suppliers, but even if they don’t have to change, do they have time to train the drivers and administrative and dispatch staff and mechanics,” he asks. “The Canadian rules are different, and the carriers will have to prepare for that.”
The Differences Between U.S. and Canadian ELD Rules
American carriers have historically been able to more or less ignore most of the intricacies of the Canadian Hours of Service regulations, which for example, permit 13 hours of driving in a day and allow drivers to average their driving and off-duty time over two days in certain situations. U.S. carriers that stick to the U.S. rules while in Canada would be compliant with most of the Canadian HOS rules. ELDs change that. While the fundamental rules regarding driving and off-duty time are not changing, there are difference between the U.S. and Canadian ELD rules. Drivers will probably need some training to get them familiar with those differences.
First is the inspection of the drivers’ records of duty status (RODS). The U.S. uses a file transfer system built into the ELD. It transmits a CSV file to the inspector which can be read using appropriate software. Canada will use an email transfer method to transfer PDF file of the drivers RODS. Canadian rules also allow transfer by Bluetooth or a USB, but that’s not required. It’s optional as far as the ELD spec goes.
“In Canada, drivers will be required to actually interact with the system,” Stofer said. “The driver will enter an email address that’s specified by the inspector. I bring this up, because we experienced some issues here in the U.S. around the use of email transfer during an inspection.”
He warns that drivers will be asked to send the files via email, and they will have to enter the email address manually. Drivers will need to be made aware of that requirement and they will need to know how to do on their ELD.
He also spoke to a couple of regulatory differences, such as personal conveyance and yard moves that drivers and dispatchers will need to be aware of.
Canada limits personal conveyance to 75 km or 46.6 miles per day. “At the 76th kilometer, the ELD switches to drive status, and then drivers will have to do a full reset before they can utilize personal conveyance again,” Stofer told attendees.
The other possibly contentious difference is yard moves. It’s an issue currently under examination here, but in Canada, if the driver is in yard move status and the vehicle speed exceeds 32 km/h (20 mph), the device automatically switched to drive mode.
“Canada built this in as a safety net so that if you leave the yard, you’re not stuck in yard moves, which happens here quite a bit,” he said. “Managers won’t have to go back and try to figure out what happened and make all kinds of complex edits or try to untie yourself in a situation where you get pulled over within the period of time after leaving your yard, but you are still in yard move status.”
There are many other differences too, Ahart says.
“For example, Canada has a work shift rule, and you have a day rule, and there are multiple requirements within those even in splitting sleeper berth time,” he says. “There are differences between team drivers and single drivers. There are differences in the “cycles (70 hours in 7 days and 120 hours in 14 days). Perhaps the biggest change coming our way is that the Canadian regulations say the driver has control over many of those things.”
In Canada, the driver has control of their ability to defer off-duty time, for example, they also have to have control over their cycle changes. And they also have control over their zone changes as there are differences when operation north of the 60th parallel of latitude.
“Today, from an electronic recording device standpoint, motor carriers can configure whether drivers have access to that,” Ahart says. “In other words, the motor carrier can say you can defer time or you can’t defer time, you can change your cycle or you can’t change your cycle. Going forward, the ELD rule says that the driver must have control over that. So, the question will be, ‘how do you train drivers on what [the carrier’s expectations are] so that drivers properly use things like time deferral or cycle changes?’ — allowances that we don’t have in the United States.”
Canadian ELD’s to be Enforced on June 12
All bets are off as to what will happen on June 12, 2021. Transport Canada remains firm on the coming-into-force date for its ELD rule. There have been calls for enforcement deferrals, a period of soft or educational enforcement, or outright pushing back the effective date of the rule.
In Canada, changing the date would require legislation, which is highly unlikely, thus Transport Canada is holding firm on the date. Whether or not the rule is vigorously enforced as of that date remains to be seen.
Kerri Wirachowsky, the director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s roadside inspection program, told HDT she can’t comment yet on anything that enforcement will be doing, other than to say Transport Canada indicates that the rule will be fully implemented by June 12.
“The provinces have not yet provided us with any specific information as to what they plan to do for intra-provincial [and U.S.] carriers,” she says. “They should be enforcing the federal HOS rules on any inter-provincial carrier as of now, so it will translate over to those same operators as of June 12, 2021. If the province does not currently enforce the federal rules, they will have to adopt it for those carriers. I have not been given any information on if and when that will happen. I have asked several times, but I have no information to provide on that.”
As for the actual roadside experience, Wirachowsky says inspectors have the option of documenting a violation and/or issuing a citation.
“There is no out-of-service condition for no-ELD in Canada at this point,” she says. “Drivers would not be placed out-of-service and they would be allowed to continue their trip as long as they have some form of RODS.”
Wirachowsky said Canada is currently working on training materials for their inspectors, and she expects they will be doing some sort of in-service training for the ELD rule this spring.
This all seems a bit like deja-vu all over again. With the 2017 mandate in the U.S., there was a last-minute a rush from carriers and drivers quickly selecting an ELD to make the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s December 2017 compliance date. That, notes Soona Lee, EROAD’s director of regulatory compliance for North America, precipitated a lot buyer’s remorse and switch-outs from one provider to another once they discovered their selection didn’t meet their full set of business needs.
“While that was a self-inflicted problem, it’s indicative of the scenario that could play out if carriers impacted by the Canadian ELD mandate are forced to select from a narrow set of suppliers due to constraints in the certifying process,” she says.
That will be of little comfort to fleets as the June deadline inches closer. Calls are growing louder for either a deferral of enforcement or a period of soft or educational enforcement, or at least some hint of what Plan B might look like. ELD suppliers will need time to get certified product to market, and the fleets will need time to familiarize drivers and operations staff with their new devices.