By Stevie McKeeman
March 31st, 2021
Revised April 17, 2021
The commercial motor vehicle industry is facing new requirements for the way they log their driver’s daily hours of service. An upcoming federal mandate will require all federally regulated trucking and busing companies to use an Electronic Logging Device in their vehicles. An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) communicates with the engine of the vehicle and automatically records a driver’s driving time and facilitates the recording of the driver’s record of duty status. This article contains everything a motor coach operator may need to know, based on the information available, regarding the upcoming mandate and how to purchase the best ELDs for your company.
HOW DOES THE UPCOMING ELD MANDATE AFFECT ME?
As of June 12th, 2021, drivers working for federally regulated carriers must record their daily hours of service using an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) instead of handwritten in a paper logbook. This mandate is intended to record more accurate hours of service for commercial drivers, thus reducing the risk of drowsiness and fatigue related incidents. A similar mandate was introduced in the United States in 2017, however their criteria differ slightly from Canada’s which means that a compliant ELD in the USA will not necessarily be compliant in Canada. This mandate does not change the Hours of Service requirements set out in the Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations but rather the method of recording the information required under these regulations. The conditions that exempt a driver from recording a daily log under these regulations still applies when using an ELD. For example, the federal hours of service (HOS) regulations exempts school buses and other commercial vehicles from requiring an ELD when they are operating locally (under the 160-km radius exemption).
Currently, the only published ELD mandate relates to federally regulated carriers and each province is still deciding how they want to proceed with their provincially regulated carriers. Furthermore, most provinces have not yet announced how they intend to enforce the federal ELD mandate. Under the federal transportation rules, a federally regulated carrier would be a company that has at least one commercial vehicle that crosses provincial boundaries. At that point, the carrier’s entire fleet would fall under the federal HOS rules. This means that a federally regulated carrier with a bus operating solely within one province would require an ELD if it did not meet one of the exemptions listed below.
Under the federal HOS rules, the primary ELD exemptions that would apply to the bus industry are:
- A bus manufactured before model year 2000
- A bus operating within the 160 km radius daily log exemption (stays within a 160 km radius of where the bus starts/ends the day and returns to the same location)
- A bus rented for no more than 30 days
HOW DO I KNOW IF AN ELD IS COMPLIANT WITH THIS MANDATE?
Transport Canada brought in the Standard Council of Canada (SCC), Canada’s national accreditation body, to develop and implement the accreditation scheme for electronic logging device certification bodies. The process takes 7 to 9 months for a certification body to become accredited by SCC, after proving that they meet ISO 17065 testing standards, have adequate knowledge of the device requirements, and have sufficient methodology to test the electronic logging devices. For a motor coach operator to be compliant with this mandate, they must use a device that has been listed as certified by one of the approved certification bodies on the Transport Canada (TC) website.
FP Innovations is currently the only accredited certification body, but 2 more will be accredited soon.
To become certified, an ELD manufacturer must sign an agreement with one of TC’s accredited certification bodies and submit multiple units of their device for testing. So far, at least 15 ELD manufacturers have submitted applications to FP Innovations to be certified, however none have yet to complete the certification process which is said to take between 4-6 weeks from the day the physical devices are received.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, there are still no Electronic Logging Devices certified for use in Canada and listed on Transport Canada’s website.
HOW CAN I COMPLY WITH THE MANDATE IF THERE ARE NO APPROVED DEVICES?
Transport Canada has recognized the difficulty that carriers face when trying to ensure that their ELDs are compliant with this new mandate and while the transportation ministry have not agreed to delay the mandate, the Canadian Transportation Agency have recommended a progressive enforcement schedule start with a full year of penalty-free, education focused enforcement.
The best approach for a motor coach operator to take is to obtain assurances from your current or potential ELD provider that they are in the certification process for this mandate. While it is difficult for a provider to predict how long it will take to become certified and how many modifications will be needed to get there, it is important to gauge their commitment to the process when deciding where to spend your valuable dollars in the ELD market.
BESIDES COMPLYING WITH THE MANDATE, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO HAVING ELDS?
A valuable benefit of having electronic logs is that the information is sent to company headquarters in real time. Based on feedback from OMCA members that have been using ELDs for years, there are countless benefits to using ELDs for your entire fleet. Brian Denny of Denny Bus Lines raves about the convenience that comes with having ELDs on his entire charter fleet. On top of being a time saver through eliminating the need for data entry, Denny’s drivers also use the ELDs for vehicle inspection reports which prevent them from getting lost in transit and lets the shop knows ahead of time what repairs or maintenance might be required.
Caroline Ravazzolo with Great Canadian Coaches also appreciates the time-saving benefits of not having to review handwritten logs for accuracy and says, “We also use [the ELDs] for DVIR (Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports) and going electronic reduced admin so greatly that we were able to eliminate one whole position from the company,” noting the cost saving benefits of the electronic logs as well.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN AN ELD?
Shawn Geary of McCoy Bus Lines has had ELDs on his entire charter fleet since 2012 and had to change suppliers in 2018 to be compliant with the U.S. ELD regulations. If your company has vehicles that travel into the U.S., you will want to ensure that your equipment will be compliant on both sides of the border. Geary notes that many ELD providers gear their technology to the trucking industry and encourages motor coach operators to find a provider that understands the unique needs of passenger carrier motor vehicles.
Saucon Technologies’ Mike Deeb tells OMCA that his company found a niche in the bus market right after 9/11 and states that 99.5% of their current business is with motor coaches in North America. When asked what the different ELD requirements are for passenger vehicles and freight vehicles, Deeb says that the technical differences are not as prevalent in Canada as they are in the U.S. because the U.S. have two completely different sets of rules.
Dan DePalma of Streamline Transportation Technologies, a 100-year-old trucking company that purpose built a solution in the early 2000’s and found such success that they began selling their logging devices to other companies, also acknowledges the unique requirements of the ELDs in the busing industry. DePalma describes how drivers must be able to log different activities when the vehicle is stopped, whether it is for a break, an inspection or otherwise, to accurately keep track on on-duty and off-duty times. Then, when the vehicle is in motion, the ELD will automatically track the driving time.
Coach Operators and ELD providers alike are cognizant that implementing ELDs into any fleet is a major monetary investment, from the tangible devices to the monthly service fees, and urge every operator to take their time deciding on the perfect ELD provider for them. Consider what your operations typically look like – not just what they look like during the pandemic. Will you be making trips to the United States? What else will you want to use the logging devices for? How much money will each device save you in time and manpower? What kind of training does the supplier offer for your admin staff and drivers?
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I BE AWARE OF WHEN PURCHASING ELDS?
In Dan DePalma’s experience, drivers tend to train each other as they get used to the new devices and advises that “you want a tool that very easy-to-use for the drivers. If the drivers can use it, then the rest is solvable. If the drivers struggle with it or do not like it, it’s a challenge.” He also notes that you will want a tool that is more than just a log, as it is a good opportunity to get technology in your business. “While you’re spending money, it doesn’t have to be a cost.” DePalma explains “It can help the business: Can we drive savings in your fleet with respect to how you control variable costs, how you manage fuel, how you manage trip times, how you bid for jobs with your customers because you have more accurate information on the cost and the times needed?”
Shawn Geary warns “It’s a significant expense. You want to go with a company that has a proven track record. If they are not on the list in Canada, they should at least be on the list in the US as being approved.” Brian Denny’s advice is to implement the ELDs on all your vehicles because trying to manage the electronic logs and paper logs is quite frustrating. Plus, knowing where all your vehicles are has great benefits, such as easily identifying to nearest bus to help transport passengers from a stalled vehicle.
With the looming deadline to comply with the Canadian ELD mandate, be sure that your ELD provider will have the inventory to service your fleet in a timely manner. When ELD’s became mandatory in the United States, there were some unfortunate operators that were not compliant by the deadline because their ELD provider could not keep up with the demand. Mike Deeb advises operators to look at the longevity of the ELD provider as well. When the U.S. regulations took effect, Deeb noticed a lot of bandwagon jumpers were trying to make quick cash off of the mandatory purchases but were ill-experienced and failed to deliver quality products and services.
WHERE TO START
- Assess the needs for your fleet and what benefits you would like to see from your electronic devices.
- Do your research into the companies that offer this equipment and understand how their devices will help you meet the mandatory requirements.
- Ask your industry colleagues about their experience with ELDs. Talk to operators that have already implemented ELDs and pick their brains.
- Get assurances that the device you are looking to purchase will, as soon as possible, be certified under Transport Canada’s requirements.
- Be mindful of the impact on your business. While most recommend putting ELDs on your entire fleet for optimal benefits, given the lack of operations during the pandemic, consider purchasing only what is necessary for your current operations and adding more as your business increases post-pandemic.
Hopefully, this article has provided valuable information for motor coach operators in the market for electronic logging devices and served as an informative update on the upcoming mandate. Motor Coach Canada will continue to monitor for details on the progressive enforcement schedule and will update members when that information becomes available. If members have any further inquiries, please contact the association.