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Don’t Waste Time: Let’s learn the lessons of a different ELD mandate

Posted: May 3, 2018 by John G. Smith

At first glance, the Canadian Trucking Alliance seems to be getting ahead of itself in the call for a “graduated education” period before electronic logging devices (ELDs) are mandated. The federal government has yet to finalize such rules, or even decide if it will embrace an accelerated December 2019 deadline the alliance is championing. Other than Ontario, most provinces have been silent on the idea, too.

But the troubled rollout of ELDs in the U.S. has shown us that time is our most valuable commodity before regulations take hold.

South of the border, a hard line on enforcement had to be pushed from Dec. 18 to April 1. The so-called final rule had to be amended with a patchwork of waivers covering everything from livestock haulers to those using specific brands of devices. Enforcement teams and fleets alike were confused about what was expected and when.

In one recent about-face, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that those using automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) software prior to Dec. 18, 2017, no longer need to update additional trucks to ELD software before a grandfather period ends next December. Had the rule not changed, the growing fleets would have been penalized and required to run two separate systems.

The months leading up to Canada’s regulatory mandate offer the perfect opportunity to ensure things are done properly. Or, at least, more effectively.

Enter the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s proposal for an education period. It begins with the idea of distributing information pamphlets during June’s Roadcheck inspection blitz, which is already set to include a focus on hours of service. The next step would include adding messages to International Registration Plan (IRP) and International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) renewal packages. When the calendar turns to 2019, the alliance would have enforcement teams begin documenting whether drivers have automatic on-board recording devices or ELDs, and ease into the deadline by issuing official warnings.

But the need to spread information about a mandate is only the beginning. Regulators here still have the opportunity to avoid many other pitfalls that occurred in the U.S.

A procedure that has suppliers self-certifying their devices with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has shown itself to be nothing short of a paper-shuffling exercise. Fleets and owner-operators could find themselves investing in equipment that is ultimately rejected after a regulator actually takes the time to look at it.

Canada would be better served if we had a third party approve such devices, perhaps relying on an organization like PIT Group.

“They [regulators] certify airplanes. They certify all sorts of things,” says Isaac Instruments president Jacques DeLarochellière. “There’s no reason for it not to be done.”

Suppliers, meanwhile, currently have an opportunity to ensure specific equipment is ready to roll when a Canadian mandate takes hold, complete with any national nuances that might emerge.

PeopleNet, for example, is already migrating hardware and software platforms. “We’re ahead of the curve now,” PeopleNet Canada president Bill Wright told me during Truck World.

The tight timelines in the U.S. were a challenge, though. Those using PeopleNet devices south of the border were initially given a 90-day waiver from regulations because of issues that involved integrating the company’s ELD software into legacy fleet management systems. All that was required were tweaks to AOBRD software such as eliminating a skip feature, setting a threshold for an on-duty driving status change, and limiting the size of a geofence to track yard moves. But such things take time.

“We’re confident we’re going to be ready,” Wright said, when asked about preparations for a Canadian rule.

Let’s take the time to ensure everyone is ready.

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