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What Commercial Drivers Need to Know About Mandatory Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)

Photo Credit: Fleet Masters Inc.

A career in commercial truck driving is beneficial for many reasons. Perhaps you’re looking for more independence in your career. Maybe you enjoy travelling and being on the road! Not to mention, you’ll likely enjoy increased job security and a substantial annual salary.

However, the position doesn’t come without longer than average shifts, more time away from home, and less than predictable schedules. With that said, there are regulations put in place to prevent driver fatigue and improve safety on our roads.

For example, under the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, commercial drivers are permitted to drive up to 13 hours a day, according to Hours of Service (HOS) regulations in Canada. After those 13 hours have been completed, the driver must be off duty for 10 hours - 8 of which must be consecutive. There are additional standards for how many hours drivers can work in a 7-day or 14-day cycle, all of which must be declared in a logbook.

A Canadian logbook that truckers would use for logging their Hours of Service
A standard Canadian and US-compliant paper logbook

In the 1930s, manual paper logs were made mandatory in the U.S. to keep track of drivers' HOS. In Canada, this legislation was introduced only in 1988. However, with a manual entry system, driver logs have been found to be poorly updated, outdated or even falsified. In some cases, the driver may not even have an existing log. There are steep penalties for these types of HOS violations.

The federal government has decided to fully implement new safety regulations by 2021 that will aim to combat fatigue and HOS violations among commercial drivers. According to Transport Canada, the new rules will require drivers to record their HOS on electronic logging devices (ELDs) instead of on paper logs. All carriers will need to be in full compliance by June 2021. To ensure compliance, third party companies will be required to certify all ELDs.

Not only will these ELDs remove recording errors and track HOS compliance, but it will also aim to help improve workflow and communication strategies among carriers and drivers. This legislation has been a long time coming. In the U.S., it is estimated that ELDs have saved the government $1 billion annually in administrative costs, saved 26 lives and prevented 562 injuries. The U.S. has been mandating ELD use since late 2017 and Canadian drivers travelling to the U.S. have been required to be in compliance ever since. With the Canadian legislation taking a similar turn, it’s expected that we will witness a similar reduction in HOS violations and collisions.

Though HOS and ELDs are enforced by Transport Canada as a form of fatigue management, it is equally encouraged that companies also use “non-prescriptive” voluntary programs as well to ensure drivers are getting ample rest before their next shift.

Driver fatigue is a serious issue for both general and commercial road users. Fatigue can impact driver performance in ways similar to alcohol and drug impairment. After 24 hours awake, the effects of fatigue are comparable to a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.10%. The legal BAC level for fully licensed drivers in Ontario is 0.08%.

Ultimately, when HOS are properly enforced and ELDs are tracking compliance among motor carriers, commercial drivers will not only experience better working conditions and sufficient down time, but other road users can rest assured that their fellow commercial drivers are focused and fit to drive!

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