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No more 'cheat sheets': Electronic logs for truckers mandatory by 2020
'Your driving time, your on-duty time, your off-duty time, it's right there on the computer'
Blair Sanderson · CBC News · Posted: Feb 24, 2018 1:01 PM AT | Last Updated: February 24, 2018
Truckers are known for their colourful slang, and it's no different for the paper logbooks they often use to keep track of their time on the road.
"A lot of them call it the 'cheat sheet,'" says Ron Arsenault, a truck driver for SLH Transport who's based in Moncton.
That's about to change.
The federal government has announced it will require all commercial truck and bus drivers in Canada to install electronic logging devices in their vehicles by the year 2020. Commercial vehicles manufactured before the year 2000 are exempt.
Under Canadian regulations, truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel for no more 13 hours per day to limit driver fatigue.
But Arseault says drivers, especially for smaller companies, are often under pressure to meet deadlines and will fudge the logbooks. "There's been a lot of stuff like that."
He believes automated electronic logs will make the roads safer.
"It will because there's no way to cheat on it, everything is basically written in stone, your driving time, your on-duty time, your off-duty time, it's right there on the computer."
Electronic logging devices, or ELDs, are already mandatory for Canadian drivers crossing the border to the United States because that country has required the use of the technology since December 2017.
The Canadian government decided to follow suit, giving truckers and commercial bus drivers until 2020 to have the technology in place.
Many truckers are eager to make the switch.
Mark Duncan, who runs a regular route between Toronto and the Maritimes, says drivers won't be able to break the rules, meaning they can't be pressured by their employer.
"It's going to be good for the drivers. We're going to have lots of rest now."
But while the move to electronic logging devices hits the fast lane, another measure that would reduce driver fatigue has stalled, says Marco Beghetto, a spokesperson for the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
He says his organization was anticipating mandatory sleep apnea testing, which was a proposal that was moving forward in the United States under the Obama administration, but scrapped by President Donald Trump.
"We were ready to react if Transport Canada would begin working on a similar rule," says Beghetto.
But because Canadian regulators tend to follow the Americans, "right now, that's sort of on the back burner," he says.
Lack of progress in that area is disappointing, says Dr. Glen Sullivan of the Atlantic Sleep Centre at the Saint John Regional Hospital.
Sleep apnea drastically reduces sleep quality which leads to fatigue and is likely more prevalent among long-haul truckers because of their diet and relatively sedentary lifestyle, he says.
"It is certainly a risk factor," says Sullivan.
"In the same way, you wouldn't want someone driving drunk, you wouldn't want someone with a high chance of a sleep disorder [driving]."
Some Canadian trucking companies are moving ahead anyway and offering sleep apnea testing for their drivers. In some cases, they are even paying for machines that help treat the condition.
But for now, those measures are voluntary with no regulations in sight anywhere down the road.
Duncan says he's aware of the sleep apnea problem. "It's in the magazines, the trucking magazines."
But right now, the focus in the industry is the 2020 deadline for the installation of electronic logging devices, he says.
Commercial trucking advocates push for mandatory electronic logbooks in Canada
Advocates of the commercial trucking industry in Alberta are pushing the federal government to make electronic logging devices (ELD) mandatory in Canada as soon as possible.
Since the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, there has been a national spotlight on the Canadian trucking industry.
According to Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) president Chris Nash, the tragic crash was a motivation to implement more safety measures to avoid future crashes.
“This is a horrible incident that became a catalyst to move things forward… With the ELDs, it ensures we won’t have driver’s fatigue on the road so it just takes away that paper log audit and ability to beat the system,” Nash said.
A logbook review found the semi-driver responsible for the Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash, Jaskirat Singh Sidu, had broken a total of 70 regulations — 51 of which were federal violations. The review found Sidhu had incomplete log date and mileage inconsistencies.
According to Nash, ELDs are far superior to paper log books. As well, the devices are a more accurate way to clock both a driver’s driving time and rest time. Nash said paper log books can be easily altered or falsified.
“Like anything else, if you have paper, you have the ability to be a creative writer… [ELDs are] going to be safer for the industry,” he said.
However, some truck drivers Global News spoke to disagree with that notion and say it’s actually more dangerous.
Truck driver Sean Boyd, who logged his driving electronically for the past two years, said the looming deadline to get to their destination gives them little leeway.
“The danger on the road has intensified greatly,” he said. “I say it’s predominantly racing against the clock.
“If you’re not in one of these truck stops by four or five o’clock, you’re out of luck. You’re going to park on the side street because they fill up that fast.”
Drivers in Canada are legally allowed to drive 13 hours per day. According to Boyd, there were many instances where he was forced to shut down in problematic locations as he reached his allotted driving time.
“I run back and forth from Ontario to B.C. and as we all know, northern Ontario, [there’s] not a lot of truck stops,” he said. “I found myself in the middle of nowhere in a rest area with no bathroom, no amenities because that’s the way the e-log is run out for the day. You’re forced to shut down in places you don’t want to.”
At Bison Transport, its entire fleet has been outfitted with the new technology for the past seven years. While there are challenges, chief operating officer Trevor Fridfinnson said the training and implementation cost is worth it to ensure they comply with regulations.
“Like any new product introduction, there can be trepidation at the outset… but if you train and introduce it properly and for the right reasons, it’s well received and it works,” Fridfinnson said.
In addition to saving drivers’ times, Fridfinnson believes the devices provide more transparency for its stakeholders.
“The electronic log is not a piece of paper in one individual’s hand,” he said. “It’s information that’s shared with the company so we can monitor and manage hours of service. We know how much time someone is driving and working. As well, we can demonstrate that to authorities on inspection.
“There is a small buffer allowance to account for, say a weather delay… The electronic logging device is not going to force someone to be in an unsafe or untenable position.”
According to the province, it is waiting for federal details to be flushed out.
“The province is waiting for the federal technical standards and regulations to be finalized and will consult with industry stakeholders on the provincial framework, including the mandatory use of ELDs for provincially regulated carriers,” read a statement by the transport ministry on Wednesday. “Alberta Transportation aims to lead consultations on the matter during 2019.”
According to AMTA, it’s working with multiple trucking agencies across Canada, including the Canadian Trucking Alliance, to have the regulations in place by fall.
“We’re advocating to have electronic log books in by third-quarter by 2019 or early 2020,” Nash said.