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A Guide To Understanding and Choosing an ELD (Electronic Logging Devices)

Truck drivers know how important it is to get those logs in order. It is a necessary and sometimes stressful part of the job. With the advancement of technology, drivers now electronically log their hours of service. ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices) are the new norm, and though they take time to get used to, they do serve a cost and time saving purpose. The ELD is now an extension of the truck driver, replacing paper logs for drivers across North America. With the year almost over, Canada is going to be catching up by enforcing its ELD mandate beginning in January.  ELD electronic logging devices trucking mandate canada and united states HOS rules regulations

The Purpose of ELDs:

The ELD mandate requires truck drivers to utilize Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), approved by DOT, to track their driving hours. It is a rule which was proposed in 2015 by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), and would require all trucks to comply.  Any drivers who are required to keep records of duty (RODS) would need to comply with the ELD mandate. The US has been enforcing this mandate for a few years now, while Canada has yet to do so.

How to Use ELDs? 

Aside from adapting to a technological age and cutting down paperwork, ELDs were put in place as a safety measure to ensure drivers were abiding by HOS (hours of service) regulations meant to prevent accidents and safety risks associated with fatigued driving. ELDs would also ideally reduce errors in calculations that are done by pen and paper, and save time and effort for drivers. 

The way that ELDs work is that a DOT approved device would synch with the truck engine, automatically registering the hours driven using the status of the engine. There is usually a warning and countdown that lets a driver know that they are about to run out of driving hours in a specific amount of time, so that the driver can pull over and park. You can submit your ELD data to DOT using email or a Wireless Web Service. 

How Can ELDs Help Truck Drivers?

  • Safety
    The primary benefit to ELDs is that it helps reduce driver fatigue and lessen the odds of a driver pushing through their HOS.
  • Saving Time
    Outside of increasing safety, the main benefit to drivers is potentially the time saved, which would normally be spent calculating and writing down HOS. Because ELDs are electronic and subject to fewer errors, inspection length times and even the amount of inspections is likely going to lessen due to the logbooks being more accurate and easily conveying information.
  • Cost Saving
    Drivers who no longer have to carry paper logs and file them will be able to benefit from saving money on supplies and clerical costs. Insurance costs will also be reduced since accidents will likely be prevented. Drivers also can use the technology to improve efficiency of the truck,  being able to plan ahead in terms of their parking and resting spots. Some ELD devices provide GPS, diagnostics, and even idling time information, so that drivers can know their patterns and save on fuel or repair costs.
  • Accounts for Distance Traveled
    The ELD also allows drivers to log down to the final minute, as opposed to rounding within 15 minutes in a paper log book, which would account for more of the distance traveled via truck and get the driver paid what they have worked for, since drivers get paid by the mile. 
  • Improves Inspections
    In terms of inspections, many HOS violations are eliminated using ELDs because any outdated logs, manipulation of log hours and form & manner errors are reduced or eliminated using ELDs, which automatically do the work for the driver. Knowing the location of the truck also allows for reduced liability for companies. The safety enhancements these ELDs provide can then ensure a better CSA score and more opportunity for the driver or trucking company.

However, not all drivers were initially on board with ELDs for valid reasons. There is a lot of fear from the driver community regarding the technology and how it may limit the driving hours or productivity and scheduling for drivers.

What Are the Potential Issues of ELDs?

Because drivers are paid by mile, a device tracking time can get in the way of drivers completing their job due to having to race the clock. It also may put drivers at risk because they may end up running out of time on the clock and no safe place nearby to park and rest, which puts more pressure on the driver to plan their driving hours in accordance to the ELD log. It allows less autonomy for the driver to plan their own trip and make judgment calls on when to drive.

The switch towards ELDs also creates an atmosphere of surveillance for drivers, because now they are being tracked by machine as opposed to filling out their own log books. However, the ELD does not transmit data to law enforcement automatically rather it simply logs the hours. The employees of a trucking company who owns the fleet may be able to see the location of the vehicle, but DOT and law enforcement will not be able to track or follow the driver.

Drivers also have to keep in mind that there are installation and monthly fees that bring up costs for the company or driver to maintain these devices. The ELDs have to be purchased using a reference list on the FMCSA website of the registered and certified ones. The ELD mandates mean that trucking companies or the driver have to bare the cost, not accounting for the budget of smaller companies or owner-operators.

electronic logging device for a truck usa united states regulatedWhat to Consider When Buying an ELD:

Since the mandates are soon to be enforced across North America, abiding by them is becoming the norm. However, in order to get the most effective device and system, it is important to consider a few factors when purchasing your ELD: 

  • Look at the needs of your company (do you want features like DVIR, GPS or other extras?).
  • Make sure the device system is compatible with your truck or vehicle.
  • Ensure the ELD is certified in Canada and the US and meets compliance requirements (meaning how quickly can you continue to use the device with any regulation changes that may occur?).
  • Determine if the installation procedure something you can understand/do easily.
  • Consider cost of device plus any ongoing or monthly fees (look for the ability to use your phone with it, or any hidden fees that may be present, contract length and terms).
  • Make sure it is easy to use.
  • Try cloud-based ELDs ensure that in the case of any theft or issues with your device, your data is still stores safely.
  • Consider if they come with easy to access customer support (you want 24/7 tech support, fast email responses, and a variety of contact methods).
  • Look into how long the product has been on the market, and how are the reviews?

United States has been enforcing the mandate for some time now, but the country does allow for some mandate exemptions. So far, FMCSA allows exemptions to short haul drivers, vehicles made before 2000, drivers who log only 8 out of 30 days,  farm or agricultural vehicles and tow away operations where the vehicle driven is the commodity itself.

Canada's ELD mandate enforcement is set to begin January 1, 2023. Like all mandates, there will be some exemptions. When it comes to Canada's mandate; companies which may be exempt from the ELD mandate are those which operate under special permits, statutory/special exemptions, or trucking companies who operate vehicles manufactured before 2000. Canada has granted special exemptions so far to three groups:

  1. Essential Freight Transport: Trucks transporting emergency relief or supplies, such as in natural disasters or the pandemic. 
  2. Canada Pacific Railway: Allowing maintenance of way workers driving commercial vehicles as part of their duty with longer off-duty periods. 
  3. Fertilizer Canada:  Allowing carriers who transport special fertilizer products a more flexible schedule, as an alternative choice to the 7 or 14 day cycles. 

Canada vs. USA: Electronic Logging Devices 

Currently, Canada will require third party certifications of the ELD devices, unlike USA who allows manufacturers to self-certify their devices. This means devices used in Canada will be inspected by a third party to ensure the standard is met, which will be slightly more complicated but also ensure the devices are in accordance with regulations. 

Bottom line is: ELD’s are the new normal. Since they are mandatory, many will have to get used to the new way of doing things. It helps to look at the positives of what this new technology can provide. So many of the benefits that ELDs have to offer would be hard to miss; ELDs can help save lives and prevent accidents. While it may be costly to begin, it saves time in inspections and potential idling, as well as reducing insurance costs. When choosing a ELD; remember that these devices are an investment, so take your time, be picky and make sure you ask questions. 

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