Within weeks – June 12 to be exact – commercial motor carriers operating in Canada will have to comply with that country’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. Similar to the regulation that went into effect in the U.S. in 2017, Canada’s ELD rule will require electronic data collection of truck drivers’ hours of service.

While many of the Canadian ELD requirements remain the same as the U.S., there are a number of key differences that could result in U.S. trucking companies that cross the border violating Canadian law if they aren’t in compliance.

“The U.S. and Canadian ELD regulatory requirements are very similar but there are critical areas in which they differ,” explained Heather Ness, transportation operations editor for compliance specialists J. J. Keller & Associates. “Carriers that cross the border need to thoroughly comprehend the regulations of both countries and train their drivers accordingly.” 

What’s different?

Perhaps the biggest of the differences between Canada’s approach and that of U.S. regulators is the certification process. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) allows ELD manufacturers to self-certify their devices meet regulatory compliance, Canada is requiring third-party certification of devices. For fleets that cross the border, that means their device could meet all U.S. laws, but if the company hasn’t sought Canadian third-party certification, it would not be legal in that country – even if it correctly recorded hours of service.

“The first step towards mandate compliance is to talk to ELD providers,” Ness said. “Whether carriers are using ELDs or still using paper, they need to find out if ELD providers are pursuing certification in Canada.”

Other differences between the countries include the fact that Canada does not allow a grandfather period for automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) use. In the U.S., companies using AOBRDs were allowed to operate with those devices for an additional two years. In Canada, ELD use is required from day one.

Canadian officials are also allowing the transfer of ELD data to take place through email, whereas in the U.S., that data transfer occurs through telematics or via a local device such as a USB device.

Exemptions in Canada are also limited. Drivers will have to use ELDs unless they have a special permit, are operating under a rental agreement with terms 30 days or less, are operating a vehicle manufactured before the year 2000 or are operating under the short-haul exemption. In Canada, that exempts drivers from ELD use when operating within 160 kilometers (roughly 99.4 miles) of their home base.

Other differences ELD users need to be aware of include the need for a device to warn a driver when they have 30 minutes of available drive time remaining (there is no requirement to do this in the U.S.); more stringent personal conveyance rules in Canada, including a 75 km per day (46.6 miles) limit (there is no limit in the U.S. and less stringent criteria to satisfy personal use); and a requirement that yard move status automatically switches to driving status on the ELD when the vehicle reaches 32 kilometers per hour (19.8 miles per hour).

What’s the good news?

For fleets and their truck drivers, there is some good news. While the June 12 date is quickly approaching, Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced in March a “soft rollout” of the mandate.

“This will give sufficient time for the industry to obtain and install certified electronic logging devices without penalty as of June 12, 2021,” Sau Sau Liu, a spokesperson for Alghabra’s ministry, Transport Canada, which is overseeing the rollout, told FreightWaves at the time.

A period of progressive enforcement will occur through June 12, 2022. Each province may have slightly different time frames for that progression, but the period will typically include education enforcement before full enforcement. For instance, in Manitoba, six months of education will take place before six months of warnings to drivers and carriers not in compliance, with full enforcement beginning in June 2022. Quebec and British Columbia will not have enforcement until June 2022.

That is good news, because as of May 17, not a single ELD device has been listed by Transport Canada as having achieved third-party certification. The list of certified devices will be posted on the Transport Canada website. Previously, Canadian officials estimated it could take up to a year to achieve certification and government approval.

“While Canada’s ELD mandate is effective June 12, the soft educational enforcement period gives fleets more time to comply. But this period won’t last forever, so carriers must make plans for compliance right now,” Ness said. 

Do fleets need to do anything?

In short, yes. Any fleet that has vehicles that cross the border into Canada – or any Canadian fleet for that matter – should be checking with their ELD provider to ensure their devices will be certified for use in Canada. If they are not, a new provider will need to be found. Some devices will require only a software update, while others may need to be replaced entirely.

According to Ness, carriers should ask their ELD provider:

What are they doing to prepare for Canada’s ELD mandate?
When do they anticipate certification?
Will the fleet’s current device be included in certification?
How will an upgrade to the ELD be completed?

Fleets that will need to meet the Canadian ELD rule should be preparing now for compliance. This should include designating a main point of contact for drivers. J. J. Keller has provided a checklist for fleets to ensure compliance. It includes laying the groundwork if a switch is needed due to current use of paper logs or the use of a provider that is not seeking certification.

Steps from the J. J. Keller checklist:

Determine if a new device is needed, either because you are using paper logs or a provider that is not certified in Canada.
Communicate plans to drivers and internal stakeholders.
Select provider.
Update policies/procedures.
Conduct driver training (refresher training on the hours-of-service limits and training on how to use the ELD selected).
Conduct back-office training.
Schedule installation/pilot with a few drivers.
Evaluate and adjust.
Fully implement.

U.S.-based fleets likely went through an ELD switch to meet U.S. law already, but the differences with the Canadian regulations necessitate that any carrier operating north of the border conduct, at a minimum, a review of its current ELD device capabilities and may even necessitate a provider switch. It will require additional driver and back-office personnel training for fleets that must comply.

Progressive enforcement of the rule is not a permanent exemption, but rather an opportunity to ensure carriers are fully compliant. Now is the time to take advantage of that.