Canada’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate took effect on June 12, but because no ELDs have been certified for use in the country, full implementation of the new rule and penalties for noncompliance have been delayed for a year.
That is good news for Canadian motorcoach operators, who would be required to purchase ELDs at a time when few of them have any business. The industry has been largely shut down since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, and it will remain that way as long as the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential traffic.
“The major concern has been the timing of the implementation of ELDs during a time when operators don’t have the revenues to invest,” said Vince Accardi, president of Motor Coach Canada and the Ontario Motor Coach Association. “How can you ask them to invest in new technology when they are struggling to reopen?”
No ELDs certified as mandate takes effect
As of mid-June, no ELDs had been certified for use in Canada, so at this point, there aren’t even any devices for sale.
“I don’t think anybody has a clue at this point when the certification process will be completed,” said Caroline Ravazzolo, operations manager for Great Canadian Holidays & Coaches in Kitchener, Ontario. “So that’s where we stand now, with no enforcement of the mandate until June 12, 2022.”
The delay in implementation also came as good news to U.S. motorcoach operators, who regularly make trips into Canada — or who did until the border was closed in March 2020.
Stricter certification process
While such companies already have ELDs that comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements, it is unclear yet whether their devices will be certified in Canada, where the certification process is stricter than in the U.S.
If the ELDs they have now fail to receive Canadian certification, they would have to buy a whole new system from another vendor to continue traveling north of the border.
“I definitely would be sweating if I had purchased cut-rate ELDs,” said Jason Cupp, safety manager at Blue Lakes Charters & Tours in Michigan, which runs trips to Canada.
Cupp said Blue Lakes has ELDs from Saucon Technologies, a major U.S. supplier that he describes as “high-end.”
“We’ve had great success with Saucon, so I’m not concerned about them being certified. But if we had used a company of lesser stature, I would be concerned. To have to start over would be tough.”
Canada’s ELD mandate applies to federally regulated carriers that operate across provincial boundaries and into the United States, and to U.S. operators doing business in Canada. Canadian operators that run trips into the U.S. already are required to use ELDs that meet FMCSA specifications.
Transport Canada, the country’s federal transportation agency, announced in 2019 that commercial trucks and buses would be required to replace paper logs with ELDs by June 2021 to track driver hours of service. FMCSA had implemented an ELD mandate in the U.S. in 2018, and Canadian transportation officials said at the time they wanted to wait for details of the U.S. transition so they could make sure the two regulations were compatible.
But there are a few differences between the two countries’ mandates, including one significant discrepancy: ELDs sold in Canada have to undergo third-party certification to ensure the devices comply with standards outlined in the mandate.
In the U.S., ELD suppliers are allowed to self-certify that their devices meet FMCSA standards. That has resulted in some operators buying devices that didn’t include functions they thought they were getting, forcing them to buy additional software upgrades or, in some cases, to replace their ELDs at a significant cost.
The Canadian certification process is designed to eliminate the “let the buyer beware” aspect of the U.S. mandate.
One certification company
But the certification process has been anything but smooth. Canada has only one third-party company performing the certifications — FPInovations, a private, not-for-profit research and development organization. According to its website, the testing process is rigorous and consists of close to 450 tests that need to be performed on each ELD model. The company said it is currently conducting testing on several ELD models, with some providers making corrections to their devices to meet the requirements.
Jacqui Fortsch, project manager for ELD components at Saucon Technologies, said certification is costly, requiring an up-front cost of $50,000, plus $12,000 a year for four years, for a total of $98,000. “It’s a pretty stringent testing process on a stringent timeline,” Fortsch said.
Mike McDonal, Saucon’s director of regulatory compliance and industry relations, said if everything isn’t completed correctly, you have to start over with the process. “Everybody is trying to do it right the first time,” he said.
The Canadian ELD mandate also includes different rules for hours of service and personal conveyance, with which U.S. operators traveling to Canada already are in compliance. McDonal said Saucon ELDs used in Canada include software to comply with that country’s regulations.
‘The least of our concerns’
He said that, because of the cost and complexity of Canadian certification, a large number of U.S. ELD suppliers are expected to forgo the process. He estimated that out of the 300 or so ELD companies self-certified in the U.S., only 10% to 25% will seek Canadian certification.
At this point in the process, Canadian motorcoach operators don’t seem all that concerned with the new ELD mandate. Most of them are more focused on getting back on the road and starting to make money again.
“The concept of ELDs is a great idea, but it’s going to take some time to implement it,” said John Wilson, president and CEO of Wilson’s Group of Companies in Victoria, British Columbia. “The whole thing is asinine, and it is the least of our concerns right now.”