Starting Jan. 1, the federal government will start enforcing a requirement for commercial truck drivers travelling between provinces to track their hours behind the wheel using electronic logging devices.
The electronic logging devices (ELDs) replace the use of paper log books under a federal regulation — which came into effect in June 2021 — aimed at making roads safer by preventing fatigue in commercial drivers.
The federal regulation only covers commercial trucks and buses that cross provincial and territorial boundaries. Alberta truck drivers who don't leave the province currently aren't required to use ELDs.
Willie Hamel, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, welcomes the change.
"What it does is it allows officials, inspectors, to really enforce logging regulations a whole lot simpler…. It reduces driver fatigue and just makes our roads safer for the travelling public, including our professional drivers," said Hamel.
Under federal hours of service rules, drivers are not allowed to drive more than 13 hours in a day, and they must have at least 10 hours off-duty time each day, of which at least eight hours must be consecutive. ELDs have been required in the United States since 2017.
No more fudging the log book
Before becoming the lead instructor at Derek Brown's Academy of Training, Dan Veno was a long haul truck driver. In that time, he says he knew many drivers who falsified their hours on their paper logs.
"Fudging the log book was something that happened quite often. You could be very creative with paper, but you can't with the e-logs," said Veno.
Some would run multiple log books — one for each province, he says. In one instance, Veno says a driver he knew drove 42 hours straight from Quebec to Alberta without logging it properly.
It's all for "more money," says Veno. And when they drive that much, fatigue becomes an issue — exactly what the ELD regulation is trying to combat.
"When the guys get tired, they don't stop, they don't get enough rest. They drive more hours than they should be. And then the fatigue sets in and next thing you know, they're off the road, falling asleep at the wheel."
Veno says it's about time Canada followed through with the regulation, about six years after the U.S. He says many companies have already adopted the devices and it should be a smooth transition.
"Whatever's going to make our roads safer, I'm all for."
Concern about daytime breaks, managing time
Janet Smith with iHaul in Calgary has spent the last five months preparing and training drivers to use the ELDs. She was a truck driver for 30 years before an injury made her take a step back.
Smith argues that the regulation will only make fatigue worse for some drivers. With a required 10 hours off-duty everyday — eight of which must be consecutive — Smith says the window to meet driving hours is too small to stop for extended breaks during the day.
"At least with the paper logs, if you got tired through the day, you could stop and you could have a two hour nap," said Smith. "But with the e-logs, you can't do that because you're not going to get your 13 hours of driving that you're allowed."
With the strict hours of service regulations, she says it's especially important for drivers to learn how to manage their time so they aren't stranded once their 13 hours are up.
"You kind of have a choice. Do I cut my hours back by two hours, or an hour and a half, because I'm not going to make that next stop?"
Smith says she's also concerned about older truck drivers who struggle with technology, and potential privacy breaches from hackers.