American carriers that operate into Canada are running out of time to procure an electronic logging device that complies with Canadian regulations. Canada, unlike the U.S., requires ELDs used in the country meet a comprehensive technical standard and pass certification by an accredited third-party company. Simply using an ELD with the Canadian hours of service ruleset is insufficient to pass certification.
When Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced on June 13, 2019 that all federally regulated carriers (carriers in inter-provincial or international service, including American carriers) would require ELDs to operate in that country, carriers and ELD providers saw a 24-month window in which to become compliant.
That window has since shrunk to just seven months; due not only to the passage of time, but because Transport Canada (Canada's federal transport regulator) took until Oct. 26,, just a few weeks ago, to name the first certification body, FPInnovations of Pointe Claire, Quebec.
On the same day, 17 months after the final version of the rule was published in the Canada Gazette II (closely akin to the U.S. Federal Register), Canada issued what have been described as "complex changes" to the ELD standard and the test procedures.
Not only were ELD providers unable to submit devices for certification prior to late October because no certification body existed, the changes to the test standard (now version 1.2) meant that any work ELD providers may have done up to that point to meet the standard as published in June 2019 must be re-examined in light of the changes.
"With updates to the Canadian ELD Technical Standard announced in October, meeting the pending deadline's development requirements will be challenging for ELD vendors," says Fred Fakkema, Zonar Systems' vice president of safety and compliance.
Fakkema is not alone with his concerns.
"We are roughly six months out from the Canadian ELD mandate, and we have just received the updated and finalized test procedures," says Soona Lee, ERoad’s director of regulatory compliance for North America. "This means that software has to be reviewed [and possibly, in some cases] revised to ensure that it can pass those procedures."
Concerns About the Limited Timeframe
Concern over the lack of a certification body has been building for some time. Transport Canada has not offered an explanation as to why it took so long to name FPInnovations, except to say that the company itself had to achieve ISO certification as an accredited certification body.
As of Nov. 10, 2020, FPInnovations is the only name on Transport Canada's registry of certification bodies. There may be additional accredited certification bodies announced in the future, but nothing has been announced.
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, an association representing private carriers, has been ringing the alarm bell in Canada for several months now.
In 2013, while working at a fleet, Millian learned that the process from research to flipping on the switch took roughly 12 months.
"The first six months was spent researching three or four different suppliers, picking two of them, getting a couple of devices installed in our trucks, and then doing trial periods," he says. "After picking the supplier, we started ordering devices, scheduling installation, and training drivers and operations personnel before finally switching them on."
Most fleets would probably agree with that timeline, but the situation in Canada is complicated by the certification requirement. Fleets now using a given ELD may find that it doesn't pass certification in Canada. The loosey-goosey American ELD rule made getting product to market fairly easy at the outset. It required little more than a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stating the device was compliant. Canada strove to avoid such a scenario by requiring third-party certification.
"I think some carriers and even ELD suppliers assume that if a device is on FMCSA's list, it will be approved in Canada, but nothing could be further from the truth," Millian warns. "A lot of them have no idea how involved it's going to be up here and what they're going to have to do. They're going to have a very rude awakening when they find out."
Time is Running Out
Millian is asking Transport Canada for a six-month enforcement deferral, but the department has stated repeatedly that it has no intention of extending the compliance deadline. The Canadian Trucking Alliance and Teamsters Canada are downplaying the delays and siding with Transport Minister Garneau on the deadline.
"The process for ELD validation is expected to take three to four weeks with the certifying body being able to handle multiple ELD vendors at the same time," said CTA President Stephen Laskowski. "All systems are a-go for a new era of hours of service compliance beginning in June 2021, which covers the Canadian trucking industry engaged in inter-provincial and international trade."
“We are now one step closer to a future where all trucking companies have to play by the same set of rules and put safety first," said the national president of Teamsters Canada, François Laporte in a statement made the day Transport Canada announced the certification body. "Third-party certified ELDs will help enforce hours of service rules designed to reduce driver fatigue, prevent accidents and ultimately save lives."
(Marc Garneau, by the way, was Canada's first astronaut, taking part in three flights aboard NASA Space Shuttles in 1984, 1996, and 2000).
Limited Supply of Product
While we are awash in ELD options in the U.S., the exact number of device providers that will seek Canadian certification is unknown. Millian says he expects that number to be fewer than 50.
"Among the crowd of about 600 devices are some designed and built to cheat, and the suppliers and the carriers that bought them knew that," says Millian. "I'm not worried about them and they probably aren't going to apply for certification anyway. However, there are many legitimate trucking companies that purchased certain devices believing were legitimate, and were told by the supplier that they would be submitted for Canadian certification. Some of them will either not be approved, or the supplier will discover that they are not as ready as they thought they were."
Transport Canada included no grandfather clause for those companies. The Canadian compliance deadline means that fleets without a certified device in their trucks by June 19, 2021, cannot operate legally in Canada.
"Logistically, with the third-party certification process, it is likely to take at least a month or so in order to complete the process," says Lee. "Even if the data collection and testing against the procedures took two weeks, there is a week or two to get the ELD units shipped, installed into trucks or into a simulated test environment and then for the final report to be shared with the ELD provider. If [FPInnovations] picks up anything during testing that needs to be resolved, then that could take further time as well. I cannot see the process taking less than a month at a minimum. With only one accredited body available for third-party certification, it’s unclear whether there will be issues with capacity to manage multiple device certifications at the same time."
In previous conversations with HDT, Jan Michaelsen, PIT group leader at FPInnovations and who is closely involved with the certification process, has said it could take four to six weeks from submission to achieving certification, which includes time for bench testing as well as road testing the devices.
"We are urging carriers to contact their ELD suppliers at the earliest possible time to determine if that specific supplier plans to pursue Canadian certification," he advises. "Not all providers will go that route, and the sooner the carrier knows the vendor's plans, the sooner they can begin sourcing a compliant device, if necessary."
Michaelson also said that the first steps in the certification process will be discussions with vendors on high-level compliance issues that could weed out those clearly not in compliance. Vendors seeking certification should schedule such discussions with FPInnovations as soon as possible.
Lee warns that no device from any supplier will automatically be certified for use in Canada.
"From the carrier perspective, there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty," she says. "Many ELD suppliers here in the U.S. already support Canadian HOS rulesets. For a carrier using such a system, it may be confusing to tell whether their solution will or will not meet the technical ELD specifications for Canada and achieve certification."
All Vendor Bets are Off
Even for ELD vendors that engaged the technical standard early, the last-minute changes to the testing procedures could result in delays. They will have to go back and run the simulations against the new standards to verify they remain compliant. That will take time, but how much time is supplier dependent.
Millian says he has been in discussions with a vendor which he describes as being in the "top 10" of ELD suppliers with thousands of customers in Canada (and presumably in the U.S. too), that was prepared to submit its device this fall for certification. It may now wait until spring, Millian warns.
"I went through some of the stuff with them and pointed out where their device was not going to be compliant if they submitted it," Millian says. "And now they're not expecting to submit until the first quarter of 2021 because they'll have to make some fixes to their device. That's somebody who's in your top 10 suppliers. What do you think some of the smaller ones are going to be like?"
While getting a device certified may be just a matter of time, Lee wonders about FPInnovations' testing capacity. On top of that, and possibly a greater concern to fleets, is the possibility their current device doesn't pass certification.
"Our commitment to our clients and the industry is to be ready for the compliance [date] they have to deal with," says Jean-Sebastien Bouchard, vice president sales at Canadian ELD vendor Isaac Instruments. "As we speak, ISAAC is ready for the certification. Everything is on target to have all our clients fully compliant well before the deadline. The main ELD vendors will all be certified before June 2021."
But what about fleets whose vendor is not one of the "main" ELD vendors? If the fleet doesn't find out until spring that the device isn't ready, they won't have much time to select another vendor and integrate that device into their operational infrastructure, from TMS to maintenance to payroll and more.
"With the 2017 mandate in the U.S., we saw a rush from carriers and drivers quickly selecting an ELD to make the FMCSA’s December 2017 compliance date," Lee recalls. "There was a lot of buyer’s remorse and switch-outs from one provider to another once they discovered their selection didn’t meet their full set of business needs. While that was a self-inflicted problem, it’s indicative of the scenario that could play out if carriers impacted by the Canadian ELD mandate are forced to select from a narrow set of suppliers due to constraints in the certifying process. While Canada should be able to avoid some of the quality issues seen here, it will still happen.
"Carriers can’t do without these capabilities, so would be forced to run a separate certified ELD alongside their established fleet management system -- at a huge cost," she adds.
Or cease operation in Canada after June 19, 2021, until a compliant ELD can be integrated into the fleet.
On a positive note, many ELD vendors are working closely with customers to ease their fears about Canada's compliance deadline.
"We’ve hosted several webinars and outbound communication efforts for our customers to assure them that we will be certified on time and to keep them well informed on the process," says Fakkema. "We also encourage all carriers that conduct business in Canada to ensure that their U.S. ELD provider will be certified in both countries."
Lee says ERoad is receiving increasing numbers of calls from customers as the deadline looms. "In key areas, such as northern states with a great amount of cross-border trips, many have been attuned to the situation for two years," she said.
And Isaac is getting it's share of calls too. "The fact that an FMCSA-approved ELD might not be on the Canadian ELD certified list is not well understood [by U.S.] carriers," Sebastien says. "We are quite often the bearer of the news."
As of mid-November, Transport Canada has offered no hint that it's prepared to push back the compliance deadline, even following the last-minute update to the technical standard or the challenges imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
"We’re in contact with Transport Canada and they have informed us that the June 2021 date is not changing," says Zonar's Fakkema. "However, we feel that consideration should be given to the impact of the global pandemic on fleets and vendors as well as the recent changes in the technical standards."