Date Posted

January 10, 2023

Dave Elniski, AMTA Industry Advisor, Safety & Compliance

This article has also been submitted for publication in CVSA’s Guardian magazine.

We’re in 2023 now, and that means electronic logging device (ELD) enforcement has begun in Canada.  Many carriers are learning how to install and use these devices, and many drivers are adapting to a new way of accounting for their driving and on-duty time.

One thing ELDs have done is show us the importance of the minute.  While such short periods of time were previously ignored, generally speaking, by drivers and carrier safety management alike, the digital precision of the ELD will require a different attitude towards time and to whom it needs to be attached.  Even a short bit of driving will result in recorded driving time that must be assigned to a specific account in order to reduce the occurrence of warnings and digital flags.

The remainder of this article will discuss unassigned driving time, the unidentified driver account, and the importance of keeping accurate carrier records.  If handled systematically, these additional compliance requirements need not burden safety administrators and managers.  Furthermore, they can be handled in a way that reflects the realities of commercial driving without creating friction between drivers and carriers.

Unassigned Driving Time

ELDs record driving time in a vehicle; that’s a pretty big part of their purpose.  They’re also supposed to assign driving time (along with other types of time and data) to specific individuals.  This is done by creating accounts for all relevant carrier staff in the ELD’s office program.  Once vehicles, drivers, and accounts have all been set up properly, it is possible for the ELD to assign time accurately, even if multiple people drive the same vehicle in a single shift.

So, what happens if someone drives a commercial vehicle without anyone logging into an ELD account?  Well, the ELD will record the driving time, which is unassigned driving time, and assign it to the “unidentified driver account” (which I’ll discuss in greater detail below).  The carrier can then take these pieces of unassigned driving time and assign them to the correct driver.  The driver does retain the ability to refuse the time if they do not believe it was them driving, a protection that gives drivers greater control over their personal hours-of-service (HOS) records. [1]

If unassigned driving time belongs to someone at the company who perhaps forgot to log into their ELD when they drove, it should be straightforward to figure out who was driving and assign the time accordingly.  Unassigned time should never be assigned randomly to people to simply clear out the unidentified driver account or to preserve another driver’s hours.

If the driving was done by someone external to the carrier, like a technician taking the vehicle for a test drive, it will not be possible to assign the unassigned driving time since that person does not work at the carrier.  In this situation, this unassigned driving time can be noted appropriately and then retained in the unidentified driver account.

External drivers, like the technician example above, are under the safety program of their employer; it could be the case, for example, that the test driver falls under the short-haul exemption radius and does not need to keep a log at all while they are driving.  In such a situation, the ELD is not needed in the truck but would need to be working properly again when the carrier’s driver picks up the vehicle.

It’s important for drivers to properly use their ELD to match their activities so as to avoid the creation of unassigned driving time (or incorrectly using personal conveyance or yard move settings).  However, these mistakes will inevitably occur.  Therefore, carriers need to be ready to manage these administrative duties that are now a reality for Canadian federal carriers.

Unidentified Driver Account

The unidentified driver account is an account an ELD creates to which to dump all its unassigned driving time.  The Technical Standard for Electronic Logging Devices allows for its creation and the ELD is required to create this account (see sections 3.1.6, 4.1.2, and 4.3.2.8.2(c)(3) for information in the Standard about the unidentified driver account [1]).  Unassigned driving time must only be moved out of this account if it can be attributed to the correct driver.

ELDs, under the Standard, are also supposed to allow for the creation of support personnel accounts.  If the driving was by an employee who is not generally in a driver role, that employee could accept the unassigned driving time in their account without anything dishonest being done – as long as it was indeed them who was driving.

Accurate Record Keeping

Carriers are required to keep the records of unidentified drivers and unassigned driving time and be able to show them to inspectors under section 99(1)(b) of the Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations [2].  The ELD technical standard says ELDs are supposed to create the unidentified account, but nowhere does it say the unidentified account needs to be cleared out (although more than 30 minutes of unassigned driving time for the ELD will trigger a malfunction code that will remain for a specified period of time). [3]

Malfunctions, warnings, unassigned driving time: these are digital issues that will appear from time to time and it may not always be possible to clear out such nuisances.  While an ELD office dashboard showing warnings might not look good at first glance, it is more important to understand the specific context of each warning than it is to simply have a clean-looking dashboard.  For example, while creating fake accounts to which to assign unassigned driving time may clean up a dashboard, doing so is illegal and would not be hard to detect in an audit or investigation.

Honesty and Patience

Once an error has been recorded and brought to someone’s attention, make note of circumstances and seek guidance if necessary.  Also, remember that HOS and ELDs are about preventing collisions due to fatigue more than compliance to the letter with technical standards and regulations.  It’s most important for a carrier and its drivers to do what is reasonably practicable to operate safely.  Yes, form and manner violations and losing points on audits suck, and efforts need to be made to eliminate such occurrences.  But, once a mistake has been made, attempting to hide it will only increase negative consequences.

Finally, remember this: An entire industry and its specialized law enforcement is currently learning a new way of doing business.  If errors and malfunctions and mistakes occur, that’s okay.  We are all navigating new terrain and need to go easy on ourselves, our co-workers, our law enforcement and drivers, and those around us while these initial hurdles come and go.

Need Help?  Contact AMTA

AMTA can provide carriers with guidance on the information presented in this article.  If you have any questions, please contact AMTA and our experienced staff will be happy to help.  For your safety and compliance questions, please email Workplace Support Services (WSS) directly at wss@amta.ca.

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References

1 – Canadian Council of Motor Transport Adminstrators (CCMTA). “Technical Standard for Electronic Logging Devices.” Version 1.2, October 27th, 2020. Accessed January 5th, 2023, from https://www.ccmta.ca/web/default/files/PDF/ELD/FINAL_ELD_TECHNICAL_STANDARD_V1.2_ENGLISH_10-27-2020.pdf.

2 – Government of Canada. “Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations.” SOR/2005-313, current to December 12th, 2022. Accessed January 5th, 2023, from https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2005-313/FullText.html.

3 – In addition to references 1 and 2, information supported by multiple calls to ELD providers on best practices related to managing driving time in the unidentified driver account.