How 'rules of the road' will change for P.E.I. truckers

New trucking rules in the U.S. are going to mean a big change for some P.E.I. transport companies. After Dec. 19, any freight trucks that travel across the border will need to change the way their drivers log their hours and breaks.

Electronic logging system takes effect Dec. 18 in U.S., Canada expected to follow suit in next few years

It will be mandatory for transport trucks to have electronic logging systems if they are travelling through the United States. The system is expected to be mandatory in Canada in the next few years. (CBC News)

New trucking rules about to hit the United States are going to mean a big change for some P.E.I. transport companies. 

After Dec. 18, any freight trucks that travel across the border will need to change the way their drivers log their hours and breaks.

There have always been rules for how long truck drivers can be out on the road before they take a break or stop for the day. Drivers could be asked by federal transportation officers to show they're following those rules by recording their activity in a paper log book, which is also regularly checked by trucking companies. 

The devices allow the drivers to know how much time they legally have at the wheel before taking a break. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

An electronic logging system will be required next week which will enforce accountability.

'Rules of the road'

"A lot of it's based on getting everyone to follow the same suit, be on the same playing field, follow the rules of the road, and try to take away some of the risk involved with fudging books, whether it's accidents or driving too tired or anything like that," says Thomas Annear, the assistant operational manager with the trucking company Morley Annear Ltd.

Annear said the electronic logging system won't allow that kind of manipulation.

It will track when drivers start their day, their route, speed and when they stop.

Knowing the exact locations of all the trucks allows the company to plan driving time more efficiently. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

It is logged in real time and available to their employers and transport officers.

P.E.I.'s Trucking Sector Council says most Island companies that do business in the U.S. have been using electronic logging for at least a year, and the reviews have been positive.

Startup costs

A similar system is expected to become mandatory across Canada in the next couple of years.

That has caused concern with smaller P.E.I. transport companies that do business solely within Canada, the council said. They worry about the startup costs of moving from paper to electronic logging. 

Annear said companies can pick which software company they go with and the switchover to the new system hasn't been cheap — about $75,000 for his company's 40 trucks. 

Thomas Annear demonstrates how drivers will use the electronic logging device. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

But he expects it will pay off down the road. 

"We can tell the traffic on the road now as our drivers are driving, so we can reduce the amount of time they have to wait in traffic because we can give them alternate routes," Annear said.

"We can look at how many litres of fuel they burn as the truck sits there in the on position, and see how much money that really is costing us."

With files from Steve Bruce