Federal government takes steps to curb bus, truck driver fatigue in Canada

Canada is making it mandatory for federally regulated commercial truck and bus drivers to use electronic logging devices in an effort to combat driver fatigue and improve road safety.

New regulation will make electronic logging device mandatory on federally regulated commercial operators

Transport Minister Marc Garneau on Thursday announced new measures to improve road safety for commercial bus and truck drivers. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Canada is making electronic logging devices mandatory for federally regulated commercial truck and bus drivers in an effort to combat driver fatigue and improve road safety.

Electronic devices track when and how long drivers have been behind the wheel. They are tamper-resistant and integrated into commercial vehicle engines, and are designed to ensure long-haul drivers stick to their daily driving limit and log their hours accurately.

During a news conference in suburban Toronto, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the new requirement will come into force on June 12, 2021, replacing paper-based daily logbooks to ensure drivers comply with federal regulations.

Under those regulations, a driver cannot drive after accumulating 13 hours on the road in a day. The driver must take at least eight consecutive hours of off-duty time before driving again.

"In doing this, we are looking to reduce truck and bus crashes due to fatigue," Garneau said. "These devices will help to ensure that commercial drivers drive within their limit and accurately log their working hours."

The devices will have third-party certification. Asked if some companies deliberately fudge the books, Garneau said there have been "inaccuracies" in the past — some of them deliberate and others not deliberate. 

Level the playing field

New rules will ensure a level playing field for competitors, he said.

Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said the change will ensure there will be no gaps or opportunities for people to manipulate the monitoring technology, so that compliance is their only option.

"Third-party certified electronic logging devices will ensure that everyone follows the same rules," he said. "And if we all follow the rules, the highways will be safer."

Garneau said the technology will cut the red tape involved by eliminating the need to keep daily paper logs and verify compliance with enforcement officers.

The new rules align with U.S. road safety regulations. Harmonization of rules "will support economic growth, trade, and transportation on both sides of the border," said a Transport Canada release.

According to the department, most commercial motor vehicles already have U.S.-compliant devices, while those with older technology on board will need a simple software upgrade that can be quickly and, in most cases, remotely deployed.

About 17 per cent of trucks and buses being operated by federally regulated carriers will be required to buy and install new devices.

The new measure also addresses a Saskatchewan coroner's recommendation stemming from the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team last year.

Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured after a bus taking the Broncos to a playoff game collided with a transport truck at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan on April 6, 2018.

The Calgary-based transport truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm.

The federal government only has authority over truck and bus carriers that carry goods or passengers across a provincial or international boundary.

Garneau said he hopes the provinces and territories will adopt similar requirements.

Teamsters Canada, the union which represents about 15,000 long-haul truckers, said that while today's announcement does not fully address the issue of fatigue in the industry, it does level the playing field by making the rules enforceable.

"It is a welcome development," said Teamsters Canada President François Laporte in a statement.

The union said that because paper logbooks can be easily falsified, they fail to stop people from being forced to work dangerously long hours. Because paper logs were falsified so often, they became known as "lie books" or "cheat sheets," according to the union.