The recently published Canadian ELD rule could test the credibility of some devices listed in the online ELD registry of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The FMCSA registry currently has 430 devices listed. Each is “self-certified” by the developer to be in compliance with the specifications of the ELD rule.
Some ELD providers have registered multiple devices to meet the different needs in segments of the trucking industry, from fleets to owner-operators. At present, the market share of ELD providers in the United States is primarily concentrated among 14 companies.
To date, the FMCSA has not decertified any ELD device. That may change by the time the Canadian rules take effect in June 2021, which require all ELD devices be certified by a third party. An ELD provider that chooses not to be certified in Canada, or fails a certification, may face questions of whether or not their products actually comply with the U.S. mandate since the Canadian rule has very similar technical requirements, explains Mike Ahart, vice president of regulatory affairs for Omnitracs.
Before listing their devices in the FMCSA registry, some of the larger technology companies hired third-party firms to test their products to ensure they comply with the rule to not put their companies or their customers at risk. Not all of the ELD providers in the U.S. will likely go through the process of certifying their devices in Canada, however, and offer solutions for both jurisdictions.
Transport Canada, the equivalent of the FMCSA, has requested information from companies interested in certifying ELD devices. The agency is currently gathering feedback to understand what its certification process will look like, he says.
One of the challenges third-party firms will have when certifying ELD devices is to get a consistent flat file of data from each provider, he says. Additionally, they may not all follow a uniform testing procedure. Will they be testing ELD devices and software using simulators or by installing them in trucks and driving around?
If the testing is done via simulation, how will they ensure that an ELD properly interfaces with a vehicle?
“The largest area for malfunctions is the connection to the ECM,” Ahart says.
The deadline for ELD compliance in Canada is June 2021. Ahart estimates that Transport Canada will need between 12 and 24 months from now to come up with standards for testing and for ELD providers to complete the new third-party certification process. The cost for a third-party to develop, test and commercialize a certification product could be significant.
“If the requirement is to get down to the ability to test these devices to the level one would expect to find any malfunction, or the ability to tamper with or modify information, it could literally be millions of dollars to get it all done,” he says. “There is no indication of how that gets paid for.”
Ahart expects that ELD providers will be on the hook for paying for the certification of their own devices.
“I think that is going to be part of the limitation for a small ELD provider to get involved,” he says. As such, motor carriers in Canada and possibly the U.S. will have a more limited availability of ELD devices to choose from in the near future.
Because of potentially high development costs to meet the Canadian ELD mandate, “I guarantee [the Canadian market] is not going to get over saturated,” says Andy Oleson, senior solutions engineer at Platform Science, an ELD and telematics provider. “What we will end up seeing is lesser vendors in Canada, and that will also have some downfall into the United States.”
On the other hand, “no vendor should be surprised this mandate is around. A draft has been out there for more than a year now,” Oleson adds. “Any vendor should have been paying attention and developing against the standards.”
Oleson says that Platform Science has already completed development of the ELD functions for the Canadian rule that it was fairly confident would be different than the U.S. version. “As a whole, there are not a whole lot of differences,” he says.
For more information about the Canadian ELD mandate and how it differs from the U.S. rule, see part one of this article series in CCJ.