The Ultimate Guide to the ELD Mandate in Canada

ELD Mandate

By June 12, 2021, Canadian commercial vehicles need to be fitted with ELDs. Here's everything you need to know to get up to speed…

Fleet managers, put down those pens and paper logbooks – the ELD mandate is coming to Canada!

That’s right: following in the US’ tyre prints, Canada’s commercial vehicle operators and bus drivers are now being asked to ditch daily paper logs in favor of electronic logs, or elogs.

Complying with the mandate will take preparation, communication, and dedication, and it’s best to be as informed as possible before embarking on this regulatory journey. To help you get there, this guide will answer all your questions, and shed light on some of the ways you can prepare for the new law.

Let’s get started!

ELD Mandate

What is the ELD mandate?

Set by the CCMTA (Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators), the ELD mandate requires all commercial vehicles and buses to be fitted with ELDs (electronic logging devices).

These devices accurately record:

  • The hours that drivers spend driving (hours of service, or HOS)
  • The amount of time they spend on- and off-duty during each driving stint (records of duty status, or RODS)

It goes without saying that ELDs present a much better alternative to daily paper logs, which are time-consuming, easily damaged, and often filled out inaccurately. But why should using these clever devices be a legal requirement?

Well, the accurate RODS and HOS reporting gathered by ELDs makes for a much safer working environment for drivers. Crucially, these devices ensure that drivers aren’t on the road for longer than is safe, and are taking the breaks they should be.

In minimizing driver fatigue, estimates say that the ELD mandate will prevent thousands of road crashes every year. As if that wasn’t a good enough reason, it’s also been suggested that the mandate will save billions of dollars worth of paperwork expenses.

When will the ELD mandate come into force in Canada?

So, when are electronic logs mandatory? Now that the law’s finalized regulations are in place, it’s been confirmed that the ELD mandate will become law in Canada on June 12, 2021. So, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got an ELD system in place before then.

Who needs ELDs?

The majority of Canada’s commercial motor vehicles and buses will need to be fitted with ELDs to comply with the mandate.

Are your drivers currently required to fill out paper logbooks, or use another means of recording RODS and HOS? If so, you will need to upgrade to ELDs ahead of June 12, 2021. 

Unless, that is, your vehicles fall into one of the mandate’s categories for exemption…

What are the ELD mandate Canada exceptions?

Your vehicles will be exempt from the rule – and thus will not need to have ELDs installed – if they: 

  • Operate under a permit from a provincial or territorial HOS director
  • Have a statutory exemption
  • Are subject to a rental agreement with terms under 30 days
  • Were manufactured before the year 2000

How the Canadian and US ELD mandates differ

On the whole, the Canadian ELD mandate will be largely similar to the mandate that’s already in place in the US.

However, there are a few key differences to expect, and we’ve outlined them below. This is not an exhaustive list – rather, we’ve simply covered the biggest, most impactful discrepancies…

1. The certification process

In the Canadian mandate…In the US mandate…
ELD systems must be certified by a third party, which will test them to ensure they meet official regulations.ELD system manufacturers are able to self-certify their own devices, testing them themselves to ensure they meet regulations.

2. The HOS and off-duty time rules

In the Canadian mandate…In the US mandate…
The rules are flexible. Drivers have 16 hours in which to complete work, but must spend two of these hours off-duty. This can be split into separate periods of 30 or 60 minutes, or be taken all at once. Drivers can defer unused off-duty time to the next day. NB: These are the same rules that have been in place since 2005. The mandate won’t change them – its purpose is simply to enforce them.The rules are stricter. After eight hours of driving, drivers must take a half-hour break.

3. Restrictions on personal conveyance

In the Canadian mandate…In the US mandate…
There are restrictions on personal conveyance (when a driver uses a commercial vehicle for non-work purposes, such as driving from a motel to a restaurant). Drivers can use up to 75km on personal conveyance. An ELD will automatically record anything beyond this limit as on-duty driving time, enforcing the restriction.There are no restrictions on personal conveyance. During a job, drivers can use as many miles and minutes as they need for non-work-related travel.

4. How roadside inspectors access your HOS data

In the Canadian mandate…In the US mandate…
Your ELD data can be transferred directly to the inspector via a given email address, cutting out the eRODS middleman.ELD data can be transferred to a database called eRODS (electronic records of duty status), which the inspector can then access.

How to prepare for the ELD mandate

So, how do you go about setting up an ELD system? Here are some tips…

Implement a fleet management system

Perhaps the easiest, cheapest, and ultimately most beneficial way to integrate an ELD system into your fleet is to install a fleet management solution that offers ELD compliance as part of its package.

If you’re already using a fleet management system, get in touch with your supplier to find out whether it offers an ELD add-on. If not, it could be worth switching to a more forward-thinking provider. If you still aren’t using a fleet management system, the upcoming ELD deadline is an excellent excuse to implement one!

A fleet management system can provide you with all the tools you need to get compliant at a lower cost than if you were paying for an ELD system on its own (fleet management costs start at less than $20 per vehicle, per month). On top of that, it can also help you to:

  • Slash your fuel usage and costs by plotting the most efficient routes
  • Monitor your drivers’ behavior and train them when needed
  • Keep on top of vehicle maintenance with automated scheduling and alerts
  • Prevent unauthorized use of your vehicles with geofencing
  • Locate any of your vehicles in a jiffy using GPS tracking
  • Provide accurate ETAs and service updates to your clients and customers
With the mandate approaching, you should opt for a fleet management supplier that provides:

  1. ELDs, an app drivers can use to update their duty status, and a means by which you can look at your elogs (e.g. a software portal)
  2. ELDs that have been certified as compliant by a third party, in accordance with Canadian laws
  3. Professional installers with experience in installing ELDs (if you opt for hardwired rather than plug-and-play devices)
  4. A free trial, so you can try before you buy
  5. Training materials to help you and your staff get to grips with the system

So, what’s next? Well, if you’d like an easy way to compare the best fleet management systems for you, we can help! Answer a few quick questions about your fleet (be sure to tell us you want ELDs!), and we’ll match you with the suppliers that can best cater to your unique needs. You’ll hear from them with tailored quotes and info – the rest is up to you! 

Make the switch easy for your staff

For some, breaking away from the longstanding tradition of using paper logs is going to be tough. To ease your drivers and dispatchers into the new way of doing things, you should:

  1. Inform them of what’s going to change as early as possible
  2. Be clear about the benefits of using an ELD system – ultimately, it’ll be a time-saver and will make everyone safer
  3. Get your drivers involved in the supplier selection process – ask them to provide feedback on the devices and apps that you test
  4. Provide everyone with training in using the new system (most ELD providers will offer this themselves)

Keep your eye on the US mandate

The Canadian ELD mandate is expected to be very similar to the US’ version of the rule.

As the American mandate is already in place – it first became law in December 2017, and the final deadline for US fleets to comply with the mandate took place in December 2019 – it’s worth doing some research into the US mandate, how it works, and what American fleet businesses have done (or are still doing) to comply with it.

How much do electronic logs cost?

Ahead of the US mandate, the US' FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) commissioned a study to work out how much ELDs could be expected to cost the average American fleet business on a yearly basis.

The study examined a range of HOS logging devices active in the US. Their prices varied drastically, ranging from 165 USD to 832 USD per vehicle, per year. However, the most popular device at the time was found to cost 495 USD per vehicle, per year.

While it’s reasonable to expect that Canadian prices will be similar to those in the US, you should consider these as ballpark figures rather than indisputable predictions – not least because prices have started to drop in the years since this study was conducted.

And, as we mentioned earlier, you’ll likely be able to secure yourself a much better deal by opting for a fleet management package with an ELD system thrown in.

On that note, we can help you to quickly compare prices from a range of fleet management providers that supply ELDs. All you need to do is answer a few short questions about your fleet and what you want, and we’ll match you with companies that can meet your needs. They’ll then provide quotes and info tailored to you to help you make an informed decision.


How do elogs work?

Let’s start with the basics: an ELD is a small device that can be connected to a vehicle in order to synchronize with its engine.

ELDs can either be hardwired into a vehicle, or simply plugged into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter. While the former method is more secure, the latter’s plug-and-play approach makes for an easier, quicker, and cheaper installation.

When installed, ELDs automatically gather data from the vehicle’s engine, including driving time, ignition status, odometer readings, number of miles driven, and more.  

Meanwhile, it’ll be up to your drivers to keep their duty status updated. ELD systems tend to come with their own apps specifically for drivers – using this app, your drivers will be able to enter their on-duty time and off-duty time in real-time.

All of this data will be recorded in elogs, then presented to you in a digestible format via an ELD management software portal, which you’ll get as part of your ELD package.

Can I still use paper logs?

As things stand, you’ll be able to continue using paper logbooks instead of ELDs if…

  • You’re exempt from the mandate. Take a look back at our section on the mandate’s exceptions to find out if you will be! 
  • One (or more) of your ELDs malfunctions. Skip onto the question below for the lowdown on what to do if this happens…

Of course, for those who have to comply with the ELD mandate, there’s nothing to stop you from using paper logbooks alongside your elogs. But the real question is, why would you want to?

ELD reporting is quicker, easier, and more accurate than keeping paper logs. While the change might seem daunting and potentially expensive at first, we’re confident that it’ll benefit you in the long run. 

What happens if an ELD stops working?

If one of your driver’s ELDs stops working, they’ll be allowed to go back to using daily paper logs for up to 14 days (or until they return home from a trip that takes longer than 14 days).

During this two-week grace period, you’ll be expected to get that ELD fixed or replaced. Otherwise, when the 14 days are up, you’ll have to stop using the vehicle with the defective ELD completely until you’ve got a functioning one fitted.

Written by:
Julia Watts author headshot photo
Specialising in business software, Julia writes jargon-busting guides about VoIP, fleet management, dash cams, fuel cards, and more. Having spent almost a decade writing for entrepreneurs and reviewing business solutions, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.