Transport Canada is investigating allegations that an electronic logging device was certified for use despite not meeting the country’s technical standards, including flaws that could allow truck drivers to falsify hours of service, FreightWaves has learned.
The investigation is targeting Alberta-based COMDriver Tech over its certification of the Diesel Tech Industries’ Guardian ELOG, according to sources close to the matter. Diesel Tech Industries and its ELD are not being investigated, sources said.
The probe was triggered in response to allegations made privately to Transport Canada officials in September by Gary Dhaliwal, the founder and chief technology officer of Hutch Systems, the first company to have an ELD certified in Canada.
Dhaliwal, a former trucker and fleet owner who became a computer programmer, alleged that the Guardian ELOG did not meet four areas of the official technical standards for Canadian ELDs. He also shared a 25-minute video in which he appears to be able to falsify driving time with the device.
“I didn’t want this thing to be like, I’m going off on one particular company or one particular vendor,” he told FreightWaves. “I am working as a Canadian citizen trying to make our roads safer, and this blew my mind.”
Diesel Tech Industries disputes key elements of Dhaliwal’s allegations and maintains, along with COMDriver Tech, that the device was rigorously tested to Canadian technical standards.
Frédérica Dupuis, a spokesperson for Transport Canada, the federal department that oversees trucking on a national level, would not explicitly confirm the existence of the investigation but wrote in an email, “As the process to address the complaint is underway, and to maintain the integrity of the process, Transport Canada is not in a position to give further information.”
“Transport Canada takes complaints very seriously and will not hesitate to take necessary actions to strengthen road and commercial vehicle safety,” Dupuis wrote.
Dhaliwal’s claims raise questions about a cornerstone of Canada’s ELD mandate: third-party certification. Devices are required to undergo a vetting process by a third party to ensure they meet detailed technical requirements, which include provisions intended to make tampering and falsification of drivers’ logs more difficult.
Officials and trucking industry leaders have touted the process as being more robust than in the U.S., where ELD providers self-certify their own devices. Only six devices have been certified for use in Canada since the mandate took effect in June.
‘Worse than even self-certification’
Dhaliwal’s complaint to Transport Canada does not target his competitor or its device. Rather, the issues with the ELD showed that COMDriver Tech was not living up to its responsibilities as a certification body.
“This is sort of worse than even self-certification,” Dhaliwal said. “This is a false sense of security.”
Dhaliwal said he decided to make his complaint public out of frustration that Transport Canada and the Standards Council of Canada — which accredits ELD certification bodies — haven’t moved quickly to address it since he reported his initial concerns a month ago. He maintains that the flaws he alleges to have found should result in COMDriver Tech losing its ability to certify ELDs.
In an email sent to multiple Transport Canada officials on Sept. 28, Dhaliwal evoked the 2018 crash in Saskatchewan that left 16 people dead after a tractor-trailer hit a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. Investigators found that the newly licensed driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu — who subsequently pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving — had numerous paper logbook violations.
“Many tragic incidents, such as the Humboldt accident, have occurred in spite of the fact that the mistakes were avoidable,” he wrote. “These types of accidents are caused by manipulating the hours of service and not complying with the regulated guidelines outlined by Transport Canada.”
Here is a portion of the email Gary Dhaliwal sent to Transport Canada officials in September.
Dhaliwal has a long history working in trucking: as a driver, owner of two trucking companies, safety consultant and then as a technology provider. By his own admission, he also falsified logs as a young driver and later struggled with the same problem with his truckers.
“I know exactly what this is because I’ve been a driver myself. I cheated with logs. At that time, I was a newbie. Because at the end of the day, this is what the whole industry does.
“I know the tricks of the trade,” he added.
Video claims to demonstrate log falsification
Dhaliwal has made something of a hobby by testing out numerous ELDs over the years — out of curiosity. In this spirit, Dhaliwal said he obtained a Guardian ELOG by having a friend order one. He then tested it by borrowing his brother’s Peterbilt. Initially, he flagged four issues in a complaint to Transport Canada. The issues appear to be very specific and technical.
The malfunction and diagnostics indicator wasn’t up to the official standards because it wasn’t visible within all menus, he alleged. He also alleged that there were issues with how the output files were encoded as well as how an activity that is not linked to a specific driver was classified.
“It’s low-hanging fruit,” he said.
But his most troubling allegation came from a test he subsequently performed with a passenger vehicle. (Dhaliwal says he didn’t use his brother’s truck because he didn’t want to deprive him of a load.) In the video, which he shared with Transport Canada officials and subsequently FreightWaves, he claims to shorten his driving time by 17 minutes.
How Dhaliwal claims he tested and cheated the Guardian ELOG
1. Ordered a device via friend and connected it to a passenger car
2. Set the ELD into manual drive mode
3. Removed the driving record and replaced it as time spent in the sleeper berth
“If I can shorten this drive time, I’m laughing, I’m one of the best drivers you can possibly hire,” he says in the video.
In the video, he claims to edit driving time that should have been automatically recorded by the ELD. Instead, he reclassifies it as being in the sleeper berth. While Canadian ELD standards do allow for some edits and amendments to driving records, they state that devices cannot allow for the reduction of driving time once it is automatically recorded.
“So I have gained 17 minutes of driving time, so this does allow driving time to be shortened — automatic driving time to be shortened,” he says near the end of the video. “So there you go. I have done my part. Now I’m good to cheat.”
That restriction represents a key — if not sacrosanct — provision in the Canadian ELD standards. ELDs are required to automatically record driving time when a vehicle is in motion unless the duty status has changed to off duty, or set for yard moves. The ability to reduce that driving time would allow for drivers or their carriers to misrepresent their hours of service.
ELD provider disputes allegations
Diesel Tech Industries, which has viewed the video, questioned the reliability of the test and disputed Dhaliwal’s demonstration that shows him reducing automatically recorded driving time, as well as other claims about the device not meeting Canadian technical standards.
The company noted that the unit used for the test was provided for a connection to a Peterbilt 379 and that had to be modified in order to be used with the passenger vehicle.
“Any alterations to the connection package or the utilization of aftermarket harnesses or products can compromise the integrity of the ELOG and the Driver Logs associated,” the company wrote.
Diesel Tech challenges Dhaliwal’s contention that the video shows him editing down his automatically recorded driving time. The company notes that one of the steps he takes in the video — manually changing the ELD’s status to driving mode — meant that the record generated was deemed a manual entry, something that is allowed to be edited.
But the company’s argument is narrow and does not directly dispute that Dhaliwal appears to be demonstrating log falsification. The company argues that what is shown in the video represented use that was not foreseen in the government’s official testing protocol, which the ELD certifying bodies are required to follow.
“This specific scenario is not covered in the provision of the Test Procedure from TC, while the user manually sets himself to ‘Driving’ and starts moving the vehicle,” the company wrote. “This is a valuable scenario that should be considered, but it will be more official if TC could add this provision into their Test Procedure.”
A copy of the official test procedures obtained by FreightWaves does not appear to explicitly lay out what Dhaliwal did in his test. But Dhaliwal maintains that the driving he demonstrated in the video should have been captured as automatic driving regardless, and thus making it impossible for him to shorten it.
“This is an obvious test,” he said.
Diesel Tech also disputed Dhaliwal’s allegations regarding the visibility of the malfunction and fault indicator. The company argues that the requirement that the indicator is visible to the driver while in the seated position does not mean that it has to be visible in every menu.
The company would not comment on Dhaliwal’s other technical allegations made to Transport Canada since it said it has not seen evidence of them.
“We believe that the process and procedures placed by Transport Canada need to be executed in due course,” the company wrote. “Any public assumptions or claims made about ComDriver Tech or the Guardian ELOG compliance should come after any official conclusions by Transport Canada.”
But the company contends that its device received a thorough vetting.
“Diesel Tech Industries has gone through all the testing procedures to receive certification,” the company wrote. “DTI stands behind our product and if adjustments need to be made from time to time, we will update in accordance with that,” the company said.
Complaint shows system working as designed, owner of certification firm says
Complaints about specific ELDs are supposed to be directed to the certifying bodies themselves. Until last week Dhaliwal had refused to make a complaint to COMDriver Tech, arguing that the problems were too grave to entrust the firm to address them.
However, he recently submitted his complaint along with output files from the ELD to the founder and managing partner of COMDriver Tech, Robin Doherty. Dhaliwal said he took that step at the urging of government officials.
Doherty is a respected veteran of the western Canadian trucking industry. He served as the director of safety, training and compliance at Westcan Bulk Transport and developed an electronic logbook — a precursor to an ELD — at his former company, Verigo.
ComDriver TECH is among three companies accredited as certifying bodies for ELDs in Canada. They are entrusted to follow Transport Canada’s testing procedures, which are intended to ensure that each device meets the hundreds of requirements spelled out in the official Technical Standard for Electronic Logging Devices.
The certification process, which has been encumbered by issues with Transport Canada’s testing procedures, has moved far more slowly than envisioned. The federal mandate for ELDs took effect in June without a single device being approved. As a result, enforcement of it won’t begin until at least June 2022.
ComDriver Tech was accredited as a certification body in July and certified the Guardian ELOG a month later. The company, along with two other certification bodies, FPInnovations and CSA Group, was first accredited by the government’s Standards Council of Canada to the international ISO/IEC 17065 standard, before being approved by Transport Canada to certify ELDs.
“ELD third-party certification is a robust quality control program that provides a world-class safety management system for the commercial motor carrier industry in Canada and will have influence throughout North America,” Doherty wrote in an email.
COMDriver’s method for certifying ELDs differs from FPInnovations, which certified Hutch’s device, and CSA Group. It uses witness-based assessments that rely on the ELD providers themselves to perform most of the testing, which is verified and audited. The method is allowed under the ISO/IEC 17065 standard.
Doherty said he stands behind how COMDriver certifies ELDs, saying the company “follows all Transport Canada ELD test procedures” as well as product certification guidance from the Standards Council of Canada.
Alleged device faults show certification inadequate, ELD vendor says
Dhaliwal, however, maintains that the issues he alleges to have found with the Guardian ELOG show that COMDriver’s testing regime is inadequate and is less rigorous than the process used by the FPInnovations to certify Hutch’s device. FPInnovations has also certified devices from ISAAC Instruments, Trimble Transportation and Pedigree Technologies.
FPInnovations’ testing has, in fact, been a source of frustration among some ELD providers that have complained that the not-for-profit organization’s testing has been excessive at times.
Dhaliwal spoke of FPInnovations in positive terms but said the process had put Hutch’s device through the wringer.
“They were literally finding the needles in the haystack,” he said.
Dupuis, the Transport Canada spokesperson, maintained that the government’s approach to vetting the entities that certify ELDs is working as intended.
“The Canadian accreditation/certification scheme is rigorous, comprehensive and robust to ensure only accredited certification bodies are allowed to test and certify ELDs,” she wrote.
The government also continues to take steps to monitor certification bodies after they are accredited, Dupuis added.
“To verify and maintain the accreditation of certification bodies, surveillance activities based on sampling are conducted yearly,” she explained.
Under the 2019 law that contains Canada’s ELD mandate, the minister of transportation can suspend or cancel the accreditation of a certification body.
It was unclear what steps Transport Canada has taken to investigate Dhaliwal’s allegations. However, officials have notified the Standards Council of Canada, which has the power to remove COMDriver Tech’s accreditation.
“The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is aware of the complaint Transport Canada has received about the certification of an electronic logging device by COMDriver Tech,” spokesperson Holly Hedd wrote in an email, adding that Transport Canada has the ultimate responsibility for regulating certified ELDs.
Hedd declined to comment on any specific actions SCC is taking, but an official process for handling complaints is being followed. That process requires that a complainant must first attempt to address concerns with the accredited entity.
“SCC has an official procedure for complaints that will be followed to maintain the integrity of the accreditation system and the health and safety of Canadians,” Hedd wrote. “SCC is committed to providing objective and impartial services via processes designed to uphold confidentiality, nondiscrimination and consensus and is not at liberty to discuss the specifics of individual files. At this time, we cannot comment further on this matter.”
Dhaliwal, meanwhile, continues to grow frustrated with the pace of the process. He said he has shut off the Guardian ELOG since sharing his video that he claims demonstrates its ability to falsify logs out of concern that some of the issues could be remedied with a software update.
However, he has offered to recreate the test on a truck for government officials as well as for Diesel Tech Industries, provided that the device doesn’t connect to the internet.
“We will do the testing ourselves, again, in the presence of an attorney or a notary public or anybody with a public authority to witness that we are not manipulating anything and perform those tests,” Dhaliwal said.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that COMDriver Tech was approved as an accreditation body by the Standards Council of Canada. In fact, it was accredited as a certification body.)
- Canada’s fast-approaching ELD mandate won’t be enforced — at first
- Canada ELD certification ‘very rigorous,’ company says after completing vetting
- Canada to require ELDs in 2021