SASKATOON -- As Saskatchewan trucking companies make the switch to electronic logging well ahead of 2021 deadline imposed by the federal government, many are welcoming the change.

Earlier this year, Transport Canada announced Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) will be mandatory June of 2021 for federally regulated trucks, with the goal of ensuring semi-truck and bus drivers are not on the road for longer than their daily limit.

"Basically it replaces the paper logs that many drivers currently do, with an electronic device mounted in the truck, attached to the engine with GPS locators," said Dallas Beal, general manager at Saskatoon-based Ghost Transportation Services.

The company has already installed the devices in many of its trucks. Beal said any of his trucks that leave the province have been equipped with ELDs since 2017.

He thinks the change will be good for the industry.

"Everybody’s got to play by the same rules and has the same scorekeeper," Beal said.

Beal hopes ELDs will eliminate the "cheating" that can happen with the current pen and paper system.

“There’s always been creativity with various companies that have used paper logs. The ELDs basically level the playing field and give you a more exact picture of what’s going on,” Beal said.

“It’s a much more automated process than having to take a pen and a ruler and a piece of paper.”

“I think there’s a lot of misconception out there about the purpose of ELDs and what they’re going to do with them, that they take away choice from truck drivers,” said Nicole Sinclair, director of communications with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association.

“That is not the case. That is really a myth that we would like to see go away. ELD’s are going to ensure that drivers are paid properly.”

The devices also hold shippers accountable, she said. “A lot of truck drivers are paid by the mile, so if you are sitting and waiting to be loaded with freight, that costs you money.”

It isn’t just the shippers that the ELDs will keep honest, according to Sinclair.

“It will make it harder for companies breaking the rules, which were fine with, were in support. We think safety and compliance are absolutely essential in the trucking industry.”

With ELDs, companies can examine which parts of their routes are costing the most money, and look to improve efficiency, especially if a lot of time is wasted on waiting.

“It allows trucking companies to have that data to maybe be more selective about the shippers that they work with. As much as those people are your clients they need to treat your truck drivers time as valuable, and they need to treat your companies time as valuable.”

According to Sinclair, the GPS function of the ELD has already proven useful, hearing stories about truck drivers who have crashed and have been located because of their ELD.

“The positive effects of ELDs on the truck transport industry far outweigh any issues they can cause.”

Another use for the GPS aspect of the device that Sinclair has observed is for families to keep track of their loved ones, knowing where they are on the road and when they can make it home.

U.S. regulators began phasing in ELDs in December 2017.