Hours of Service Delays – they would be “criminal” if they weren’t so “Canadian”

I could call what’s happening with the new hours of service legislation in Canada right now “criminal” if there were not a better description for it: totally and utterly “Canadian”.
As you’ve likely heard Ontario has moved ahead with implementing the new rules as of January 1 as have PEI and Newfoundland. But Nova Scotia and the Yukon can’t move ahead with the new rules till Feb. 1; B.C., Manitoba, New Brunswick and Quebec won’t get to it till March 1; Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories won’t have them in place till April 1 (April Fool’s Day); but the real joke is in Alberta, where no one is quite sure what will happen.
While we wait for Alberta to make up its mind, two different sets of rules will govern hours of service in the province. Carriers with trucks (even just one truck) that operate outside of their base province will be legislated by the federal rules. Carriers that operate solely within the confines of their base province will be able to run on the old rules, until Alberta decides what it wants to do.
As I said, after 10 years of study, consultation and preparation the fact that all the provinces can’t agree on one date to implement the new legislation – or in the case of Alberta even agree on the legislation — would border on the “criminal” in my mind if it weren’t so typically “Canadian.” It seems we can’t agree on any national strategy because we have given too much power to provincial leaders more interested in protecting their own fiefdoms than concentrating on what’s best for the country or for businesses across the country. We did the same damn thing with the cargo securement legislation a couple of years ago, allowing provincial quirks to slip into what should be nationally uniform legislation.
Of course, the cry from many in favor of delaying the new hours of service rules is that more study and consultation are necessary. Give me a break! How much study do we need to do? I’ve got studies and reports from Transport Canada on this going back to the mid 90s; I’ve got education material from the Canadian Trucking Alliance from that time as well; and similar studies from the US Department of Transportation going back even further.
The consultative process that ran for years included stakeholder input from industry, labour, government, scientific experts, government and enforcement. Folks, we’ve studied driver fatigue and how to best address it legislatively through hours of service to death.
The reality is there is no perfect legislation because until trucks are driven by robots it will be darn near impossible to legislate people as to when they should feel tired and when they should sleep. But since we can’t have a system where we allow people to drive for as long as they want (or for as long as their bosses or customers demand them to) we need to have legislation that at least attempts to take into consideration the modern-day realities of driving and the human need for rest.
The current legislation is most certainly not perfect. The legislations the Americans put in to place a few years ago is also not perfect. But considering the impossibility of getting perfect legislation on such an issue, having the current legislation enacted in uniform fashion across the country is a hell of a lot better – and I would say safer – than a dog’s breakfast of implementation periods and the subsequent “soft” educational periods. And it is certainly a lot better than asking drivers and carriers to maneuver their way through a minefield of different regulatory quirks in each province.

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With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.

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