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Canadians exempt from HAZMAT rules

OTTAWA, Ont. - Recently introduced background security checks for HAZMAT drivers south of the border don't apply to Canadian drivers, Transport Canada officials say.But how and when the rules will eve...

OTTAWA, Ont. – Recently introduced background security checks for HAZMAT drivers south of the border don’t apply to Canadian drivers, Transport Canada officials say.

But how and when the rules will eventually apply remains a mystery.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s David Bradley, the fate of Canadian and Mexican drivers under the new rules could be determined at an upcoming Senate hearing.

“The U.S. wasn’t thinking about foreign drivers when it brought in the rules, but it was thinking of security,” Bradley said.

“HAZMAT drivers there now have to have a special endorsement on their state-issued licenses (the deadline is Sept.2) to indicate they cleared background checks. But Canadian commercial drivers don’t even have background checks. They just get authorization through their carriers to carry dangerous goods, so the equivalent just isn’t there.”

According to Bradley, that means the latest HAZMAT rule won’t be enforced. Not officially at any rate, although many a driver has a story to tell about U.S. rules being mistakenly applied to foreigners.

“Initially, some confusion could happen,” admitted Brian Orrbine, head of the Motor Carrier Group’s Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate for Transport Canada.

“But eventually, once enforcement officials down there develop a better understanding of the rules, they’ll realize they just don’t apply to outsiders.”

In the meantime, carriers and independents have their own ideas about how Canada should deal with the situation.

Bradley, for his part, is cynical about the provinces being willing to issue security endorsements on drivers base-plated in their jurisdictions.

“I don’t think the provinces are going to be willing to get into that,” he said.

“Ideally they’d accept the tests already being administered for drivers of dangerous goods by carriers.”

Drivers feel differently, at least according to Peter Turner, spokesman for the Truckers’ Voice lobby group.

Drivers would be happy to have any and all required endorsements on their commercial drivers’ licenses, Turner said.

“Every time a driver goes to work for a new carrier, he has to write a test to carry dangerous goods. That’s time spent writing instead of on the road, time he doesn’t get paid for, and money lost. It would be better if he could write just one test no matter where he worked.”

Transport Canada officials, for their part, said they haven’t identified a single option as yet.

“We have to wait and see what the U.S. wants from us,” explained Orrbine. “But the important thing to understand is that this is a stand-alone issue. It’s not the sort of thing we can incorporate into the new MVTA safety fitness certificates. It’s about background security checks for drivers dealing with a specific kind of material.”

Orrbine pointed out Canadian drivers carrying explosives across the border are already required to have special certification.

“But that’s a temporary measure. We’ll definitely be dealing with this issue in the future.”

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