Carrier Commentary

by Stephen Evans

Vice-president, loss control and regulatory compliance, H&R Transport Ltd.

Your publications are a well-respected source of news and information for the trucking industry and therefore I expect that you will be interested in a copy of a letter I have recently sent to the Federal Transport Minister.

It is amazing to me that there has not been more of a groundswell of outcry about these new rules. The final version was published in October and as we began to study the new provisions we were dismayed to find they appear to have been cooked up by a crazy scientist in a lab. As you will read below, they are way too complex, they will have a significant impact on the economy, and create yet another barrier to cross-border traffic.

A perfect example is the “reset” provision. In the US, drivers can reset their work cycle by taking 34 continuous hours off. For some reason, the new Canadian rules stipulate the reset in Canada must be 36 hours. That means any driver in the US taking a 34-hour reset, when they come into Canada will immediately be placed out of service. I can’t help speculating that the difference has nothing to do with sleep science, but is just an immature attempt to be different from our larger US neighbour.

As you might guess, the folks at Transport Canada, the CCMTA, and trucking associations who had a part in developing these new rules are circling the wagons and insisting that these must go forward because of all the time and effort already invested.

That seems a pretty weak argument to me. Surely in an industry that touches every Canadian life through the products they buy personally and the exports/imports our country depends upon, it is more important to get it right the first time. It also seems strange to me that trucking associations who are supposed to represent the interests of drivers and carriers are supporting a complex new set of rules that could reduce income by up to 18%.

In any event, our beef is not with what has gone on up to now. I’m sure all involved had the best intentions. We simply feel that their work should now go before the rank and file throughout Canada to get some feedback and comments from the folks on the ground.

Copies of our e-mail to Minister Cannon have gone to MPs in the ridings where we have terminals, and have also gone to opposition critics.

Likewise, we have sent copies of our e-mail to each of the provincial Ministers of Transport and requested they: do not change their Provincial rules to match the feds; do not enforce the new rules; and apply pressure on Minister Cannon to put the new rules on hold to allow consultations with industry and with the provinces.

Most of us in this business spend our days with our heads down trying to meet the challenges of keeping the wheels turning. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to keep up with, fully examine, or challenge new regulations created by the various levels of government. But as more and more drivers and carriers finally become aware of the full extent of these new federal Hours-of-Service regulations, I think you will hear a lot of grumbling and recognition that someone was asleep at the switch.

On with the letter:

Dear Minister Cannon:

Re: New Federal Hours-of-Service Regulations for Commercial Drivers

H&R Transport Ltd. is a medium-sized trucking company, with facilities across Canada, that specializes in the transportation of temperature-controlled food products throughout North America. We employ 600 staff and operate a fleet of 400 trucks with 1,200 trailers and intermodal containers. We haul for the some of the largest brand names in food and 40% of our traffic is cross-border.

As you are aware, the activities of truck drivers are governed by Hours-of-Service regulations which dictate how long they can drive and how much rest must be taken. Drivers keep track of their hours in a logbook, copies of which are turned into their employer who must monitor and follow up when the driver is not in compliance.

Some years ago, in an attempt to ensure the potential for fatigue-related accidents involving large trucks was minimized, the federal government decided to review and update the existing Hours-of-Service regulations. It has been a long and tedious process, but Transport Canada and the CCMTA (Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators) eventually developed a new set of regulations and they were gazetted with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2007. Although a draft of the new rules was announced some time ago, the process of fine tuning and making amendments continued throughout 2006 and the final version was only released a few weeks ago.

The intent has been that the new federal rules would apply to trucking companies that haul between provinces, and that each province would also enact “mirror” legislation that would apply to truckers that operated only within the province. Therefore there would be one set of Hours-of-Service regulations that would apply to all truckers throughout the country.

No doubt those involved in the process had the best of intentions, and the challenges of trying to bring about a consensus among all the provinces over one set of rules to cover a very diverse industry, must have been daunting.

We understand that representatives from several parts of the trucking industry had an opportunity to provide input as the new rules were being developed. Apparently even a number of trucking associations had given their approval of the new rules.

However, it seems to us that the process has been somewhat removed from the “real world.” In the last few weeks, as the average rank and file truck driver and trucking company has become familiar with new regulations, many of us have found them unworkable.

1. They are overly complex;

2. They will have a significant negative impact to the Canadian economy;

3. They do not compliment US HoS regulations.

At a time when many trucks sit idle because of a critical shortage of drivers; when skyrocketing costs of fuel and complexity of new environmental initiatives (new low emission engines, auxiliary power units, low sulfur fuel, etc.) has forced many truckers out of business; and when so much of the Canadian economy relies on trade with the US; these rules will batter an industry already under significant stress and will make it even more difficult to attract and/or keep staff. They will also affect shippers through significantly higher costs, increased delivery times, and legislated accountability for driver work assignments (which is an entirely new requirement for them).

We understand that Alberta has recently announced that it finds the new rules unworkable and will not be adopting them until more consultation takes place. Other provinces likewise appear to have cold feet as few have adopted the new rules even though they were supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1.

To further complicate matters, we understand that a recent review of the Canada Labour Code by HRSDC has resulted in suggestions that perhaps they should be taking the lead in governing hours of work for truck drivers.

Lastly, one would expect that the underlying reason for making any changes to HoS rules in the first place would be a concern about fatigue-related accidents.

However, none of the statistical accident information we are aware of seems to support a concern in this area. The few times where fatigue has been cited as the root cause, it would seem that the driver was tired because he/she had broken the rules, not that the rules themselves were the issue. Therefore, there does not appear to be an immediate need to rush new rules into place.

Based on the above, we would encourage your department to place a moratorium on this legislation and to put the implementation of the new regulations on hold to allow for more collaborative consultations and to build on the work that has already been done to date. It is important to get this right, and additional input from truckers will help
ensure all operational needs have been addressed.

We stand ready to offer whatever help and assistance you might require in this process.


Stephen Evans

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