Productivity will be an issue in 2005 as carriers adjust to new hours of service regulations in Canada and the outcome of the court challenge of US regulations.
The new Canadian hours of service regulations, expected to be in place early next year, include new restrictions on daily/weekly driving times and a 24% increase in daily rest time for drivers compared to the existing rules. This will require motor carriers to give up some flexibility and productivity for certain shipments, especially in long hauls and multi-stop deliveries.
Meanwhile the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has dropped its pursuit of an 18-hour work window. The controversial and at times misunderstood proposal would not have altered the proposed daily limits on driving but it failed to garner sufficient stakeholder support. So at November’s end, CTA called instead for the immediate adoption of the draft regulations as already endorsed by the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation & Highway Safety, which include a 16-hour work window.
Under the current draft regulation a driver must get all of his driving and working time in within 16 hours of coming on duty. If a driver is working the maximum hours (14), this leaves only two additional hours for breaks, delays, naps, etc.
“For many drivers where delays at shipper/consignee facilities have become an unfortunate but regular occurrence, this eats directly into the driver’s productive time. This not only risks eating into the driver’s earning potential, but it also discourages drivers from stopping to rest and to take breaks for meals, hygiene, etc.,” CTA CEO David Bradley said. “The (18-hour work window) proposal, if adopted, would have avoided a situation where drivers would be penalized for taking more than the prescribed daily rest time.”
Teamsters however fought the proposal, albeit in a fashion the CTA charged misrepresented its position. The Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada (OBAC) also refused to support it.
“As far as we’re concerned, it simply perpetuates the notion that the trucking industry should absorb the cost of externally imposed inefficiencies. Building more ‘flexibility’ into the proposed rule takes away the incentive for other parties in the logistics chain to do their jobs properly. We’ve been absorbing the inefficiencies in the supply chain for decades – why do we want to maintain that position, when a mechanism exists that could drive positive economic change for the industry?” said Joanne Ritchie, executive director of OBAC.
Meanwhile, a cloud continues to hang over the future of the new US HoS regulations, a key issue for Canadian carriers with a considerable amount of their revenues coming from hauls into the US. After motor carriers spent millions retraining their drivers on the new regulations, they were deemed illegal by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which stated the government “neglected to consider a statutorily mandated factor of the impact of the rule on the health of the drivers.” To prevent the chaos sure to ensue, US Congress stepped in Sept. 30 and extended the rules for a period of one year. It’s unlikely, however, the rules will be maintained in their existing form past that one-year period, according to many in the industry.
“The way the regulations were developed and eventually challenged in court, has made it awfully hard to manage any kind of changes within our business. We had a significant change of operations planned within Roadway Express that would have greatly helped our productivity and eliminated relay handling within our LTL operation for close to 20% of our freight. Knowing the legislation is up in the air, however, we can’t make permanent changes and so we put it on hold,” said James Staley, CEO of Roadway Group.
Russell Gerdin, who heads up Heartland Express, often referred to as one of the best managed trucking companies on the continent, said while high freight volumes have dampened the impact of more restrictive hours of service south of the border in 2004, “the long term of this is going to be another capacity question.”
On either side of the border, carriers will be pressed to stress to their customers the importance of reducing the time drivers are forced to wait to be loaded and unloaded.
“Carriers and drivers will be even less tolerant of delays,” Bradley emphasized. “And, they deserve to be paid for delays and the extra services we provide.”
CTA also called for the mandatory use – for all trucks governed by the National Safety Code and where a commercial drivers licence is required – of electronic on-board monitoring technologies. Similar legislation may be coming into force in the US.
Bradley said it is “imperative from a safety point of view, which of course is paramount, but also in terms of providing responsible carriers with a level playing field with competitors who might otherwise choose to bend or break the rules to increase driving time.
“The days of the paper log book should be numbered,” Bradley added. “CTA is urging the federal and provincial governments to commence negotiations with CTA to enter into a joint government-industry memorandum of understanding on how best to make this a reality.”