RAISING HOPES: Canadian carriers are considering a mileage rate increase due to new HOS and increased border waits. Photo by Ingrid Phaneuf
TORONTO, Ont. – Are new hours of service regulations and the resulting decline in driver productivity south of the border resulting in pay raises for Canadian drivers?
The new rules require that time for rest breaks and loading delays be counted as on-duty time, significantly reducing driver pay, as most drivers are paid per mile.
In the U.S., truckload carriers J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Heartland Express and Schneider have already announced they will increase driver mileage rates in 2004 to compensate drivers for lost pay as a result of the new rules.
But here in Canada, many carriers are still considering their options.
“We’re just now seeing how the changes impact our driver productivity,” said Enno Jakobson, vice-president of risk management for Challenger Motor Freight.
“We do want something that’s consistent with what’s going on in the market, but at the same time we want to make sure that our customers are all on board and paying their fair share.”
Challenger already pays its drivers a flat fee for crossing the border due to the time-consuming waits at U.S. Customs, Jakobson said.
“We’re also re-evaluating that,” he said.
“But chances are, if there’s a rate increase it will be for mileage.”
The company will have a more concrete idea of its pay package for drivers at the end of March, Jakobson said.
“We’ll have a better idea of how the new rules have impacted productivity by then,” he said.
Bison Transport president Don Streuber was similarly non-committal about HOS-related rate increases.
“We’re tracking the impact of the new hours of service, so we won’t comment on the issue of raises for now,” said Streuber, adding Bison is already one of the “leading wage bearers in most markets.”
“Companies who haven’t been paying their drivers fairly are probably going to use the new rules as an excuse for playing catch up,” Streuber said.
Raises or no, the key to making drivers lives tolerable will be reducing the time they spend waiting at the docks, said Evan MacKinnon, CEO of MacKinnon Transport Inc., whose drivers often make multiple deliveries.
“A lot of time can be wasted at shippers’ and receivers’ facilities, and that’s really where the problem lies,” MacKinnon said.
“So it’s not just about pay. The driver’s not content to just sit there either.
“Paying the driver while ignoring he problem of the wait times isn’t the solution.
“We’ve had some success talking with our customers about how hours of service affects our drivers and getting them to adopt practices that best use their time when they’re at their facilities.”
That said, the company was just beginning wage negotiations when Truck News interviewed MacKinnon.
“Wage negotiations with our drivers typically begin in February and become effective in April,” MacKinnon said.
“And there is a chance there will be some minor changes to the pay package this year.”
But does that mean more moolah per mile for drivers? MacKinnon said the company was “anticipating a slight increase in the mileage rate” for drivers.
Indeed, the U.S. trend toward a mileage rate increase as a result of the new hours of service, does seem to be gaining some – if only a small – foothold north of the 49th.
McBurney Transport Ltd. which specializes in general freight, and regularly hauls everything from lumber to drywall, to steel, food and even hazmat and explosives across the border to Detroit, raised its mileage rates Jan. 1.
“We went from U.S. $ 0.37 to 0.39 per mile and from CAN $0.39 to $0.41,” said CEO Brian McBurney.
But the company doesn’t yet pay a stipend to drivers who carry into the U.S.
“There’s some indication they’d like one (a fee for transborder driving) and it’s something we’re looking at,” said McBurney. n