We have a curious and often disjointed way of introducing new technology and agreed upon rules to regulate trucking in North America, and there are several current examples that illustrate that point....
We have a curious and often disjointed way of introducing new technology and agreed upon rules to regulate trucking in North America, and there are several current examples that illustrate that point. Let me offer a few for consideration.
Here in Canada we have a process for developing and implementing common, safety-related rules across all jurisdictions and doing it in unison. As we all know from experience, this process seldom works to the extent it should. Current situations with implementation of hours-of-service and trip inspections are prime examples.
All Canadian jurisdictions were to implement the federal hours-of service standard on a common date with various educational enforcement periods. This standard was, as everyone knows, developed over many years and impossible to count hours of discourse. At long last government and industry agreed on what constituted good, safe business practice that simultaneously addressed the current science on the subject of fatigue.
Agreement was also reached on an implementation date – but with some jurisdictions that date has gone by the board. There remain jurisdictions that have not implemented the standard and some that are creating new exemptions.
But the difficulty with updating and implementing hours-of-service rules isn’t uniquely Canadian. The embattled US HoS regulations are still being fought over in the courts between interested parties such as Public Citizen and the FMCSA – several years after having been passed into law.
And, assuming that the rhetoric gets toned down and at some point in the near future the US rules will actually be implemented, crossborder carriers from both countries will still find themselves operating under distinctly different hours-ofservice rules when they enter their neighbouring country.
Continuing the theme, the new trip inspection standards in Canada were launched July 1, 2007 with a six-month educational period that was to lead to full enforcement as of Jan. 1, 2008. Despite that agreement, as of last October nine jurisdictions had yet to confirm their implementation dates, with forecasted schedules ranging from the spring of 2008 to January, 2009.
Most responsible carriers will have held to the original schedule for implementation of the Trip Inspection Standard and made the necessary adjustments in time to meet the original Jan. 1, 2008 date. But knowing the way implementation schedules actually work, I wonder if they will be as prompt to re-organize their operations the next time a ‘deadline’ is announced.
Yet another example of the disconnect between legislators and implementers is the debacle over admitting Mexican carriers into the United States, something that was to have happened under NAFTA many years ago. This battle has been fought between the Administration, Congress, the Teamsters and various border states for years and doesn’t appear to be close to resolution.
The smoke screen being used by the ‘anti’ faction is concerns about safety, which is more likely doublespeak for their worries about job protection.
Back on the Canadian side of the border, we are engaged with debate about the need and value of mandated speed limiters for trucks. Some jurisdictions and their transportation ministers are vocally flirting with requiring them, others are sitting on the sidelines to see where it all ends up, and some are increasing speed limits on certain roadways. Some are busy writing the proposed regulations, determined not to wait for the results of the wide-ranging Transport Canada study into the effectiveness of limiters that is due in the spring of this year.
But perhaps the most curious, yet least discussed enigma of them all involves the use of on-board computers. Responsible carriers are spending their own money to add this equipment to their trucks in order to accurately monitor all manner of performance items – mechanical, electrical, and human – to ensure that the vehicle operates within standard and the driver within the law. Responsible drivers have embraced the technology as one more way to demonstrate that they are professionals who abide by the hours-of-service regulations.
Anyone (including inspectors) can view the driving record on the in-cab screen and determine whether the driver is in compliance with hours-of-service regulations. So with the industry investing its money in equipment and training to ensure compliance, why is it that inspectors continue to insist that drivers prepare a hand-written log? Electronic logs are virtually infallible and can no longer be considered cutting edge or experimental technology and yet enforcement officials regularly refuse to recognize them as valuable tools for ensuring compliance.
Between reluctant ministries and enforcement officials in Canada, and differing factions in the United States, there are lots of sticks being stuck in the spokes of the trucking industry.
– The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Your comments or questions can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.