Hours-of-service concept is deeply flawed

by Dave Holleman

Ever since the inception of formal Hours-of-Service regulations, there has been much controversy and debate surrounding them, and considerable discussion about how these regulations are insufficient and need to be changed. After many years, these changes are finally starting to take shape, and it looks like they could be shoved down our throats by next year.

In the last decade, trucks have become bigger, faster and more powerful, carrying more weight and covering more miles. There is more traffic on the road and the quality of drivers has generally gone downhill. The accident rate involving commercial vehicles has consistently dropped. This can be supported by the recent report published by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

So is the safety of the trucking industry a result of HOS rules and/or their enforcement? Hours-of-service regulations have been flawed from the beginning, and those changes to the rules that are proposed are not going to solve anything.

The regulations attempt to paint everybody with the same brush. An individual’s need for rest cannot be addressed with one set of vague regulations.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) actually acknowledges this in the discussion paper it has put forward. Still, it does not not draw any logical conclusions from it.

The HOS regulations, as they exist, are written without the driver in mind. Nowhere do they even acknowledge that professional drivers have different constraints placed upon them than an average employee.

The CCMTA does not recognize that HOS regulations limit a driver’s income by limiting the number of hours we can work. The CCMTA – in the name of safety – has taken some rather limited and questionable scientific research and has placed that over and above our fundamental, constitutional rights. Frankly, no council, committee or government has the right to limit our income, especially in a free, democratic society such as Canada.

If I and all my peers were to disregard any and all regulation concerning rest, would the national accident rate increase? It’s doubtful.

A driver’s safety can be directly linked to one thing – attitude. If a driver’s attitude is deficient concerning speed, road rage, rest, or anything pertaining to driving, the “powers that be” can pass regulations until they are blue in the face. You are still going to have an unsafe driver. A good driver with the proper attitude doesn’t need HOS regulations to know when he/she needs rest.

And despite the CCMTA’s best intentions, politics play a large role, especially when the federal government is consulting with all the provincial governments. The lobbying effort put forth by groups such as Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways (CRASH) and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), which tend to be “anti-truck” in their mandates, should also be acknowledged.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance does not necessarily represent the average owner/operator or driver. Nor does the ComCar Owner/Operators Association. They represent the members on their rosters.

The CCMTA makes a general assumption that driver fatigue is a problem, but it does not produce one stitch of information or evidence that fatigue-related accidents are actually a problem among professional drivers in Canada. The cited research comes from other countries.

The majority of fatigue-related accidents are the fault of the four-wheeler and not of the truck driver. I, personally, can attest to this, having shared the road with obviously fatigued four-wheelers.

The CCMTA assumes, wrongly, that by increasing the mandated rest period it is reducing a trucker’s workload. This is highly unlikely. The workload will stay the same (if not increase due to economic pressures) and our available time to complete a job will decrease.

This means that proposed rules could actually increase stress and fatigue.

Finally, the CTA’s concept of a 36-hour reset is totally foolish. Who in their right mind is going to spend 36 hours in some place where they don’t want to be, especially with “hot” freight sitting on their trailer? I propose no recap or reset of any kind. Leave it at the proposed 14 hours on duty and 10 hours off duty. No truck driver is going to work infinitely.

At best, the entire exercise is a misguided attempt to regulate social issues on the trucking industry. At worst, it’s a revenue-generating scheme that runs roughshod over individual rights in the supposed name of safety.n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator based in B.C.

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