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Hours-of-Service rules are a joke and aren’t enforceable – here’s why

I have always been a strong dissident of the current hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, both in the U.S. and in Canada.In recent years, many players in the HOS debate have begun to realize what any p...


DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer
DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer

I have always been a strong dissident of the current hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, both in the U.S. and in Canada.

In recent years, many players in the HOS debate have begun to realize what any professional driver has known all along – the HOS rules are totally inadequate.

The regulations are an absolute joke because they don’t work, they’re not enforceable, in many cases they’re hypocritical, and, most certainly, they aren’t respected.

But don’t take my word for it.

Al Smythe, president of the Alberta Trucking Association, states, “no two truckers are the same – some may be refreshed after only five hours rest, while others may need 10.”

Everybody is different, and trying to paint many individuals with one rigid set of rules is destined to fail, especially when it comes to personal matters such as fatigue and sleeping habits.

As Roger Clarke, executive director of highway safety for Alberta Infrastructure says, “this system is flawed because it’s inflexible and doesn’t take into account the varying ability of truckers to handle fatigue.”

The current HOS rules are also unenforceable; granted, the U.S. Department of Transportation would have you believe otherwise. Officials there think their increased presence on the road and in carriers’ offices screaming “due diligence” should increase compliance.

However, it is quite plausible that any individual can drive a rig, large motor home or personal vehicle clear across the country without any rest whatsoever, and not risk even a remote chance of getting caught. I know for a fact that at least 50 per cent of my fellow professional drivers not only fudge HOS rules, but also outright disregard them.

HOS rules are also very hypocritical, because if one were to follow them to the letter, they would actually create fatigue instead of relieve it.

The law enforcement community knows this, and so do the rule makers, such as the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. So not only are the rules hypocritical, but so are the people who enforce them.

Recently, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota suspended HOS regulations for fuel and propane haulers during the pre-Christmas cold snap.

Let me get this straight: professional drivers, loaded with toothpaste and diapers, driving in excellent conditions, can’t exceed their 60 hours limit – but professional drivers, loaded with propane, driving in heavy holiday traffic in terrible conditions, can. Huh? There are still more examples of hypocrisy.

Currently a professional driver in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Northwest Territories is permitted to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Unfortunately, with the exception of the oilfield industry, this only pertains to intra-provincial travel.

So the question I pose is this: If I can drive a huge bed truck, pulling an oversize load involved in the oilfield industry, 15 hours a day indefinitely – provided I don’t leave Alberta, Saskatchewan or N.W.T. why can I not drive a standard highway unit for the same time period, across provincial boundaries?

Also, loggers in several provinces are exempt from many aspects of the current HOS rules, despite hauling top-heavy, over-length loads. No wonder there is very little respect for HOS regulations.

Respect is something that has to be earned. The rules and the people who enforce them are unfortunately at the brunt of much of this disrespect.

If truck drivers don’t agree with or respect the law pertaining to HOS, then one would be quite naive to expect them to uphold it.

How then shall government amend the current HOS rules so they are respected, effective, enforceable, and not hypocritical?

The Owner/Operators Independent Drivers Association suggests the following.

It writes, “the final HOS rule must, first, protect drivers from being forced to drive during 10 hours each day.

“Secondly, be simple and easy to follow. And finally, give drivers the flexibility to split up their on- and off-duty time as necessary to get rest when they need it, adjust to the reasonable demands of the job, and deal with unpredictable conditions on the road.”

The CCMTA tabled a proposal over a year ago that was supposed to amend the HOS rules and solve many of these issues.

The proposal would allow professional drivers to work 14 hours per day, with a required 10 hours off-duty time.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has also tabled an amendment that would allow for a “floating” 24 hours on duty in any 48-hour period – permitting a driver to work a maximum 16 hours in one day and 12 the next.

My colleagues and I would strongly encourage the CCMTA to act on its proposal. It’s more than reasonable to permitting all drivers to work 14 hours: intra-provincially, inter-provincially and indefinitely. In the name of fair play it is important that all drivers be subject to the same amended rules, too. And that includes those of you in the oilfield and on the logging roads.

By doing so, HOS rules would catch up to the current reality of the trucking industry, promote respect, and may even work. n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and a monthly contributor to Truck News.


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