In the Dark?

by James Menzies

OTTAWA, Ont. – The U.S. has given the nod to an energy bill that will extend daylight savings time by one month, but that has Canadian carriers wondering if they’ll be left in the dark.

The extension of daylight savings time is slated to take effect in March, 2007. The idea is to extend daylight savings by four weeks (three in the spring and one in the fall) in order to lessen household energy consumption during the evenings.

Studies have found that extending daylight savings during the spring could reduce household electricity use by one per cent in March and April, saving about 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Proponents of the move also say it could result in fewer traffic accidents and lower crime rates, but opponents say there’s little evidence to support that theory.

Regardless, Canadian transportation officials warn that if Canada doesn’t follow suit, there could be huge implications for airlines as well as trucking companies that specialize in just-in-time deliveries.

Canadian trucking companies have expressed concern that being out of sync with our largest trading partner could lead to confusion and chaos.

Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) president David Bradley has appealed to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Paul Martin’s office to consider following suit if the U.S. proceeds with its energy saving plan.

Following consultations with carriers, Bradley said “The prevailing view of the trucking industry is that it would be better to be in sync with our largest trading partner and customer than to not be.”

Bradley told McGuinty and Martin that: “I have been watching with interest the media reports over the past several days concerning the possible extension of daylight savings time in the United States. My understanding is that the proposal is contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which is currently at the conference stage in the US Congress. It is always difficult to gauge whether a particular measure will make it out of conference and into a final bill for the President’s signature, and this case is no exception. However, I have been hearing from motor carriers from across Canada expressing concerns about what would happen if the proposal were to become law.”

Bradley went on to say scheduling problems could occur if Canada maintains the status quo and pickup and delivery times for cross-border shipments would have to be re-calibrated to account for the time difference.

“This scenario is bound to lead to confusion and misunderstandings,” Bradley said. “With tight scheduling windows at shipping and receiving docks, there is little tolerance for error, and accessorial charges can be imposed for missing these windows.”

The OTA says the timing is also bad, as it coincides with a myriad of regulatory changes that drivers and carriers are still coming to grips with.

Canadian shippers agree that Canada should follow in the U.S.’s footsteps.

“Because the U.S. economy is 10 times bigger than ours, if they do make the change it makes sense for us to follow because our economies are so tightly wound together we should both be on the same time system,” Bob Ballantyne, president of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association told Truck West.

However, he noted there could be some costs incurred for transportation companies.

“The downside is similar to the famous Y2K situation where there’s a whole lot of electronic equipment with clocks in it where it automatically changes to daylight savings time and back to standard time, so all of those would have to be changed,” he pointed out.

In Saskatchewan, there is no daylight savings time so carriers from there are used to adjusting their schedules accordingly. Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) executive director Hank Wolbaum says while the province is often out of sync with neighbouring jurisdictions, he would like to see more uniformity.

“If the U.S. moves ahead with this decision it will definitely have an effect on our industry with the advent of just-in-time delivery that has been implemented within the last 20 years or so,” he admits. “With respect to Saskatchewan, what I’d like to see is a unified system throughout all the Prairie provinces so that we’re running on the same legislation and same guidelines.”

Wolbaum adds that if the U.S. proceeds with its plan and Canada maintains its current system, “inevitably there will be some type of confusion, whether on behalf of the carrier or a shipper or supplier. But somebody at some point in time is not going to be completely cognizant of the time changes and will have a time commitment placed upon them that can’t be met.”

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