Industry Quibbles Over Hours of Service

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TORONTO, Ont. – Thanks to what some Canadian trucking industry insiders are describing as inaccurate reporting on the part of the national media and a misunderstanding on the part of Teamsters representing Canadian truck drivers, the debate over Canadian hours of service regulations has once again reared its head.

A story which appeared on the front page of the Nov. 8 edition of The Globe and Mail misrepresented the meaning of the 18-hour working window being considered by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, explained Graham Cooper, senior vice-president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).

“The article was really very inaccurate,” Cooper said. “In no way does the 18-hour window alter the agreement about driving hours made with the Teamsters in 2001.”

In the Globe and Mail article, Teamsters Canada head Robert Bouvier said an agreement between various trucking industry stakeholders released in a communique in 2001 was being violated by the new 18-hour window consideration. The original agreement was to a 14-hour working window, in which 13 hours could be driven.

But in the 18-hour work window proposal, which was being considered by Transport Canada, and which drew so much fire, the 13 hours of driving was unchanged.

It seems the debate was really over the extra four-hour non-driving working window that was tacked on for consideration.

According to Bouvier, and according to the Globe and Mail article, the extra four hours of non-driving time is a potential threat to the safety of drivers and people who share the road with them.

“I would not want to be on the highway when a guy is coming with his rig when he’s got to the last 100 klicks (of an 18-hour day) and he’s just stepping on it even though he’s dead tired,” Bouvier said in the Globe and Mail article.

Bouvier explained Teamsters, Transport Canada and other industry leaders, like the CTA, agreed three years ago to the 14-hour (13 hours of driving) working window.

“They came back through the back door with this stupid, insensible thing,” he said to the Globe and Mail.

Bouvier did not return Truck West’s calls regarding his statements to the Globe and Mail. But Wayne Gibson director of the freight and tank haul division for the Teamsters did.

“Basically we had the deal for the 14-hour working window, and now they want to extend that by four hours,” said Gibson. “The problem is, a driver can’t rest for four hours unless he has a sleeper cab, and most of our guys don’t.”

But the extra four hours wasn’t just for resting, explained Cooper.

“It was for eating, stretching your legs and getting some fresh air too,” he explained. “It in no way increased the actual driving time. It just gives the driver more flexibility.”

Companies wouldn’t legally have the right to extend driving hours just because the working window is extended, Cooper said. He doubted companies would use the extra time to make their drivers wait longer at the docks for free.

“The trend in the industry now is to charge for waiting time (at the dock) after one hour,” said Cooper. “I doubt that companies will choose to give that time away.

“As for drivers, I’m sure that at three in the morning it’s a lot safer for them if they actually do have the time to stop and take a nap, even though they might have to wait at the dock as well.”

Even so, some industry insiders think an extra four hours is a bit too flexible.

“OBAC is not supporting the 18-hour working window,” said Joanne Ritchie executive director of the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada.

“As far as we’re concerned, it simply perpetuates the notion that the trucking industry should absorb the cost of externally imposed inefficiencies. Building more ‘flexibility’ into the proposed rule takes away the incentive for other parties in the logistics chain to do their jobs properly.

“We’ve been absorbing the inefficiencies in the supply chain for decades – why do we want to maintain that position, when a mechanism exists that could drive positive economic change for the industry?”

Ritchie doubts drivers will be in favour of the 18-hour window.

Truck West’s own poll, conducted over the past four weeks, also indicates luke warm reception of the 18-hour working window proposal. Only 28 per cent of respondents to the online poll (see page 26) supported it, with the remainder split between the current regulation and the 16-hour window also being considered.

“Drivers will not readily accept the prospect of being asked to give up an additional two hours per day under the guise of operational flexibility; more flexibility still doesn’t address unpaid delay time. We’d rather see carriers leveraging the tighter rules against increases in freight charges, or in getting better shipper cooperation and minimizing operating inefficiencies,” Ritchie said. In the end, the squabbling resulted in the CTA dropping its support of the 18-hour window.

“…we are no longer pursuing the 18-hour window,” said Cooper. “We always thought that this was the best option for drivers, as it would have allowed them to deal with delays without giving up valuable rest time, meal breaks, etc., especially bearing in mind that the current rules have no specified window, or maximum limit on time between core rests. This latter factor has gone largely unreported. However, the driver groups have made their views clear and we feel it is now time to move on to other issues, notably establishing a level playing field for carriers and drivers through the mandatory use of on-board recorders.”

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