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Is Hours-Of-Service Harmonization in Jeopardy?

CALGARY, Alta. - As the trucking industry prepared for new Hours-of-Service regulations with the turn of the calendar to 2007, a handful of provinces postponed plans to implement the new rules on a pr...

Bob Dolyniuk'With old rules, new rules, soft enforcement...will anybody be able to enforce anything?'

Bob Dolyniuk

'With old rules, new rules, soft enforcement...will anybody be able to enforce anything?'

CALGARY, Alta. – As the trucking industry prepared for new Hours-of-Service regulations with the turn of the calendar to 2007, a handful of provinces postponed plans to implement the new rules on a provincial level.

In November, the Alberta government announced more time was necessary to usher in the new laws, halting a plan to have all provinces and territories in line with the same legislation.

“The province encourages a collaborative approach to developing government policy and regulations,” stated Ty Lund, Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation. “To ensure proposed changes to Alberta’s commercial Hours-of-Service regulation meet the need to manage driver fatigue and the operational needs of operators, additional consultation with industry is necessary.”

The news of the Alberta government delaying legislation to mirror the federal regulations, which will be in place Jan. 1 took the Alberta Motor Transport Association by surprise.

“Overwhelmingly the industry is disappointed; they wanted to see one standard across the country and across the provinces,” said Mayne Root, executive director with the AMTA. “Our members are disappointed in the provincial government because we wanted one rule.”

With the delay of the provincial legislation, two different sets of rules will govern Hours-of-Service in Alberta. Carriers with trucks (even just one truck) that operate outside of its base province are legislated by the federal rules. Carriers that operate solely within the confines of the province they are based in will be able to run on the old rules.

“The recently announced decision to isolate this province with unique, non-standard Hours-of-Service regulations has placed Alberta businesses in the difficult situation of having to deal with two very different sets of rules for provincially- and federally-regulated carriers and has created a distinct disadvantage for federally-regulated carriers in Alberta to compete in their operations within the province,” stated Henry VanSteenbergen, president of Legal Freight Services and of the AMTA.

The new federal rules will reduce driving time for commercial drivers from 16 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period, reduce the daily maximum on-duty time from 16 to 14 hours, and increase the minimum off-duty time from eight to 10 hours.

The two-tiered system will ultimately have an effect on drivers, carriers and enforcement officials as they interpret and adjust to two different sets of rules.

“The provincial carriers will just stay with the old rules until they are forced to change,” Root told Truck News. “One of the reasons these changes were planned is a lot of provincial rules did not meet scientific requirements of rest.”

The AMTA, which represents 13,000 for-hire trucking companies, appealed to the federal government to delay implementing the federal rules in an effort to avoid having different legislation.

“Nope, impossible, can’t do it. There was a bit of research done to find out if it was possible and it was determined it wasn’t,” explained Roger Clarke, chair of compliance and regulatory affairs with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

As some carriers prepare for a new set of regulations and other carriers wait out the delayed implementation date, there are still other camps that are working to stop the new rules altogether.

H&R Transport, a medium-sized fleet based in Lethbridge, Alta., has e-mailed copies of a letter to Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Infrastructure, Transportation and Communities, as well as to all MPs and opposition critics where the carrier has terminals (See pg. 19).

The e-mail was also sent to each of the provinces’ Transport Ministers requesting that provincial rules do not change to match federal rules, new rules are not enforced and to put the new rules on hold to allow further consultations with the industry and with the provinces.

An owner/operator with Bison Transport has also taken issue with the new regulations and the inflexibility of the 16-hour work day. Robert Podolsky, a licensed driver since 1981, would like to see a grassroots movement among drivers opposing the new regulations.

“I’d like to see a review of the 16-hour rule; it has a bad effect on the ability to complete 13 hours of driving,” Podolsky told Truck News. “If a driver is closing his day down waiting for a road to open, but he hasn’t completed his 13 hours that’s not fair.”

Podolsky is not pushing for longer Hours-of-Service rules for drivers, but added that if extra time is needed on the road to reach all potential driving hours, it takes away from time that should be spent at home.

“We can only afford to be at home a certain number of days. If you take off-duty time on the road, you’re not getting paid. When he gets home he doesn’t have that window of two days anymore,” Podolsky explained. “I don’t have a problem with compliance, I just have a problem with them taking away our time at home.

“I can accept these rules or get the heck out of the industry; those are the two choices I have,” he added. “All it’s going to do is force people to cheat. They’re asking for safer highways but this isn’t going to do it.”

More than a decade ago the CCMTA began studying the effects of driver fatigue in relation to accidents. Shortly after, a consultative process began to develop new Hours-of-Service regulations in an attempt to create safer highways.

The time-consuming task involved a wide range of stakeholders from industry, labour, government, scientific experts, government and enforcement. In November 2005, the new set of HoS regulations was published in the Canada Gazette Part II with an implementation date of Jan. 1, 2007. Following a review period, the CCMTA continued to work on the regulations into 2006 before finalizing all aspects of the new rules. Each province and territory was expected to adopt the same set of regulations as the federal rules, creating one harmonized rule across the country.

Due to the timing of legislature sessions and changes in provincial governments, not all provinces will be able to meet the Jan. 1 timeframe.

“There may be as many as five jurisdictions that can’t meet the provincial deadline,” explained Clarke. “There was always the notion that by the time we finished the regulations for federal Hours-of-Service and by the time we put everything together to get it to the provinces we would be behind. For example, the normal timeframe in Quebec to pass legislation is about 10 months. So we had some doubts months ago.”

New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, joined Alberta in postponing the adoption of a new set of provincial HoS rules. None of the jurisdictions has set a date for bringing in the new legislation, but Clarke expects everything to be in line during the first half of 2007.

“With the six-month transitional or soft or educational period, it will give provinces time to get regulations in place and you won’t see the unlevel playing field that has been talked about,” he explained. “I’m sure by six months all the provinces will have the regulations in place.”

The six-month transition period has been allocated for carriers, drivers and enforcement officials to adjust to the new federal regulations. During the phase-in period, drivers are expected to comply with the new regulations, but enforcement officers will not be going out of their way to fine every trucker they come across.

That’s the idea behind the educational period, but it has raised some questions.

“It becomes an enforcement issue, is it fair to enforce rules on inter-provincial carriers and how can you tell on the roadside?” said Bob Dolyniuk, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association. “With old rules, new rules, soft enforcement, the question is will anybody be able to enforce anything?”

Out on the East Coast the delayed situation evolved after a government change and was not as unexpected as in Alberta.

New Brunswick had a changing of the guard in its
provincial legislature when the provincial Liberal Party took the legislative reigns in October following a provincial election. With the new government in place, all documents were put to a review committee before being given the go-ahead.

Although the news was somewhat disappointing to the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association it was not completely unexpected.

“There was some thought that it could happen (the delay) as governments tend to review all documents when they take over,” said Peter Nelson, executive director with the APTA.

“Our carriers are ready to go and they’ll start work under the new Hours-of-Service rules anyway. We’ll be ready to go before the government is.”

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