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Private Links: Don’t take the summer off

Some of you may have been planning a quiet summer period for your trucking operations, but there are some challenges that you need to be thinking about as implementation dates approach.


Bruce Richards

Bruce Richards


Some of you may have been planning a quiet summer period for your trucking operations, but there are some challenges that you need to be thinking about as implementation dates approach.

You may already have solutions to some of these well in hand – or think you do – but a review may be in order in any case.

The PMTC annual conference in June hosted a workshop on the Hours-of-Service regulations slated for Jan. 1.

Most of you will have had an opportunity to read these regulations, and even had input to them through your associations. Still others have already laid the groundwork for teaching drivers and dispatchers how to operate in the new environment.

But judging by the number of questions raised in the workshop most fleet operators lack a clear understanding of the new rules. Transport Canada and the industry are working together to compile a guide, which it is hoped will use plain language to answer many of the questions.

But what is plain language to one person is plainly not to another, so the best efforts of those involved may not provide all the guidance we need.

I encourage everyone who will be governed by the Hours-of-Service rules not to wait until year-end to ensure that you understand them. They are not as straightforward as everyone had hoped.

Another challenge that we have to look forward to, albeit more of a financial one, begins in the fall of this year. That is the impact of the new emissions regulations.

These fall into two parts: the requirement for using ultra low-sulfur fuel, followed by the implementation of new engine technology to reduce emissions even further.

In June of this year, ultra low-sulfur fuel became a requirement at the point of manufacture or the point of importation.

As of September, (with a possible delay until October), it will be required usage for on-road vehicles.

There are significant penalties for knowingly not complying – fines of up to $1M and jail terms of up to three years.

As for the engines, some fleets pre-bought in 2006 to delay the impact and expense of the new engine technology, but others such as those with truck leases that expire after January, or those who couldn’t acquire trucks in the pre-buying lead-up will feel the financial implications sooner. And the cost of compliance will be significant.

And who would have thought that a warning from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) could potentially have such devastating affects on trucking. When the impending Bird Flu pandemic hits North America PHAC forecasts that up to 30% of the workforce could be off the job at any given time.

The pandemic is expected to hit in two ‘waves’ each lasting for six to eight weeks in a community, and those affected will either be ill themselves, at home looking after family members who are ill, or simply too afraid to come to work where they could mingle with people who have the flu.

A 30% drop in the workforce will of course impact Canada’s economy on a macro scale, but individual fleet managers need to consider action plans on a more local level – how will they keep the freight moving when a large proportion of their drivers, dock hands and others are off the job?

Transport Canada is working with the industry to develop action plans that can be implemented on a broad scale to ensure that essential goods (food, medicine, etc) keep moving, and at the same time they are developing strategies that will be useful for fleets or companies in creating their own action plans.

Keep an eye on the Transport Canada and Health Canada Web sites for information, or of course, contact your association for help in this area.

More immediately and closer to home, Quebec and Ontario have implemented non-smoking regulations that affect provincially-regulated companies.

With a few exceptions, smoking in the cab of the truck is now illegal – it’s a workplace after all.

Some companies have seized the opportunity to implement non-smoking policies throughout their operations; others have been slower to react.

Our advice to those who fall under provincial authority is to understand your responsibilities and ensure that you communicate the rules clearly to all your employees.

There will undoubtedly be disgruntled drivers and some resulting affects on delivery schedules – but the law is the law. And all this comes when we thought the shortage of qualified truck drivers was our biggest problem. Enjoy your summer.

-The PMTC is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Your comments can be addressed to trucks@pmtc.ca


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