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Running south has become a less appealing option for drivers

The demand for drivers is concentrated in the long-haul category and US-bound drivers are particularly sought after. One of the main attractions to this profession is the opportunity to travel. Getting paid to be a professional tourist is a...

The demand for drivers is concentrated in the long-haul category and US-bound drivers are particularly sought after. One of the main attractions to this profession is the opportunity to travel. Getting paid to be a professional tourist is a dream come true for some.

After 15 years of running the US, the pattern of situations that can befall a Canadian trucker can become repetitious, folly and sometimes not worth the effort.

Running Florida every week was my dream as a rookie. It was hassle-free when dropping a load of peat moss or wood shavings and loading a straight load of citrus or tomatoes home.

Then came the push that forced me to walk away from that dream job. Multiple drops and pick-ups or returning the load to Montreal instead of Toronto would add up to 10 hours to the trip, which forced some ethical choices on how to execute the trip legally. It became a 6.5-day job instead of the usual 5.5-day job, not to mention getting dangerously close to not making it home before a reset.

The pay was not that much higher than if I had driven locally, so I cut my losses and gave up on the US.

It could have been the carriers or the product I was involved in that made the grind all that much more difficult. Getting axle weights correct was time consuming and would find me running on 50 gallons of fuel to stay legal, as not all fifth wheels and trailers were adjustable.

The US DoT had also informed me that 600 miles in 11 hours of driving was nearly impossible to achieve consistently.

I changed my interests to operating within Ontario and Quebec, not just for the sake of driving more hours, but also to enjoy the flexibility needed within the rules, to allow for dealing with real world situation that can, and will, occur to a driver. With the opportunity to extend one’s day with proper break periods or to break up one’s sleep when delayed, Canada’s HoS rules are functional while earning a living. There are minor differences in the freedom of movement between the two jurisdictions that do make a difference at the end of the week.

The recent changes to HoS in the US will likely further deter interest in running north-south.

So the US HoS are a little more regimented or augmented than the Canadian rules. One can still operate between 500-600 miles a day, if all goes well. It always has been a finer edge to walk and a less enjoyable job under the US rules, but still very workable for those who choose to.

Maybe the intent of the new US regs is part of a grand plan to deter out-of-country trucks in the hopes of spurring some employment numbers before election time, in the hopes that it will force companies to put more trucks and drivers on the road to remain compliant. Canada got it right with HoS and there just might be an obvious economic component here. The US version compromises 10-20 hours a week, since off-duty time cannot be banked, which cuts into profits or just simply makes it impossible to get the job done.

It’s not the lone deterrent to running stateside. I have been pulled over on two occasions for doing 67 mph in a 65 mph zone. I was once hand picked by a trooper behind me while travelling with the flow of traffic. I found this to be a little heavy-handed, as trucks don’t hold their set speeds perfectly. Grades and inertia do have a cause and effect relationship on the speed of a transport truck, so is it realistic for a driver to control the subtle changes within two miles per hour? Ohio recently raised its speed limit to 70 mph and the Ohio highway patrol was quick to announce that there will be no grace of five mph. It’s been over a decade since I ran stateside and it appears that some things never change, especially if your state is near bankrupt.

In 2009 to the end of 2010, New York City engaged in a pilot program funded by US DoT where 20 participants established an off-hour delivery program with delivery windows between 7 a.m. and 6 a.m. The idea here was that major cities could be replenished during the night and truck traffic in off-peak hours would be heading in the opposite direction as daytime traffic. It was a win-win for customers, commuters, truckers, and the environment.

It’s old news though, as trucks were always encouraged to get into NYC and out before sunrise. I used to get into NYC at 4 a.m. and out by 7a.m. as far back as 1983, so this was not a stroke of genius by the US DoT. Quite the opposite, since it took 25 years to think up the program.

The program is still active and participants are encouraged to sign on. European countries like Brussels also engage in off-peak delivery times as a logistical solution.

In March 2011, the Hamilton Spectator ran a piece titled ‘Steering clear of freight congestion,’ describing a McMaster University study where it was determined that traffic congestion is seriously hampering productivity in the region and if not dealt with, will be catastrophic in the future. Metrolinx called for truck-only lanes and tax incentives for off-peak deliveries. I can’t say much has happened since, as no one has pulled any levers to launch any pilot projects.

I like to compare the differences from one bustling metropolis to another, as there are countless logistical situations we can learn from. The driver shortage and daytime traffic. Given that the successes and failures are evident in this Tale of Two Cities, if you will, both parties remain willfully close-minded to solutions. What tail wags these two dogs?

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