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Service trucks crunched for time under HoS rules

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Service truck operators working in the logging sector have tipped the scales and are being pressed for time under the new federal hours-of-service regulations.

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Service truck operators working in the logging sector have tipped the scales and are being pressed for time under the new federal hours-of-service regulations.

Service trucks travelling out into the bush to perform maintenance on logging equipment and logging trucks have been getting larger over the years. As technology advances on the hauling tractors, an increasing amount of specialized equipment is required to service the log trucks (as well as other logging equipment) which also adds extra weight to the service trucks.

“If you look how pick-ups are being built they’re close to the GVW that falls under HoS regulations, and once you throw a toolbox in the back or a welding kit, they’re definitely over the 5,000 kg limit,” said Rick Publicover, executive director with the Central Interior Logging Association (CILA).

Under the federal HoS rules, any truck weighing in excess of 5,000 kg being used for commercial purposes must adhere to the regulations. Trucks weighing more than 14,600 kg or outfitted with more than two axles are required to do a written pre-trip inspection as well, but the real concern in the logging industry is the hours-of-service requirement.

“Where the rub is, is often mechanics who drive a couple of hours out into the bush to work on a piece of equipment will work for 12 hours and then drive home, but they’re over the federal hours-of-service rules,” Publicover told Truck News. “They’re really not in the business of transporting goods, but they’re falling into that category.”

After discussing the issue with its membership, CILA has begun canvassing for a different set of regulations to govern service trucks.

“These rules are designed for commercial drivers,” noted Publicover. “The issue is if you have a service truck, they’re not driving all day. The purpose of the vehicle is to get to work and back, so they should be dealt with differently than commercial drivers.”

The CVSA branch in B.C. has undertaken a ‘soft enforcement’ period, which will run until June 30. The CILA has been working with other associations and the CVSA in an effort to rectify the situation before the end of June.

Another regulation the CILA is attempting to have changed is the implementation of Cycle 2, which is a CVSA requirement for logging drivers.

Under the HoS regulations, Cycle 2 puts log haulers on a seven-day cycle, which according to Publicover can create problems.

“If your equipment is mudded out and you can’t drive, then you lose your hours that week,” he explained. “We think a one-week cycle is too short, if it were a 14-day cycle it would be more appropriate. That is something else we’re trying to pursue changes on.”

Open dialogue

On May 1, four logging associations sat down with Forestry Minister Rich Coleman for what will be the first in a series of quarterly meetings with the minister and senior officials.

Representatives from the CILA, the Interior Logging Association, the Northwest Logging Association and the Truck Loggers Association began the talks by outlining the importance of the industry to the minister.

“In terms of annual payroll, the log harvest sector sits at about $2 billion; and about 97% of B.C.’s harvest is done by independent contractors. It’s a huge dollar investment the industry has,” noted Publicover. “A number of communities – probably about 300 – are invested through harvest activity. These dollars go through those forest-dependent communities and are a real lifeblood to those communities.”

Through 2,300 firms, there are approximately 28,000 employees in B.C. working as loggers and truckers. The mills meanwhile, employee approximately 21,000 people throughout the province.

One issue the associations discussed with the minister was the proposed changes to Bill13.

“It was enacted in 1991 to level the playing field for loggers and truckers. With the capital investment these contractors have it’s important they have security,” explained Publicover. “It’s some insulation and protection against unfair practices by the large forestry licensees; because they have the timber licences.”

Increasing consolidation

Since 1991, there has been increasing consolidation among the mills. A study released by a US firm revealed that among the top 20 softwood timber producers, there has been an increase in consolidation rates of 42%, while at the same time a 13% decrease in mill facilities.

“It’s more prudent now to have this regulation in place to protect the contractors,” added Publicover. “It’s pertinent, now more than ever, due to the increased consolidation of the mills.”

The CILA executive director welcomed the opportunity to speak personally with the minister and senior officials; and noted the importance of being able to provide input and ideas on the front end of issues rather than the back end.

“As a whole the four associations represent member companies of the 28,000 workers and need a strong voice in Victoria to articulate issues as they come forward. As well, we provide a voice to get a message out to the members,” he added. “It’s important to have ongoing dialogue to provide input to government and government representatives can provide information that we can disseminate to our membership.”

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