Sun setting on H-o-S reform

by John Curran

OTTAWA, Ont. – After months, if not years, of wrangling, the federal transport committee has endorsed the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) proposed changes to the Hours-of-Service regime.

The proposal, including the Canadian Trucking Alliance(CTA)/Teamsters amendment capping consecutive daily driving hours at 13, is not yet law, mind you, and won’t be until after it is endorsed by the provinces.

“Although the battle of getting a modernized H-o-S regime is not yet won, getting the proposal through committee essentially intact is a major victory,” says CTA chief executive officer David Bradley.

“The last few weeks saw considerable behind the scenes work by CTA staff and members in trying to (solidify) support for the proposal.”

Countless telephone calls and meetings with MPs and staffers were needed to answer lingering concerns and questions, he explains.

“I would also like to thank those provincial managers and those carriers who took the time to call key members of parliament to explain the importance of new H-o-S rules for our industry and for our drivers,” Bradley adds. “There is no doubt in my mind that this concerted effort was instrumental in getting the committee to support the proposal – we have been told that by committee members.”

The actual report from the transport committee was tabled in the House on June 14 and, according to the CTA, it recommends that the transport minister send the proposal back to CCMTA for final disposition with only one amendment. (That being the previously mentioned cap on drive time.)

The Committee has also recommended the government conduct a review of the effectiveness of the new rules within an unspecified period of time (probably three to five years).

What’s included

The so-called 14/10 proposal, one of the new duty cycles open to truckers under the coming changes, will allow truckers to drive a total of 13 hours a day with a maximum of 14 hours on-duty. Although there would be a slight increase in driving time, on-duty limits are actually being tightened from the currently permitted 15 hours.

As well, off-duty requirements under the new proposal force truckers to break for eight hours of solid sack time, in addition to taking two other short breaks.

At the end of a driver’s duty cycle, they would also be forced to take 36 hours off to reset their H-o-S to zero. In accordance with all of the scientific research, this allows two nights of sleep to recover any sleep debt accrued over the week.

Much has been said about sleep debt of late in all media sources. As the world speeds up it’s a fact facing the entire population.

Here’s all you really need to know.

Your body needs eight hours of straight rest per night to function properly.

Get less and you may be OK the next day, but your body doesn’t forget you short-changed it.

Say you only get six hours per night between Monday and Friday – come Saturday you’ll owe a debt of 10 hours. The result is you’ll need two straight nights of sleep that won’t be much longer, but are much deeper, than usual.

While there have been critics of the proposed 84-hour, seven-day cycle – trucker Paul Patton’s one-man crusade comes to mind – you have to ask yourself one simple question when weighing the change.

What’s better, 84 hours on with 36 hours off or 104 hours on with only 24 hours off?

Thanks to the modern miracle of cycle-switching – which would be curtailed as part of the proposed changes – that’s what truckers are currently permitted over the same time period.

Time table

Bradley points to a meeting of the CCMTA project group on H-o-S, which has now been called for July 29-30. He says this potentially suggests a real desire to place the proposal before the provincial ministers by this September.

Endorsing the CCMTA proposal virtually intact, “represents a vindication of the process and of the scientific merits of the proposals. The trucking industry is leading all other transport industries in its sensitive, sensible and scientific approach to hours of service,” he adds.

Bradley also commended the Standing Committee on Transport for, “doing the right thing for safety in the face of the howls of derision from those who use fear mongering and safety as a smokescreen for their own economic ends.”

Off track

The rail-funded Citizens for Responsible And Safe Highways (CRASH) issued a statement claiming the acceptance of the proposal amounts to “licences to kill,” before the report even hit the Commons’ agenda.

The rail industry has also been going through the steps of revising its H-o-S, mind you the process has been very different.

The Rail Association of Canada put together a proposal and sent it to federal Transport Minister David Collenette for what amounted to proofreading.

Proofreading because the only changes made were a handful of sentences reworded to sound better and a typo or two corrected.

There was no cross-Canada debate on the science of sleep, the process was not hampered by changing provincial governments forcing the work back to square one, in short, the entire exercise was handled behind closed doors.

“Transport Canada is committed to working with its partners in the rail community to enhance the safety of rail transportation,” says Collenette.

“These new rules will provide, for the first time, a comprehensive and enforceable regime on fatigue management in the rail sector,” adds the minister.

The minister spends a great deal of time trumpeting the fact the new rules force railways to develop intricate fatigue management plans. What he doesn’t tell the Canadian public is railway execs aren’t even required to file all of the details of these plans with the government in many cases.


Truck News obtained a leaked copy of the new rail H-o-S and discovered the frightening truth about duty cycles on the rails.

Since the rail industry basically developed its own plan, it should come as no surprise train workers will face much longer days than truckers.

The maximum on-duty time for operating employees is 18 hours in any 24-hour period. For someone working in the yard, this number is limited to 16 hours in a single day.

In the case of a mechanic for example, they may have been working for 10 hours, taken a relatively short break and then worked for another five before starting to look at a critical safety system needed to protect the public from a potentially catastrophic derailment.

Safety takes a nap

And how scientific the requirements are. Here’s what Transport Canada wants the rail companies to do for employees stuck in far away terminals who’ve just worked a long shift.

“In formulating a fatigue management plan consideration should be given to napping policies and guidelines as well as to terminal napping facilities,” the new rail rules read.

“Opportunities on the road to provide napping in sidings, is an effective fatigue counter measure.

“Napping facilities – such as comfortable chairs in terminal – allow operating employees to rest as they wait for trains or prior to driving home at the end of a trip,” the report on rail H-o-S reads.

In an explanation of the new rules, it specifically states that when employees are away from their home terminal it is recommended that 4.5 to five hours of the short off-duty time be used for sleep.

No scientist in the world would suggest that a comfortable chair is a substitute for the rest your body needs.

Fittingly enough, Transport Canada will begin enforcing the new rail rules on April Fool’s Day in 2003.

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