In early August, the trucking industry and supply chain were shocked when Canada Labour Code Part 3 revisions were made public. Specific changes that would do the supply chain irreparable harm were not included in any consultation that occurred prior, were introduced in an omnibus bill, and had no opportunity for consultation or input before they were put forward and were set to come into force on Sept. 1.
The most damaging of the revisions to the trucking industry required: 96 hours written notice for shift schedules; 24 hours written notice for shift changes; a 30-minute break after every five hours; and an eight-hour break between shifts.
The first two mentioned are the more troublesome of the four, however the other two can still cause problems. Now, let me be clear, the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) and the trucking industry as a whole are in favor of anything that can make the workers in our industry safer and better rested.
We are all working toward making our industry more attractive, inclusive, and diverse. The only way to accomplish this is to ensure we treat our workers with respect and courtesy, and provide them with a workplace and the tools in that workplace to ensure they are happy, secure and safe.
We are all in favor of providing as much predictability in a schedule as possible and minimizing the changes to that schedule as much as possible. While we do have dedicated lanes, local delivery jobs, and other driving jobs that allow for predictive schedules with minimal changes, there is a large segment of industry that simply does not, nor can it, operate that way.
As a former longhaul driver and later in my career, a fleet manager, I like to think I understand the realities of the industry from both sides. An over-the-road driver who hauls general freight may get dispatched on Monday for a load that delivers in Vancouver on Friday. While a load may be searched for while they are en route, in a lot of cases the load will not be assigned to the carrier until the truck actually arrives. What if the truck breaks down en route, or is involved in an accident, weather delay, etc.? If the return load is time-sensitive, it will need to be dispatched to another truck.
How do you provide 24 hours notice for this? Often, the load you pick up will not head back to your home terminal; it could go anywhere in North America. You have to take the freight that is available in the area you are in. If you are working off an open board, how can you predict a week’s schedule 96 hours in advance and provide notice of changes within 24 hours? It’s just not practical.
How do you guarantee a driver can comply with the requirement to take a 30-minute break every five hours? If you are stuck in a traffic jam, you can’t simply put the brakes on and walk away. In these scenarios, we have not even mentioned the safety personnel, dispatchers, mechanics, and dock workers who may have a change in their schedule as a result of a breakdown, accident or other delays in the supply chain that occur along the way.
If the truck is held up, it affects everyone else who plays a part in that truck’s load or day and will require a change in their schedules as well.
The good news is, when the industry caught wind of this, we all worked together. The Canadian Trucking Alliance, PMTC, provincial associations, supply chain industry representatives, and many others, all joined forces to raise the alarm bells with the feds.
The shippers and receivers who we haul freight for realized these provisions would throw the Canadian supply chain into disarray, and put us at a competitive disadvantage to the U.S. With all of us joining forces, we got the attention of government.
At the time of this writing, a draft internal policy guidance was in place that would allow drivers and dispatchers to carry on as of Sept. 1 with business as usual.
This is only an interim measure, as in the long-term, regulations will have to be drafted to exempt certain positions in the industry from these provisions. Disaster was averted however, in the short-term, and all because we as an industry came together.
Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the only national association that represents the views and interests of the private fleet industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org