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Ministers reviewing HOS and MVTA

OTTAWA, Ont. -- The Canadian Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety met last week i...

OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety met last week in Quebec City to address Canadian HOS and the MVTA.

Based on reports emanating from the meeting, Canadian Trucking Alliance officials say they have reason to be encouraged that some of their major concerns regarding the proposed Canadian hours of service regulations and the proclamation of a new Motor Vehicle Transport Act (MVTA) may be addressed, at least in part.

Of particular concern to the CTA and provincial associations with regard to the proposed new hours of service rules, was the outcome of the ministers’ deliberations over a proposal from Transport Canada, that would extend the proposed “working window” from 16 hours to 18 hours. Under the current draft regulation a driver must get all of his driving and working time in within 16 hours of coming on duty. If a driver is working the maximum hours (14), this leaves only two additional hours for breaks, delays, naps, etc. For many drivers where delays at shipper/consignee facilities, has become an unfortunate but regular occurrence, this eats directly into the driver’s productive time. This not only risks eating into the driver’s earning potential, but it also discourages drivers from stopping to rest and to take breaks for meals, hygiene, etc., say industry officials.

“We have heard from drivers that this is their major concern with the proposed Canadian rules as presently drafted,” said CTA CEO David Bradley. “It puts them under more pressure than they are already under and from a safety perspective creates a bizarre circumstance where a driver would be penalized for taking more than the prescribed amount of off-duty time.” The proposed amendment would not alter the currently proposed daily limits on driving, he added.

Bradley welcomed the reports he received that the Council of Ministers directed the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) to review the impacts of the 18-hour working window proposal in consultation with the industry and to report back within 60 days. This would enable the federal government to introduce a final regulation, which the associations are hopeful will include an 18-hour window, by Jan. 1, 2005. Each province would then have one year to introduce the federal rules in their regulations/legislation before coming into force.

CTA officials also expect the Council of Ministers will extend the date for the coming into force of the new MVTA from Jan. 1, 2005, until Jan. 1, 2006 in order to give provinces more time to improve the level of consistency between the various provincial carrier safety ratings systems – a key desire of industry that is intolerant of the situation that could arise where carriers from various provinces with essentially the same performance could receive different safety ratings.

Concern over this potential for an unequal playing field has caused the Ontario government to rate all out of province carriers operating into and out of the province, something that did not always sit well with other jurisdictions but was supported by the Ontario Trucking Association. Both the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and OTA have argued that premature proclamation of the MVTA in 2005 – in the absence of meaningful measures to address the lack of national consistency – would make it illegal for Ontario to rate out of province carriers from Canada and the U.S., putting Ontario carriers at a competitive disadvantage.

Carriers from across Canada were also concerned about whether the U.S. would grant reciprocity for 10 somewhat different provincial ratings programs. The answer is probably not, according to the CTA, at least, not in the short term. However, it is expected the provinces will have the authority to monitor/rate U.S. carriers that operate into and out of their jurisdictions, though details are sketchy at this time.

Nevertheless, according to Bradley, “if indeed this is how things played out at the ministers’ meeting, while it does not completely address our concerns, it does indicate the governments have been listening and have showed a willingness to try and resolve our concerns. But, we’ll have to keep their feet to the fire to ensure everyone follows through before 2006.”

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