Western provinces threaten to derail HoS; CTA calls on Ottawa to react

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OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has voiced concern that several Western Canadian provinces may not adopt the new federal hours-of-service rules, threatening the chance of a harmonized set of rules across Canada.

The CTA confirmed yesterday that several provinces are backing away from the rules, which are currently in effect in most provinces and took more than 10 years to reach. In a release, the CTA said some provinces are ignoring key elements of the new rules, exempting large numbers of vehicles from it or creating their own rules altogether.

The association is calling upon federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon to intervene and exercise his authority under the Motor Vehicle Act or to withhold infrastructure funding for renegade provinces.

From the outset of discussions more than 10 years ago to put a new hours of service rule in place, a fundamental perhaps the most important undertaking given to the trucking industry by the federal and provincial governments was that the new regulations would be uniformly applied across Canada as a National Safety Code standard instead of a hodge-podge of inconsistent provincial regulations, said CTA CEO David Bradley. Now, only 10 months after the coming-into-force of the federal regulations, we see a disturbing trend emerging that if left unchecked, will negate the basic principles of safety and regulatory harmonization.

Namely, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan have considered exempting logging trucks and those operating in the oil and gas industries from the federal rules. They also have considered exempting operators of vehicles below a weight threshold of 11,794 kg whereas the national standard is 4,500 kg.

CTA admits the new rules are more restrictive than the previous regime and have had an impact on productivity. However, Bradley said responsible motor carriers across Canada were prepared to accept the new regulatory regime, as long as it was uniformly implemented in all provinces and regions so as not to confer an unfair competitive advantage on any company or industry sector, either by virtue of company size, the type of equipment operated or region of domicile or operation.

CTA and the provincial associations have declared that sector-specific exemptions are unfair and potentially unsafe.

How, for example, could truck drivers from one part of the country be considered fit to drive longer hours, or take shorter off-duty periods just because of the sector of the business they are in or the type of truck they drive, when truck drivers in other sectors or in other parts of the country operating under exactly the same circumstances would be judged unfit? asked Bradley. It makes no sense, from either a competitiveness or safety point of view.

CTA is also calling upon the feds to revoke provinces authority to issue federal safety certificates if they provide HoS exemptions to interprovincial carriers without the consent of Transport Canada. Bradley admitted the move is bound to ruffle some feathers, but he said the anticipated move by some provinces to walk away from such an important national safety standard is beyond controversial; its disturbing. Moreover, it reflects a trend that has been going on far too long in this country and which the industry is hard pressed to tolerate much longer.

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