BREAKING NEWS: Feds consider extending Canadian HOS ‘working window’; MVTA also addressed

OTTAWA, (Sept. 27, 2004) — The Canadian Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety will consider extending the “working window” under the new proposed Canadian hours-of-service rules from 16 to 18 hours.

The Council of Ministers directed the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) at a meeting in Quebec City to review the impacts of the 18-hour working window proposal in consultation with industry and to report back within 60 days. This would enable a final regulation that may include an 18-hour window by January 1, 2005. Each province would then have one year to introduce the federal rules in their legislation before coming into force. The proposed amendment would not alter the currently proposed 14-hour limit on daily driving time.

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 14 hours, this leaves only two additional hours for breaks, delays, naps, etc.

Welcoming the potential for two extra off-duty hours, the Canadian Trucking Alliance said that delays at shipper/consignee facilities has become a regular occurrence which eats directly into the driver’s productive time. This not only risks cuts into the driver’s earning potential, but also discourages drivers from stopping to rest and to take breaks for meals, hygiene, etc, the trucking group said.

“We have heard from drivers that this is their major concern with the proposed Canadian rules as presently drafted,” CTA chief executive David Bradley said in a press release. “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.”

Gary Coleman, president of Big Freight Systems in Steinbach, Man. also applauded the proposed amendment upon hearing about it. “It would be fantastic,” he told Today’s Trucking. “It creates some flexibility. At the end of the day, it leaves the driver with the ability to manage his day and stay safe. That’s what all regulation should do.”

It was also expected that the Council of Ministers would push up the effective date of the new Motor Vehicle Transport Act from January 1, 2005, until January 1, 2006 in order to give provinces more time to improve the level of consistency between the various provincial carrier safety ratings systems. Some in the trucking industry have always been concerned that, without a uniform rating system, carriers from various provinces with essentially the same performance could receive different safety ratings.

Concern over this potential for an unequal playing field prompted the Ontario government to rate all out-of-province carriers operating into and out of the province, despite opposition from some other jurisdictions.

Both the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Ontario Trucking Association 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 that the U.S. would not likely grant reciprocity for 10 somewhat different provincial ratings programs. However, it is expected the provinces will have the authority to monitor and rate U.S. carriers that operate into and out of their jurisdictions, though details are sketchy at this time, the CTA says.

“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,” Bradley said. “But, we’ll have to keep their feet to the fire to ensure everyone follows through before 2006.”

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