Canada follows U.S. with HOS sleeper berth exception

OTTAWA, (Jan. 6, 2004) — Truckers concerned with a major discrepancy between Canadian and U.S. hours of service rules got a gift just before Christmas as the Council of Canadian Deputy Ministers approved the introduction of a sleeper berth exception to be incorporated in the final Canadian rules expected later this year.

The council responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety, gave the Canadian Trucking Alliance official word that the government plans to revise the current proposal and include the exception to keep the rules compatible with the U.S., which included the sleeper berth exception when it finalized its rules last year. The U.S. rules officially came into effect on Jan. 4.

It is now expected that the sleeper berth exception will be duly approved by the Council of Ministers when they meet later this year.

The new HOS rules in the U.S. limit commercial drivers to 14 hours on duty (versus 15 hours previously) after 10 hours consecutive hours off-duty. Any off-duty time during the 14 hours after coming on duty is included in the on-duty calculations. In sleeper berth operations, the following are included in calculating the14 hours: on-duty time, non-sleeper berth off-duty time, sleeper berth time of less than two hours, and sleeper berth time of two hours or more that is not used to accumulate 10 hours of off-duty time.

The clarification also says that a combination of consecutive sleeper berth time and off-duty time totalling 10 hours may be used to comply with the 10-hour off-duty requirement in sleeper berth operations and in situations where a driver moves from a sleeper berth to a non-sleeper berth operation. Any two sleeper-berth periods (each at least two hours long) totalling 10 hours may be used in calculating the 10-hour requirement. Sleeper berth periods not used in calculating the 10-hour rest period must be included in calculating the 14-hour on-duty limit.

The trucking industry has lobbied Canadian officials to include a similar exception, citing concerns the disparity between the two countries’ rules would put cross-border trucking operations at a competitive disadvantage with their U.S. counterparts, or perhaps tempt Canadian drivers into breaking the law in order to retain their freight volumes.

“It was the right thing to do,” CTA CEO David Bradley said in a press release. “It makes the Canadian proposals more compatible with the new US rules. It will avoid putting Canadian carriers and drivers in an untenable situation, all without compromising safety.” Bradley did add, however, there are still a couple items in the HOS rule that “need to be addressed,” such as waiting time at docks which will must be recorded as on-duty work time.

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