Canadian hours-of-service reforms won’t include new cumulative limits

TORONTO (April 15) — A draft of new hours-of-service standards to be unveiled next month does not change rules governing the number of working hours a driver can accumulate over time, according to the federal transport official in charge of developing the new guidelines.

Brian Orrbine, a senior policy advisor with Transport Canada, said that while federal and provincial transport regulators agree in principle on changes to daily work limits, more research needs to be done before they can agree on new cumulative standards.

“It’s vital that we make decisions based on good science,” Orrbine told a gathering of the Private Motor Truck Council yesterday. “Unfortunately, the research available to us now gives no clear indication as to how many hours are enough. Is it 60? 70? 84? Right now all we have is anecdotal evidence.

“If the science isn’t there, we need to slow down and wait for the science to catch up.”

That could take years to complete and require funds Transport Canada hasn’t the budget for. “There is no research on that issue taking place in the short term,” he conceded. A $6-million study of truck driver fatigue conducted by the U.S. and Canada was inconclusive on the matter of cumulative hours.

Orrbine explained that he does not want to see issues where there is consensus — notably a new daily work-rest standard based on 14 hours on duty, 10 hours off — delayed further. “There’s good data on daily cycles,” he said.

Orrbine noted that until more research on cumulative hours of service is complete, the current federal standards of 60 hours in seven days, 70 hours in eight days, and 120 hours in 14 days will stick.

The new draft standard on hours of service — National Safety Code Standard 9 — is scheduled to be introduced to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators board of directors in Winnipeg next month.

A final draft should be ready before the end of the year.

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