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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Claims from the National Truckers Association (NTA) that high fuel prices are pushing its independent owner-operator members to break existing Hours-of-Service rules amount to “fear mongering” and will actually hurt the industry’s chances of achieving relief from fuel costs, according to the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA).

The NTA’s claims received wide play on the national media this week, which likely didn’t sit well with the OTA. The motor carrier association has worked hard in recent years to improve the public image of trucking, particularly on safety issues.

“While everyone in the trucking industry is intimately aware of the impact sky-rocketing fuel prices are having on the finances of independent owner-operators and motor carriers, such statements will not win public support for action to reduce fuel prices. It smacks too much of self-interest,” David Bradley, president of the OTA says in a prepared statement to the media. “The public has every right to expect everyone to be operating within the law and that the rules are enforced.”

Bradley says that his association agrees that there must be strong enforcement. But, he says, NTA’s suggestion that abuse of the regulations is widespread and flagrant, is not supported by evidence. He also says that enforcement of the rules in Ontario is more aggressive than it has ever been.

In addition to roadside checks, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) conducts audits of trucking company records on a random and for-cause basis. Last year, MTO introduced a new carrier safety ratings system where 65 per cent of the driver portion of an audit assessment is determined by compliance with the hours of service regulations.

However, Bradley also criticized the existing Hours-of-Service regulations as out-of-date and so overly complex as to make enforcement difficult. He is hopeful that after a review of the legislation that has dragged on for seven years that a package of proposed changes developed by a national government-stakeholder project group will be introduced as law later this year.

“The proposals are scientifically-based, reflect fatigue management principles and are much easier to understand and enforce. However, that is a whole other issue and has nothing to do with fuel prices,” he says.

In addition, the trucking industry is working with governments in both Canada and the United States to develop and test state of the art fatigue monitoring technology and to develop fatigue-management training programs.

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