Punching the clock

Despite the fervent efforts of many in trucking, reform of the federal hours-of-serve regulations has been delayed but not averted for all time. While industry lobbyists and federal regulators remain at loggerheads over how to bring a system dreamed up in the early days of motor carriage into sync with the modern world of interstate transportation, our friends north of the border have hammered out

Despite the fervent efforts of many in trucking, reform of the federal hours-of-serve regulations has been delayed but not averted for all time.

While industry lobbyists and federal regulators remain at loggerheads over how to bring a system dreamed up in the early days of motor carriage into sync with the modern world of interstate transportation, our friends north of the border have hammered out a new hours-of-service standard that government officials, industry lobbyists and union leaders all support.

If all goes according to plan, the actual change in regulations will take effect across Canada in less than a year.

Maybe it would bode well for the U.S. government and the trucking lobby here to take a good, long hard look at what Canada has cooked up. Who knows, maybe their solution would work here, too.

After all, there may be more land and less people up yonder, but the truckers, trucks, highways, etc. bear a startling resemblance to what we have here.

But we won't get our hopes up. Even a month after word officially leaked out of our northern neighbor about this astonishing development, the silence from U.S. trucking interests — governmental, private and union — in response remains deafening. The only U.S. group that we are aware of having taken any notice whatsoever is the Truckload Carriers Assn.

Here are the facts: The Canadian standard includes new daily and weekly driving and work limits and will increase minimum daily rest periods. Maximum driving time will be reduced from 16 to 13 hours a day. While current Canadian regulations allow drivers to work up to 104 hours a week, the new standard will require drivers to shut down for a minimum of 36 hours once they have completed 70 hours on duty. What's more, minimum daily rest periods will increase by 25% from 8 to 10 hours.

Bear in mind, earth-shattering as it is, that this standard was not only signed off on by Canada's provincial ministers of transportation but applauded by both The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), which represents for-hire carriers, and the country's largest trucking labor union, Teamsters Canada.

David Bradley, CEO of CTA, declared the new standard nothing less than “a brave and innovative step forward in improving highway safety.”

Teamsters Canada president Robert Bouvier was, if anything, even more laudatory, saying the standard “will more effectively maintain the balance between highway safety, drivers' capacity and economic considerations. The new standard is superior to the existing rules in the sense that it provides drivers with appropriate rest periods to avoid fatigue, and does not increase the daily driving limitation.”

Meanwhile, what we did hear happening of late on this front stateside is the awarding of a $400,000 Dept. of Transportation (DOT) contract for studying driver fatigue to this country's major LTL trade association, the Motor Freight Carriers Assn. (MFCA).

Per the contract, MFCA will conduct a national survey of company drivers belonging to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who have completed at least one-million miles of accident-free driving.

The goal of the study, says MFCA president & CEO Tim Lynch, will be to identify the various strategies and techniques employed (by these drivers) to manage fatigue, especially while driving at night.

That sounds great. But while we will certainly leave the thrashing of the details out to the scientific and political experts, we still think Canada has the right idea — throw out worn-out rules and get with the times. For everyone's sake, we need hours-of-service reform.

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