While the U.S. Federal Highway Administration is still trying to decide whether or not to proceed with a negotiated rulemaking, Canada is expected to unveil a draft of its new hours-of-service regulations next month.
The Canadian draft does not change rules governing the number of working hours a driver can accumulate over time, according to a federal transport official in charge of developing the new guidelines.
Brian Orrbine, a senior policy adviser with Transport Canada, said while federal and provincial transport regulators agree in principle 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. "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 United States 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 Canadian standards of 60 hours in seven days, 70 hours in eight days and 120 hours in 14 days will stick.
A final draft of the new Canadian regulations should be ready before the end of the year.