The Canadians recently published their new driver hours of service regulations, which will become effective in January of 2007. And in most respects, the rules are similar to ours here in the United States.
But a couple of key provisions separate the two: In Canada, drivers' sleeper time will be more flexible, very much like the rule was here until it was changed in October. And Canadian drivers will be permitted to drive 13 hours, compared to 11 hours here.
The Canadian sleeper rule allows solo drivers to take their mandatory 10-hour break in two periods – one of which must be at least two hours long. Team drivers must take at least four hours in one of their breaks. U.S. drivers were allowed to split their sleeper time until safety advocates challenged the rule in court and forced it to be changed. Now, drivers must spend at least eight hours in the berth.
The Canadian rule also allows longer driving periods than here, which reflects Canadian geography. It takes 13 hours to make the round trip between major Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Montreal. But it also reflects Canada's experience that longer driving time has not led to increased accidents.
Another very big difference: There will likely be no legal action or moves to alter the Canadian rule as it stands now.
Safety officials in Canada don't anticipate there will be the kind of legal wranglings surrounding the driver work rules that have plagued the U.S. Even with the tightening of the sleeper berth provision here, there are still threats of more legal actions to further tighten U.S. hours of service.
Brian Orrbine, the top Canadian safety official, says the Canadian rules most likely won't face challenges because the Canadian regulatory process is more open than the U.S. system.
Canada's regulations were developed with input from the scientific community on issues such as driver fatigue, and are the result of extensive public consultation and cooperation between industry, stakeholders and other governments across Canada.
Here are other highlights of the Canadian rules:
• Minimum off-duty time increased from eight to 10 hours per day.
• Driving time remains unchanged at 13 hours.
• On-duty time (including driving) cut back to 14 hours from 15.
• Solo and team drivers retain the ability to split sleeper and driving time.
• Drivers may use one of two cycles: 70 hours in seven days, or 120 hours in 14 days.
• Drivers may defer up to two hours of off-duty time to the subsequent day, using what's come to be known as the 48-hour averaging provision.
• All drivers must retain logs and supporting documents for 14 days.
In Canada, like the U.S., the driver work rules do not include mandatory use of electronic onboard recorders. Here, the feds are preparing a separate proposal due to be published in 2006. In Canada, a recorder requirement is still under discussion.
Another difference between here and there: The Canadian Trucking Alliance supports the idea of onboard recorders and they are expected to become mandatory eventually. Here, the American Trucking Associations announced a policy that supports recorders, provided they are proven to be effective, among other criteria.
It's not a coincidence that the driver rules the Canadians developed are quite similar to those originally enacted here. Drivers are drivers, and the science of fatigue applies no matter which side of the border their trucks are traveling.
Various factions in the Canadian transportation segment shared the same difficult hurdles negotiating the rules. Apparently they learned from the mistakes made here and were able to reach a consensus on rules that are safer, while remaining flexible and workable.
And the result will probably be that it will be easier and more profitable to be a trucker there than here.
E-mail Deb Whistler at firstname.lastname@example.org