Currently, Canadian drivers are allowed to work 15 hours per shift with a maximum of 13 hours of driving, followed by an off-duty period of at least eight hours. Drivers are also permitted to split their sleeper time into no more than two intervals with a minimum of two hours logged as sleeper time in each interval.
Canadian drivers have a choice of three cumulative caps: 60 hours in seven days, 70 hours in eight days or 120 hours in 14 days. The 14-day cycle allows drivers to compress the 120 hours into as few as eight days provided the prescribed off-duty intervals are followed.
Interestingly, Canadian law allows a driver to continue to rack up the hours while switching back and forth to whichever cycle is advantageous to him, provided he remains in compliance with at least one cycle. It's a complicated exercise, but a driver can legally accumulate up to 160 hours in a 14-day period, thanks to the cycle switching provision. It's a matter of Canadian legal precedence that the enforcement official must find the driver out of compliance with all three cycles in order to be convicted of an hours of service violation.
Almost everyone concerned would like to see those loopholes closed, and a more sensible approach applied to the regulation of drivers' work cycles.
So in keeping with the theory that fatigue is influenced more by the amount of rest accrued by a driver -- as opposed to time on task -- Transport Canada is proposing a more "natural" sleep/awake cycle: 14 hours on-duty followed by 10 hours off-duty. The proposal intends to allow a driver to work a period of 14 hours -- with no distinction between driving and other on-duty time -- within any 24-hour period with the remaining 10 hours taken as off-duty time. Of the 10 hours, eight must be taken in a solid, consecutive block while the remaining two hours may be used as break periods of no less than 30 minutes each or lumped together for a 10-hour off-duty period.
Transport Canada has also said that it would be willing to permit some operational flexibility by allowing drivers to average their off-duty time over a 48-hour period. The 48-hour averaging provision demands that if a driver were to take only eight hours off following a 14-hour duty cycle, the next off-duty period would have to be 12 hours. In choosing to average his off-duty time, the driver would be required to take a minimum of 20 hours off-duty over a 48-hour consecutive period. No gains here, but some much needed flexibility.
Transport Canada has yet to issue any firm recommendation on a weekly cumulative total of on-duty time. They've said they'd like to do away with the 120-in-14 cycle, while retaining the basic 70-hour work week, with an interesting and welcome twist: the 36-hour reset provision. An off-duty interval of 36 consecutive hours, taken at any time during the cycle, would reset the cumulative clock back to zero. The driver would also be required to take an additional 24-hour off-duty period somewhere over the course of 14 days, not including the 36-hour reset interval.
The theory behind the 36-hour reset provision suggests that the driver would have the opportunity of obtaining two full sleep periods prior to returning to work with a full slate of hours. Transport Canada has said it would like to see the practice of cycle-switching eliminated, to be replaced with a rule that would allow drivers to switch cycles only after having obtained the required reset time.
Transport Canada has said it wants to address the longer cycle, but admits that fine tuning it will likely take a considerable amount of time. With that in mind, it will likely stand until a suitable replacement can be agreed upon, but there's talk of requiring drivers to obtain a minimum of 72 hours off duty before resetting the clock to zero on the 120-in-14 cycle.
The final proposal is slated to be released for comment later this summer, with the final revisions expected to become law sometime in 2001.