As U.S. truckers struggle to comply with a new rule that digitally tracks how many hours they are allowed to drive each day, some say Canada’s two additional hours of driving time would give them the flexibility they need to be profitable.
“I wholeheartedly believe the Canadian hours-of-service rules are way more realistic and allow more flexibility than the U.S. rules,” said Johanne Couture, a cross-border trucker from Brockville, Ontario.
Federal regulators dictated the use of ELDs in the U.S. last month to ensure that truckers comply with a federal hours-of-service rule. The rule limits driving to no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
The Canadian hours-of-service rule limits driving to 13 hours a day within a 16-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for eight consecutive hours.
“I prefer the Canadian system because it allows more flexibility,” David Miller, an independent trucker from Issaquah, Wash., told Trucks.com.
The proposed Canadian ELD rule largely mirrors the U.S. one and is expected to be finalized within two years by Transport Canada, the country’s transportation regulatory agency. It is similar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the U.S.
More cross-border truckers prefer the Canadian hours-of-service rules because it allows two more hours behind the wheel, said Kerri Wirachowsky, director of roadside inspection program for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. CVSA is charged with enforcing the ELD rules throughout North America and has approximately 13,000 commercial vehicle inspectors.
But most of the U.S. trucking industry doesn’t see the Canadian rule as an improvement.
The Truck Safety Coalition opposes any attempt to increase the number of hours that truck drivers can work.
“Especially considering that truck crash fatalities have gone up by 28 percent since 2009,” John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, told Trucks.com.
The industry and regulators should focus on promoting proven technologies that will reduce truck crashes, advocating for an increase in safe and available parking and ensuring that truck drivers are adequately paid, Lannen said.
The American Trucking Associations also supports maintaining the current maximum daily driving limit at 11 hours.
“Since it was instituted in 2004, the broad framework of the U.S. hours-of-service [rule] has had a measurable positive impact on safety, and we support that framework,” Sean McNally, spokesman for the ATA, told Trucks.com.
The ELD rule does not affect drivers’ ability to complete their runs or hurt their productivity, he said.
“All the ELD does is log hours — and if a run was able to be legally completed prior to Dec. 18 — a driver should be able to complete it legally now,” McNally said.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration declined to comment for this story.
Once the ELD mandate takes effect in Canada, truckers will be facing the same time constraints as U.S. drivers are now, Wirachowsky said.
“Drivers are going to run to whatever their maximum number of hours might be, then say ‘I don’t have enough hours,’” Wirachowsky, a former commercial vehicle enforcement officer in Ontario, told Trucks.com.
Adhering to the 11-hour driving rule and the ELD mandate in the U.S. has taken its toll on some of her company’s cross-border drivers at Sunrise Transport, said Samantha Moritz, safety and compliance official for the company. It operates a fleet of about 40 trucks in British Columbia.
“It has stressed out some of our drivers considerably,” Moritz said. “Their hearts are just pounding from the time they turn on the ELD until the time they are looking for a parking spot to end their day.”
Some have quit rather than use an ELD, Moritz said.
ELDs and the 11-hour time constraint are creating major safety concerns on U.S. highways instead of curbing them, said Kevin St. John, a cross-border trucker from Okotoks, Alberta. He is urging the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in British Columbia to oppose mandating ELDs.
“Drivers are pushing speed limits because their ELD clock is running and they are rushing to meet their arrival times before the clock runs out,” St. John told Trucks.com. “They can’t stop when they are tired or need to take a break.”
While Canada has a little more flexibility with its hours-of-service rules, one safety and compliance officer at a Canadian trucking company said that will go away if ELDs are required on Canadian rigs.
“All that stress we are seeing in the states is going to transfer over to Canada as well,” said Tanner Hieta, safety and compliance officer of Sunrise Transport. “They know they can drive for 13 hours so they are going to make the most mileage for their dollar and get as far as they can.”
The majority of large Canadian cross-border carriers already run ELDs and have been pushing for a harmonized rule in Canada, said Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada.
There may not be as much resistance to the proposed ELD rule in Canada as there was in the U.S. since Canada is an export-based country and the U.S. is its largest market.
“There are a fair number of drivers that don’t want any part of a mandate, but I would venture that they are in the minority — fewer oppose it than are prepared to accept it,” Ritchie told Trucks.com.