In a policy move that is long overdue, the federal government is working with Transport Canada to implement changes to tackle fatigue among long haul truck and bus drivers. New safety regulations that are aligned with U.S. efforts are being implemented with Transport Canada now requiring drivers to electronically record their hours on the road, a shift from the paper logs that have been in use since the 1930s.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance says the move towards electronic logs will bring the industry into the 21st century. According to Transport Canada spokeswoman Natasha Gauthier the regulations would cover cross-border and interprovincial travel, and will be implemented by late 2017.
Truckers and bus drivers are currently allowed to be behind the wheel for up to 13 hours in a day but must be off-duty for 10 hours. If implemented, commercial truck and bus drivers would be required to record their hours behind the wheel with devices that automatically record driving time by monitoring engine hours, vehicle movement, kilometers driven and other information.
In addition to reducing fatigue, the devices help protect workers from being forced by companies facing driver shortages to work longer hours.
The devices are estimated by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to annually save US$1 billion in administrative costs, about 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries. The units also make it easier for provincial officials monitoring compliance and would address concerns that handwritten forms could be doctored.
Industry members have been frustrated by how long it has taken Ottawa to change the regulations.
“Our industry shares its workplace with the public more than any of the other mode of transportation, yet the enforcement community is relying upon an archaic, outdated way of monitoring and enforcing what is arguably the most important safety rule,” said an industry spokesperson.
The monitoring devices cost an average of a couple of thousand dollars depending on type of unit, track hours on the road and rest periods.
It’s worth noting that any new regulations in Canada must take into account the country’s unique challenges, such as longer travel distances and fewer rest stops as compared to the U.S.
Canada faces ongoing labour shortages of long haul drivers and recruits labour from many countries including the EU where member countries have adopted electronic log systems. Canadian authorities should restrict foreign drivers to countries where electronic logging is widely used in order to provide accurate assessments of foreign driver records.
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