Nova Scotia

Atlantic provinces truckers oppose U.S. changes

Truckers in Atlantic Canada are joining a national lobby against a United States government proposal to shorten truck drivers hours and increase mandatory down time when operating south of the border.

Would impact productivity

Truckers are against new rules proposed by the U.S. government. (CBC)
Truckers in Atlantic Canada are joining a national lobby against a United States government proposal to shorten truck drivers hours and increase mandatory down time when operating south of the border.

"It would really impact the productivity and efficiency that carriers have in place today," Jean Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, said Monday.

In late December, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration touched off a continent-wide debate when it proposed new hours of service for truckers in the United States.

A key change for the Canadian industry is a new reset: the time a driver must wait before getting back on the road after completing a work week.

The new proposal requires a break of 34 hours over two midnights.

Picard warned that change could strand drivers and their rigs for days.

"He could be off four or five days, just sitting there without operating. So, if he's waiting to get back home, it's not productive for the company and especially not for him," Picard said. "He's not making any money."

He predicted trucking companies would have to revamp their "whole operation and rethink the way they move product into the U.S."

"It could mean several days throughout the year that they can't operate in the U.S. So, it's huge," Picard said.

Darryl Cunningham, a long-haul trucker from Sydney, N.S., wrote to American authorities saying the rule changes are unnecessary.

"Looking at this proposal, and if it comes enforced, I can see me changing careers. Just getting too ridiculous," Cunningham wrote in an email posted on the U.S. government website.  

New Brunswick trucker Dan Moran says new trucking rules would slow down cross-border trade. (CBC)
"The new reset is going to hurt a lot of people," said Tim Moran, a long-haul trucker based near Fredericton.

"It's going to set us back at the border. Our customers ain't going to get the products when they want them," Moran said, adding some shipments are time sensitive.

The trucking industry argues the rule changes are unnecessary, saying accident rates involving  trucks in the U.S. have been falling in recent years.

The American government is now asking for feedback on the proposal.

It's not known exactly how many Nova Scotians are long-haul drivers into the United States, but 16,000 hold licences to drive big rigs.

Thousands of Canadian trucking companies violated U.S. road safety rules in the last two years, failing to keep proper records and driving longer than officials south of the border deem safe, according to U.S. data.

A CBC analysis of the data from the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows some 4,800 Canadian carriers violated key parts of the hours of service and logbook rules in 2009 and 2010.

Hundreds of carriers, based in every province but Newfoundland and Labrador, violated rules related to driver fatigue.

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