Auto Service World
News   September 11, 2002   by Auto Service World

Railway Group Opposes Increase in Truckers’ Hours


The increase in the number of hours truckers can drive will drive more freight onto already clogged highways, says Railway Association of Canada president.
Federal and provincial transport ministers will meet in Winnipeg on Sept. 20 to consider regulatory changes that will allow Canadian trucking companies to work their drivers 84 hours a week — double the average workweek of normal Canadians.
“If approved, those changes will attract more freight off rail onto already congested highways, weaken the viability of freight railways, and increase domestic truck kilometers by seven per cent,” says Bill Rowat, president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. “Such an increase is critical for the public when you consider most of Highway 401 from the Quebec border to Michigan, as well as the QEW, operates at service levels E or F,” said Rowat.
“That means there are potential capacity problems and average vehicle spacing is less than six car lengths – the length of one big truck. When volume approaches capacity, very small increases in traffic have very big impacts on road congestion.
“In addition to the current 50 per cent subsidy of trucking infrastructure, more hours per truck driver will mean higher utilization of trucks, and artificially lower trucking costs and service advantages. That will attract more freight from rail to road, affecting primarily domestic shipments as well as some cross-border and intermodal traffic, and reduce annual rail gross revenues by $250 million, based on KPMG data analysis conducted for Transport Canada. Because of fixed costs of plant ownership, rail revenues will decline faster than expenses, and weaken Canadian railway viability,” said Rowat. “There’s no other industry in North America where workers get two night sleeps per week, at home, by regulation. In my opinion, that’s bad public policy that flies in the face of the public interest.
“As a result, the 84 hour workweek would increase truck GHG emissions another seven per cent,” said Rowat. “Between 1990 and 2000, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by trucks heavier than 15 tonnes increased 58 per cent while rail freight emissions declined three per cent. Heavy truck emissions of NOx have approximately doubled since 1985 and are now five times that of rail in total. Tractor-trailers use five times as much fuel as trains per tonne of freight.”
According to the association, an average freight train takes 280 trucks off the highways. The current limits on truck driver hours of work in Canada is 60 hours in seven days, 70 hours in eight days and 120 hours in 14 days, or an average of 60 hours per week. The 84 hours proposed for truckers in Canada compares to 60 hours a week in the U.S. and 56 in Europe, going to 48.
The U.S. Department of Transport is planning to release its final hours of work rules before the end of this year. As well, the proposed Canadian regulation does not require the use of electronic safety recorders on heavy trucks, even though they are already required on commercial aircraft and trains. Transport Canada’s scientific panel recommended mandatory event recorders on heavy trucks in order to reduce the substantial hours of service violations currently occurring with paper log books, said Rowat. “If Canada is serious about harmonizing transport standards under NAFTA, it should consider the final U.S. plan before adopting an 84-hour workweek,” said Mr. Rowat. “And it would be doubly foolish to adopt a new Canadian standard without electronic safety recorders if the U.S. requires them.”


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