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March 25, 2020 2:00 PM, EDT

Canada Issues HOS Exemption for Coronavirus Relief

Truck on Canadian highwayA truck hauling cargo down a highway in Canmore, Alberta. (Getty Images)

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Canadian government officials approved an exemption to allow hours-of-service relief to truck drivers who are engaged in coronavirus-related relief assistance efforts.

Michael DeJong, director general of Transport Canada’s Multimodal and Road Safety Programs, signed the Essential Freight Transport Exemption on March 24.

The exemption applies to all provinces and territories.

As of March 24, Health Canada had reported 1,959 cases of coronavirus.

“After consulting with the affected provinces and being of the opinion that the exemption is in the public interest and is not likely to affect motor carrier safety, I hereby exempt extra-provincial truck undertakings and their drivers, who are employed or otherwise engaged in the transport of essential supplies and equipment,” DeJong said in the exemption document.

As part of the administrative requirements listed in the measure, carriers must inform the provincial HOS director of their base jurisdiction of the intent to operate under the exemption. The carriers must list the trucks that are going to be used and their corresponding license plate numbers, as well as the names of the drivers who will operate those vehicles along with their license information.

Additionally, those using this exemption must ensure their drivers maintain a daily log to record their time on and off duty, hold a valid safety fitness certificate and place copies of the exemption in each of the trucks that is operating under the exemption. Drivers subject to an out-of-service declaration are not allowed to participate in operations with the exemption. And, shippers will be encouraged to indicate that supplies are being transported in direct assistance to COVID-19 emergency efforts.

Under the exemption, carriers may not allow or require a driver to operate if his or her faculties are diminished by fatigue. If a driver informs a carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be allowed at least eight hours of off-duty time before having to report back to the terminal. Drivers operating under the exemption must take a minimum of 24 hours off duty in every 14-day period.

Canada’s exemption follows a similar exemption in the United States issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, announced March 13.

Truck at weigh station in Quebec

A truck pulls into a weigh station in Quebec. (Thinkstock)

The Canadian exemption covers immediate needs for:

  •  Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
  •  Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.
  •  Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
  •  Immediate precursor raw materials, such as paper, plastic or alcohol, that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items.
  •  Fuel.
  •  Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine and isolation facilities.
  •  Persons designated by federal, provincial, territorial or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
  •  Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services.

The exemption remains in effect until April 30 or the date on which the Minister of Transport cancels it in writing.

DeJong signed the exemption the same day that Ontario government officials recognized businesses that support supply chains and transportation as “essential” services.

“The Ontario Trucking Association applauds Premier [Doug] Ford and his cabinet team for recognizing the importance of the trucking industry and its many job classes, but also the essential service nature of our many hardworking suppliers that keep the trucks moving safely along Ontario’s highways as well as the truck stops that allow our drivers to rest and get a warm meal in a safe and clean environment,” said its president, Stephen Laskowski.

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