Canada issues hours-of-service exemption for COVID-19 relief

A truck at a loading dock in Toronto, Canada.

Truck drivers moving essential freight through Canada’s provinces for COVID-19 relief will be exempt from hours-of-service (HOS) requirements provided that carriers give advance notice, according to a directive from the Canadian government.

The exemption, issued by Transport Canada on Tuesday, applies to federally regulated carriers operating outside of their home province. It has similarities to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration HOS waiver in the U.S. but with comparatively strict rules about how it can be applied.

“From our perspective, we don’t expect it to be used that often. This is an emergency measure,” Steve Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, told FreightWaves.

The temporary exemption came into effect Tuesday as the number of confirmed or likely cases of COVID-19 continued to climb rapidly in Canada, reaching about 2,600. Meanwhile, Canada’s largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, ordered the temporary closure of nonessential businesses by midnight Tuesday — with transportation and logistics firms exempt.

Freight covered by the exemption includes medical supplies and equipment related to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, supplies for community safety such as hand sanitizer and gloves, and food and other goods for the emergency restocking of stores and distribution centers. It does not apply to mixed loads.

A key difference is that carriers must notify their home province’s HOS director in advance of any operations that do not comply with the existing regulations. Carriers must also disclose the vehicles involved and their license plate numbers in addition to the names of the drivers and their license numbers.

The directive requires that carriers keep detailed records of the operations exceeding HOS as well.

The exemption only applies to federally regulated carriers. The Canadian Trucking Alliance said provinces may introduce exemptions for carriers that operate within their borders.