Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Canada issues Hours of Service exemption for COVID-19 relief

Michael Ahart
Michael Ahart
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

On Tuesday, March 24, Transport Canada — the department within the Government of Canada responsible for developing and issuing regulations and policies for freight transport in Canada — signed the Essential Freight Transport Exemption into immediate effect. The Exemption grants exemption from Canada’s Hours of Service (HOS) regulation to extra-provincial trucks and their drivers moving essential COVID-19 relief items through the Canadian provinces and territories.  

Canada’s Exemption serves a similar purpose as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) HOS Emergency Declaration that was signed into effect for the U.S., although rules for how it can be applied are stricter. Carriers must notify the HOS director of their home province in writing of their intent to operate under the exemption. They must also disclose vehicle, license plate, license number, and driver information prior to partaking in the Exemption.

Canada’s Exemption contains a highly detailed list of specific requirements to follow while operating under the Exemption, and I strongly encourage you to read it in full to see how it may apply to your fleet. With that being said, here are just a few key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Drivers are to keep a daily or electronic recording device to record their HOS, as well as their on- and off-duty time
  • Drivers must hold a valid fitness certificate that has not been assigned a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating
  • A copy of the Exemption must be placed in the commercial vehicles operating under the Exemption
  • Drivers must take a minimum of 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time after the delivery of essential cargo

While the list of what constitutes essential COVID-19 emergency relief is extensive, here are a few key highlights:

  • Medical supplies and equipment relating to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitization, and prevention of COVID-19, such as masks, hand sanitizers, and soap
  • Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of stores

This Exemption will stay in effect until end of the day on April 30 or upon cancelation in writing by Canada’s Minister of Transport, whichever comes first.

In addition to this, I’d like to bring to your attention that the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) recently reminded Canadian truck drivers that they are exempt from Canada’s mandatory self-isolation protocols for Canadians returning from travel abroad, unless a driver falls ill. The CTA has worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to confirm that U.S. bound truck drivers should face no issues at the Canada-U.S. border, unless the driver has recently returned from a hot-spot country or is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

I will continue to keep you posted on any pertinent regulatory updates, and I encourage you to read my recent blog post on the FMCSA’s HOS Exemption if you have not done so.