Everything You Need to Know About Hours of Service Rules in Canada

April 08, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Canada’s hours of service (HOS) rules are generally less restrictive than U.S. regulations. An electronic logging device (ELD) keeps drivers in compliance on both sides of the border. 

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The backbone of many countries’ economies is their trucking industry; Canada is no exception. Canadian truckers keep the wheels of commerce moving, whether they’re crisscrossing the nation’s numerous highways or crossing the border into the U.S. According to Statista, the trucking industry generated almost $39.55 billion Canadian dollars of revenue from $63.7 million shipments in 2018.

Knowing the hours of service rules in Canada is essential for many fleet managers and drivers. Hours of service—or HOS—rules govern the maximum allowable working hours for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). These rules help truck drivers stay safe and alert while on-duty.

In this guide, we’ll walk fleet managers and drivers through Canadian HOS rules, their exemptions, and how they differ from the United States.

Who makes and enforces the hours of service rules in Canada?

“Hours of service” refers to the maximum amount of time drivers can be on duty within a given period of time. These rules include driving times and specify the number and length of rest periods drivers must take between shifts. In the U.S, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders and oversees HOS rules. 

Transport Canada’s Motor Carrier Division is the federal department responsible for transportation policies and programs in Canada. While Transport Canada oversees federal governance, most of the daily regulatory enforcement is handled by the individual provinces and territories.

Transport Canada oversees the federal HOS regulations and works in tandem with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), an organization that addresses the regulation and control of transportation and highway safety in Canada. The CCMTA is not a government agency, but is comprised of members who are elected from provincial, territorial, and federal governments. The CCMTA develops Canada's National Safety Code (NSC) through its consultative efforts with the motor carrier industry. 

Canadian hours of service rules

CMVs in Canada must follow the NSC, which is a set of standards used by all Canadian jurisdictions to enhance the safety of drivers, vehicles, and carriers. There are 16 standards in the code—HOS regulations fall under Standard 9. This standard states that a carrier shall require that all drivers in its fleet maintain accurate daily logs accounting for on-duty time and off-duty time for each calendar day.

Note: Canadian HOS regulations are the same for property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers and carriers.

One thing to note: Canadian HOS rules differ slightly based on driving above or below the 60° parallel north. The 60th parallel is considered the boundary between northern and southern Canada. We will indicate if a regulation is applicable to Canada North or South; if there is no clarification, it applies to the entire country.

Canada South daily and shift limitations

Canada South contains the ten provinces below the 60th parallel. It’s where the bulk of Canada’s population resides, primarily in the country’s four largest provinces: Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. When operating in Canada South, these are the daily and shift limitations to know. 

  • Driving limit. A driver is limited to a maximum of 13 hours of driving in one day (dependent on their Day Start Time) and 13 hours within one work shift (a work shift starts after being off-duty for 8 consecutive hours). 

  • On-duty limit. A driver cannot drive after accumulating 14 hours on-duty in one day or 14 hours in a shift.  On-duty includes time logged as “Driving” and “On-Duty Not Driving.”  Drivers can still log time as On-Duty Not Driving after 14 hours on-duty, but cannot log driving time. A driver may only drive again after taking at least 8 consecutive hours off-duty. 

  • Shift/workday limit. A driver may not drive after 16 consecutive hours have elapsed in a shift. A driver must take a break of 8 or more consecutive hours of off-duty time before driving again.

In sum, in Canada South, commercial vehicle drivers have a 16-hour window to drive a maximum of 13 hours before they must take a full off-duty break of at least 8 consecutive hours. It’s a countdown clock—regardless of the hours driven, on-duty, or break times, the 16 hours elapsed time does not stop once a driver is on duty. 

Mandatory off-duty time

Depending on how long a driver has worked, he or she is required to take a certain amount of mandatory off-duty time.

  • Drivers must have a minimum of 10 hours off-duty every day (defined by the day’s start time).

  • Drivers must take a full 8 consecutive hours off-duty after a 16-hour work shift.

  • Off-duty time (other than the mandatory 8 consecutive hours) can be spread throughout the day in blocks greater than 30 minutes each.

Many drivers meet these conditions by having their 8-hour off-duty stretch, with two 1-hour breaks during the day to break up work. To reset a shift and restart on-duty and driving hours, drivers need to be off-duty for 8 consecutive hours. 

Canadian off-duty deferrals

Off-duty deferrals are a unique feature of Canada South’s hours of service rules and can confuse seasoned drivers and carriers. “Deferral” is a postponement, so this rule doesn’t cut off-duty time—it puts it off until later. While driving in Canada South, Canadian drivers may defer up to 2 hours of their required daily off-duty time to the next consecutive day.

But they need to meet the following requirements:

  • The off-duty time deferred cannot be part of a mandatory 8-hour rest break needed to reset the rules.

  • Deferred hours must be added to the 8 consecutive off-duty hours taken on the second day.

  • The total off-duty time taken in the 2 days is at least 20 hours

  • Total driving time does not exceed 26 hours in the 2 days

  • Drivers cannot defer hours 2 days in a row. 

Deferrals can be useful if a driver needs to make up time due to a delay. 

Canada North shift limitations

Canada North includes three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon. Colloquially known as “north of 60,” drivers operating here do not have any daily limitations—only shift limits.

  • Driving limit. A driver is limited to 15 hours driving within a shift. They may only drive 15 hours after 8 consecutive hours off- duty. 

  • On-duty limit. A driver cannot drive after accumulating 18 hours on-duty in a shift. They may only drive again after 8 consecutive hours off-duty. 

  • Shift/workday limit. A driver may not drive after 20 consecutive hours have elapsed in a shift. They must take an off-duty break of at least 8 consecutive hours before they are permitted to drive again.

In Canada North, commercial vehicle drivers have a 20-hour window to drive a maximum of 15 hours before a full off-duty break. Regardless of driving and break times, the 20 hours elapsed time does not stop once started. Drivers are mandated to take a full 8 consecutive hours off-duty after a 20-hour work shift.

Cycles

Canadian drivers can choose to follow two different HOS cycles. Administrators must assign a cycle or drivers must self-select which cycle they are following before logging their hours.If a driver wants to switch cycles, they must follow the reset rules for their current cycle. Cycle 1 follows a 7-day schedule with a required 36 consecutive hour off-duty reset period.  Cycle 2 has a 14-day schedule with a required 72 consecutive hour off-duty reset period.

In the preceding 14 days, drivers must also have a 24-hour period of consecutive off-duty hours.

Cycles

Canada South

Canada North

Cycle 1

70 hours in 7 days

80 hours in 7 days

Cycle 2

120 hours in 14 days 70 hours of on duty requires 24 consecutive hours off-duty time

120 hours in 14 days 80 hours of on duty requires 24 hours consecutive off-duty time

Splitting of Off-Duty Time in Sleeper Berth

Canada’s HOS rules allow drivers to split their required consecutive off-duty time into two periods if they are taken in sleeper berth. This provision of the HOS rules is commonly referred to as the “split-sleeper berth provision.” The rules differ based on whether they are applied to a single driver or a team.

For individual drivers, the rules also differ between Canada South and Canada North:

Canada South

Canada North

Total sleeper berth hours for individual drivers

Total sleeper berth hours must total 10 or more hours.

Total sleeper berth hours must total 8 or more hours.

Split hours for individual drivers

A driver may split 10 hours into two periods, no less than 2 hours each. (Similar to the 8/2 split in the U.S.)

A driver may split 8 hours into two periods, no less than 2 hours each.

Note: Only time in the sleeper berth can count towards “off-duty, sleeper berth.” Any other off-duty time, such as sitting in the passenger seat, doesn’t count towards sleeper berth time.

The differences between U.S. and Canada HOS rules

Cross-border drivers sometimes describe Canada’s regulations as a less restrictive interpretation of U.S. hours of service rules. For the most part, they are. In Canada, drivers can drive for longer periods with less off-duty time compared to what is permitted under U.S. HOS rules. 

Many over-the-road (OTR) or long-haul truckers cross the U.S.-Canada border. These drivers need to understand and follow both sets of HOS rules based on their location. Simply, drivers must follow the U.S. HOS rules when operating in America, and the Canadian HOS rules when operating in Canada.

Canada South

Canada North

United States*

Driving limit

13 hours, after 8 hours off

15 hours, after 8 hours off

11 hours, after 10 hours off

On-duty limit

14 hours

18 hours

14 hours

Shift/workday limit

No driving after 16 elapsed hours since the last 8 hours off-duty.

No driving after 20 elapsed hours since the last 8 hours off-duty.

No driving after 14 elapsed hours since the last 10 hours off-duty.

Break requirements

No requirements

No requirements

30-minute break after driving 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.

Cycles

70 hours in 7 days OR 120 hours in 14 days

80 hours in 7 days OR 120 hours in 14 days

60 hours in 7 days OR 70 hours in 8 days

Cycle reset

36 consecutive hours off-duty resets 70-hour cycle OR 72 consecutive hours off-duty resets 120-hour cycle

36 consecutive hours off-duty resets 70-hour cycle OR 72 consecutive hours off-duty resets 120-hour cycle

34 consecutive hours off-duty resets 60/70 hour cycles

Daily logs

Must have the current day and the previous 14 consecutive days.

Must have the current day and the previous 14 consecutive days.

Must have the current day and the previous 7 consecutive days.

* Property-carrying HOS rules only. Passenger-carrying HOS rules differ.

Personal conveyance in Canada vs. the United States

Personal conveyance (PC) is an off-duty status a driver uses when making a personal trip. It is commonly used when a driver goes off-duty and finds a safe spot to rest. This includes distance travelled to go home, to a hotel, restaurants, or grocery stores. Canadian and U.S. HOS regulations each allow commuting to and from locations for personal reasons is conveyance. This includes travel to a home, hotel, restaurants, or grocery stores. However, they also have slightly different guidelines for using personal conveyance. 

Canada requirements

U.S. requirements

Daily Distance Limit

Drivers are limited to 75 km (46.5 miles) of PC per day. (Logged as off-duty)

No distance limits set on PC, but the FMCSA recommends traveling to a “nearby, reasonable,safe location.” Driving hundreds of miles, or for hours off-duty won’t pass an inspector’s scrutiny.

Laden Vehicles

CMVs must be unloaded and trailers unhitched. Pulling an empty trailer is considered loaded.

No restrictions on CMVs being laden/empty or having trailers unhitched.

How to Log Personal Conveyance (PC)

Drivers must note the PC on logs with odometer readings. Drivers cannot use the PC status to conduct any work-related tasks, including fueling, maintenance, or servicing.

Drivers cannot use the PC status to conduct any work-related tasks, unless they have exhausted their HOS as long as they move to a safe location, in which case they have an exemption.

Electronic logging devices (ELD) in Canada

Canada’s electronic logging device mandate will go into effect on June 12, 2021. Commercial motor vehicle operators and bus drivers will have to forego paper and use an ELD to log duty status. 

ELDs can be a great boost to a fleet’s productivity. They reduce the amount of paperwork, so drivers can spend more time on the road. Drivers don’t need to spend time filling out paper logbooks, and inspectors don’t have to decipher handwritten logs for errors. Many ELDs can also help drivers prevent violations before they occur. ELDs can provide notifications before drivers run out of driving hours, and remind them to take a break while there’s still time available. During 2020’s International Roadcheck, hours of service accounted for 74% of driver-related Canadian out-of-service violations. ELDs can decrease these violations and help fleets comply with HOS rules.

Who must comply with the ELD mandate in Canada?

Canada’s ELD mandate applies to all federally regulated carriers. A carrier is federally regulated if one or more vehicles in the carrier’s fleet operates in multiple provinces or territories. A carrier is provincially regulated if every vehicle in the fleet operates exclusively within a single province or territory. Once a carrier is federally regulated, all of the carrier’s regulated drivers must comply with Federal HOS (i.e., even those drivers within the fleet that never leave one province/territory). Provincially regulated carriers fall under provincial jurisdiction and will not be subject to the federal ELD mandate on June 12, 2021. 

There are four main exceptions to the ELD mandate. Commercial vehicles are exempted if they:

  • Operate under a specific permit.

  • Operate under a statutory exemption.

  • Are subject to a short-term rental agreement (those with a term of 30 days or less).

  • Were manufactured before 2000.

Additionally, the ELD mandate does not apply to commercial vehicles that do not operate outside of a 160 kilometer radius of their home terminal (i.e., carriers do not need to acquire and install certified ELDs for such vehicles). However, the moment that the vehicle travels outside of this 160 km radius, it must use an ELD.

Hours of service compliance made simple

Samsara’s electronic logging device is part of an all-in-one connected solution for Canadian and cross-border fleets. Our tested solution installs fast and automatically collects vehicle data. When combined with the Samsara Driver App, fleets get an accurate and complete read on activity in order to streamline HOS compliance. Additionally, the Samsara ELD is part of an integrated solution for connected operations—including GPS tracking, dispatch, dash cams, and more. Whether you're an owner-operator or a fleet manager, Samsara can help your business gain visibility into your drivers’ hours of service and streamline compliance.

To learn more about Canada’s ELD mandate and get preparation tips, watch our on-demand webinar. If you’re interested in learning more about Samsara’s solutions for Canada, reach out for more information today.

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