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National Safety Code: Complying vs. Operating

The National Safety Code came into enforcement on April 1, 1990. This was 29 years ago and there are still a lot of drivers struggling to comply.

There is a difference between complying and operating with the National Safety Code. This means that the National Safety Code is a set of rules for fleet operation and drivers that must lead to a safe fleet – this is for the drivers, the vehicles, the number of hours the drivers work, and the safety responsibilities for the fleet and the drivers including Transportation of Dangerous Goods, load securement, trip inspection reports, and general safe operating conditions.

The best way to comply with your rules is to look at the processes that the carrier uses to operate, including monitoring the hours of service.

How do the drivers and the carrier monitor the hours of service for the drivers? Is this:

  • a paper system
  • a wall chart, or
  • an electronic system.

How are the hours recorded and delivered by the drivers to the carrier? These proce

sses must be simple. The method of monitoring the hours must also be simple and workable by both the carrier and the drivers.

The carrier is required to audit the hours to ensure the drivers have not been dispatched beyond the allowable hours and that the carrier has not dispatched the drivers beyond the allowable hours. Drivers must understand that compliance with the hours of service in not an option and it is as much a responsibility for the drivers as it is for the carrier.

Drivers have to understand the hours and the exceptions to the rules when there are unusual circumstances. Drivers have to also understand when they can defer off-duty hours until the next day and how the off-duty hours have to be accounted for, such as making the next rest break 10 hours long to account for the previous day’s hours. The second day or Day 2 of the deferral must be two hours shorter and the first rest break must be 10 hours long to make up for the 2 hours deferred from the previous day. This of course also has to be recorded on the driver’s Hours of Service log or in the office. The above example is one that drivers and carriers must understand to ensure compliance if an audit occurs. Also remember that audits can happen suddenly if an accident or mishap has occurred. Both drivers and carriers must always be ready to defend the hours of service for the drivers and the company.

There are several rules that we use every day that can be added to the processes for the drivers and the carriers.

Division 37 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act Regulations is the National Safety Code Regulations for BC. The Regulations are written so that almost anyone can understand them. This is a good place to start for adding them to your NSC plans. The National Safety Code staff in Victoria has done a very good job of putting together the Carrier Safety Guide. Drivers and carriers should have a good understanding of the requirements for the carriers.

This Guide has some great ideas and also has forms that can be used as a reference (the forms are located at the back of the Guide). Keep a copy of the Guide handy. The secret to having a good National Safety Code plan is to update it regularly. Delegate someone to be responsible for it and to look at ways to make the processes simple.

Some carriers and drivers have expressed concern about contacting the National Safety Code auditors for advice. They are there to give advice! Do not hesitate to call them as they want to see all the carriers in compliance. The CVSE inspectors can also be a big help when dealing with vehicle issues. Again, do not hesitate to call them. All the telephone numbers for these enforcement agencies are at the back of the Carrier Safety Guide on the CVSE website.

Remember that keeping a fleet in compliance is much easier than trying to get a fleet into compliance! If you have been in a position of taking over the responsibilities from someone who did not do a good job, you will understand the scope of the work required to “catch up”. If drivers have a good understanding of their responsibilities, they can make the carrier’s job much easier and the company will run much more smoothly.

The final message is to download the carrier profile frequently and share it with the drivers, as this is a report card of how you are scoring and what is outstanding (you must have a BCEid – which allows the carrier to download the carrier profile electronically any time – this can be obtained by calling the phone number in the Carrier Safety Guide). For example, if a driver has received a violation notice and has not turned in a copy, this is the time to find it. Remember that a driver must turn in the violation notice within 15 days of the occurrence regardless if he/she intends to dispute the violation. This is just one example of what is in the carrier’s profile.

Drivers want to be paid correctly; therefore, ensure your hours are accurately recorded and that you are always in compliance.

Remember: a driver cannot drive after:

– 13 hours driving time
– 14 hours on duty
– 16 hours from the beginning of the shift regardless of the situation
– 70 hours on duty with 7 days
– 120 hours in 14 days

These rules are stipulated in Division 37 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations.

Hours of Service are a responsibility of both the driver and the carrier. Always maintain compliance.


Visit BC Trucking Association to register for the next National Safety Code training course.



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