Temporary Federal Hours of Service and Provincial Legislative Exemptions

Exemptions to support the trucking industry during COVID-19.

This webpage provides information on exemptions and best practices for carriers when responding to or in support of a declared emergency. These exemptions came into effect on March 17, 2020 when the state of emergency was declared in Ontario. It is up to individual carriers to decide if they choose to use the exemptions – it is not a requirement they be used.

The exemptions are solely to support relief efforts in response to COVID-19. Once the state of emergency has ended, carriers will be required to comply with all applicable regulatory requirements while operating commercial vehicles in Ontario.

Carriers using this exemption are required to maintain suitable records for the purposes of confirming compliance. They may be required to provide these records on demand for ministry review. Failure to maintain appropriate records may result in action by the Ministry of Transportation.

Ontario expects all carriers considering these exemptions to use these best practices when making operational decisions.

Update on Federal Hours of Service exemptions

Effective April 30, 2020 the Federal Hours of Service exemption is no longer in effect and all federally regulated carriers must be in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements when they leave Ontario.

This exemption applied to all provincial carriers employed or otherwise engaged in the transport of essential supplies and equipment in direct assistance to the emergency relief efforts during the COVID-19 outbreak in all provinces and territories throughout Canada. 

Carriers are encouraged to visit Transport Canada’s website for further updates for federally regulated carriers.

Provincial Hours of Service exemptions for carriers operating in Ontario

The Provincial Hours of Service exemption applies to all provincially and all federally regulated carriers when responding to or in support of a declared emergency in Ontario.

This temporary exemption allows carriers operating in Ontario to manage operations-based demand and allows carriers to alter regulatory limits on hours worked both on a daily and on a weekly basis. Operators are responsible for ensuring the safety of their drivers when moving goods for emergency relief.

Exemption criteria for emergency response

Carriers should use the following criteria to define emergency response (not exhaustive), which includes the movement of:

  1. medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  2. 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;
  3. food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  4. immediate precursor raw materials-such as paper, plastic or alcohol-that are required and to be used for the manufacture of items in categories (1), (2) or (3);
  5. fuel;
  6. equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  7. persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
  8. persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response. Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.

Tips & Best Practices

  • Where possible all legislative requirements should be followed.
  • Where following legislative requirements is not feasible, carriers should minimize deviation from the mandatory rest requirements.
  • Carriers should assess available driver resources within their company and select those drivers best suited for additional hours of driving based on training, experience and physical health.
  • Carriers should ensure all drivers take a minimum of eight consecutive hours of off-duty time after the completion of every work-shift.
  • Carriers and drivers should be aware of available rest areas along their travel routes and plan their trips accordingly. Please visit Ontario 511 for information regarding Ontario’s network of rest areas.
  • Currently all 23 ONroute travel plazas remain open for fuel, take-out, grab and go, drive-through services, and restrooms. Information regarding Ontario’s network of ONroute travel plazas may be accessed by visiting ONroute.ca.
  • Drivers should, during all on-duty non-driving periods, perform fatigue self-assessments to make note of any previous instances of hard-braking or veering while driving and other physical drowsiness indicators. Drivers should be required to report the results of their self-assessment to the operator to ensure they are not fatigued prior to starting another driving period.
  • Carriers should not request employees to continue driving if evidence suggests fatigue is becoming an issue or concern.
  • Carriers should never request that employees drive when they are impaired by fatigue, drugs and or alcohol.
  • Carriers should where possible not use this exemption in situations where drivers are required to operate specialized vehicle configurations such trains and long-combination vehicles or where the driver is required to hold additional qualifications to move commodities.
  • Drivers and carriers should continue to document all driver Hours of Service in the driver’s daily log in order to assess compliance when the exemption ceases to apply.
  • Carriers should identify the type of relief the driver is engaged in providing on the hours of service record.
  • Carriers and drivers should be able to articulate in what manner they are providing relief or responding to an emergency.
  • A driver’s on-duty time and off-duty time, within the meaning of the Hours of Service Regulation, when they are using the emergency provision as mentioned above shall be included in the calculations of a driver’s hours of off-duty and on-duty time for the purposes of complying with this Regulation once the driver returns to normal operation.

Provincial exemption for daily inspection requirements

This exemption helps to reduce administrate burden by allowing the carrier to operate their vehicle without daily inspections, record keeping or following their maintenance statement while providing emergency relief efforts. Carriers are still required to maintain their vehicles.

Tips & Best Practices

  • Where possible all legislative requirements should be followed.
  • Where following legislative requirements is not feasible, operators and drivers need to ensure the vehicle is inspected and maintained frequently to ensure it is fit and meets the requirements of the Highway Traffic Act, at all times.
  • When a vehicle is inspected by the driver, a report should be completed.
  • Carriers should identify the nature of the relief the driver is providing on the completed trip reports.

Provincial exemption for speed limiter requirements

This exemption, if carriers choose to use, permits carriers to operate without a functioning speed limiter in the vehicle while providing relief efforts.

Tips & Best Practices

  • This does not permit drivers to speed. Drivers must obey all posted speed limits, and this should not impact their ability to support emergency relief activities.
  • Carriers that do not have a functioning speed limiter in a vehicle will be able to continue to operate in Ontario to support emergency relief efforts.

The provincial exemptions will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency in Ontario.

Questions related to this information may be directed to the Ministry of Transportation by contacting csio@ontario.ca. Thank you in advance for your patience as we are experiencing a high-volume of correspondence during this time.


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