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Reform urged for pilots' shift rules
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KEITH McARTHUR
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Transportation Minister David Collenette should put safety first and bring Canada's limits on how long a pilot can be at the controls in line with the rest of the world, opposition politicians say.

"Hours of work are the basis of safety throughout the transportation industry, whether the employees are pilots, conductors, truck drivers or bus drivers. I think the minister is shrugging his responsibilities in not wanting to talk about it and in refusing to deal with the issue," Mario Laframboise, the transportation critic for the Bloc Québécois, said in an interview yesterday.

Canada's rules on how long a pilot can be behind the controls are among the most liberal in the world.

A pilot in Canada can be at the controls for more than 12 hours, compared with a maximum of eight in the United States, 10 in Brazil and 10½ in Mexico.

On transcontinental flights, airlines carry extra pilots so everybody has a chance to rest. But while U.S. carriers are required to carry four pilots on a flight lasting 12 hours and 15 minutes, a Canadian carrier needs only two.

Transportation workers have been speaking out about the dangers of fatigue, with pilots, truckers and railway engineers saying they can't always stay awake.

Mr. Collenette said this week he doesn't think fatigue is a major safety issue in the transportation industry. He said pilots may just be complaining because they want to work shorter hours.

"I think there might be an element of bargaining in the comments you have heard. People might want a shorter shift for the work that they do and I don't propose to get into that," Mr. Collenette said.

"The issue of pilots nodding off is one that we believe is not a common occurrence and not a dangerous occurrence."

In Question Period this week, Mr. Laframboise asked if Mr. Collenette would wait for a major aviation disaster before moving to bring Canada's flight duty rules in line with the rest of the world.

Mr. Collenette replied that Canada's "safety standards in aviation are unparalleled in the world."

Bev Desjarlais, the NDP transportation critic, said fatigue is a huge safety issue for legislators. She said she would like to see Canada adopt work rules that are in line with the toughest in the world. "As airline traffic increases, as the demands on pilots increase, we see more and more often the shortage of crews where they're flying more hours," she said.

Ms. Desjarlais said she is especially concerned about the truck and rail sectors, where fatigue-related accidents are more frequent.

The U.S. National Transportation Board recently cited crew fatigue as one of the top safety issues facing all modes of transportation.

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