Hello, bonjour all! Hope that everything is going good for you out here on the road. Today I'd like to share my experiences with travelling into Canada in a Class 8 truck. Over the last ten years trucking has taken me into almost every province (no states, all provinces) of Canada with multiple trailer configurations. Different freight has different requirements when going into Canada, usually a customs broker will help you wade through all of the requirements of crossing international borders. And it has become a lot easier! Now everything is done electronically, and you are pre-approved before arrival to customs, and your customs broker or carrier should provide you with an e-manifest to hand over to the customs officer and that will identify that your shipment is cleared for entry. Both sides now accept e-manifest and this is the way to cross now, versus the old paperwork mountain that every driver once feared. Upon entering Canada, you'll be asked for your e-manifest and passport. Officers are friendly and professional, and a good attitude will go a long way in making your crossing a short one. You won't need pre-approval for crossing empty, though you may be asked where you are heading for loading.
Driving in Canada isn't much different than driving in the US. They are on the metric system, so you'll see the speed limits in KM, don't be fooled into going 80 mph in an 80 km/h zone, the fines could be hefty! And also you'll want to make sure that your truck's computer is governed down to 65 mph (105 km/h) before crossing into the provinces of Ontario or Quebec as they require all commercial vehicles to have a speed limiter installed. Get caught speeding, you could receive more than just a fine for speeding. The Ministry of Transportation has the tools to plug into your truck's computer and verify that you are in compliance with their laws. Get caught too many times not complying and your truck could be impounded and you'll be banned from entering the country! One benefit for operators of trucks with mechanical engines is you are not required to comply with these laws. You better be careful though, Canada doesn't just pull trucks in for paperwork checks, they are typically going to fully inspect the truck in the scales.
Another thing you may notice while driving along some of Canada's highways is during the daytime all vehicles have headlights on. Canada has a daytime driving light requirement, so if your truck is not equipped with daylight driving lamps, make sure to turn on the headlights to be safe and legal while driving down the highway.
There are a lot less people in Canada, but the most of the people live along the border. This is where you most likely will operate when going into some of the provinces in the east. The western provinces are big open spaces much like the US mid-west and western states. The 401 is one of the main thruways of Ontario and has 3 lanes or more throughout most of the province. Going through Toronto, this highway is always busy, carrying the bulk of the commuters and commercial traffic going to other various centers of industry and commerce throughout Ontario. On the western end, you can likely encounter some of the steepest and most treacherous mountain passes that are available. On the far east, you could see ferries out to the islands, or New Foundland, a province completely surrounded by water.
Hours of service are different as well under Canadian law, and they are a plus. Under Canadian law, you are allowed 13 hours of driving within a 16 hour clock. You'll want to verify with your safety department if they'll approve you to utilize some of the changes when running in Canada. Some safety departments may not want to deal with the differences. Always make sure to add some information to your log sheet as well. You'll need the license plates of your truck and trailer on your log sheet, your duty cycle (most will run a 7/70 cycle, clarifying you can run 70 hours in 7 days). You'll also want to flag border crossings and record your mileage upon entering or leaving Canada at the beginning and end of your day. You can find more information on Canadian hours of service here.
Parking is pretty plentiful throughout Canada as opposed to the US at this time, you'll generally not have a problem finding a nice and safe spot to park your rig. Canada has some Flying J's and a single TA truck stop, but you'll see brands like Petro Canada, Husky, and many small chain stops in every province. There are many rest areas and large pull offs on some of the more rural routes. Ontario even has large service plazas titled OnRoute, with lots of parking and restaurants inside.
Communications have come a long ways, with cellular 4G and 3G data available in many areas, and some US carriers have full access to your cellular plan for as little as $2 a day while traveling in Canada. You can find lots of free Wi-fi, and pay phones are usually available within the truck stops. CB radio is used even less up north than it is now in the south. Channel 19 is usually pretty quiet.
Canada has a proud and strong trucking industry just like us, and a long history that we share with their veterans. They also have a large immigrant trucking population, but just like you and I, they are out there supporting their families and working for a living. You may see more Tim Horton's than golden arches, but just enjoy the experience of driving in another country. Learn a little French for when traversing Quebec. Stay safe and remember patience is the key to success in this time sensitive industry.