Beginning April 1, Canadians began paying more at the pump as the national carbon tax was hiked to 10.73 cents per liter of diesel. Thanks to the hike, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates the trucking industry will pay $538 million in carbon pricing this year.
And it won’t stop there. Further increases could see truckers paying $3 billion a year by 2030. How the money collected through a national carbon tax should be spent is still subject to debate. The CTA would like to see it offered back to the industry in the form of incentives for adopting emissions-reducing technologies. That’s a good idea.
Helping offset the cost of environmentally-friendly technologies will increase their adoption, thus reducing the trucking industry’s carbon output.
Another option worthy of consideration would be to invest in the nation’s roads and bridges. Driving over modern, well designed and properly maintained roads reduces fuel consumption. But unfortunately, a large portion of our highway network is in poor condition, according to a new eye-opening survey from CAA.
The report, titled The Cost of Poor Roads in Canada, was published March 30 and paints a grim picture of the state of our roads. It draws on newly available data from StatCan’s Core Public Infrastructure Survey. The study found that only 52% of Canada’s 1.04 million kilometers of roads are in good or very good condition.
Fifteen per cent are in poor or very poor condition, and 28% are rated fair. That means Canada has 108,000 kms of roads in poor condition and another 48,000 kms in very poor condition.
It’s road users who pay the price. While the CAA study didn’t break down the cost to commercial vehicle operators, it calculated the average motorist pays an extra $126 a year due to poor quality roads. The cost varies by province, with Quebec and Atlantic Canada faring the worst. Quebec drivers pay a whopping $258 extra each year due to bad roads, while Alberta’s roads are the best maintained, costing drivers only $64 extra per year to navigate.
The total cost of bad roads is $3 billion a year incurred by road users. Yet, we’re also paying more for the privilege of driving on those bad roads through increased taxes. I recognize the carbon tax and road maintenance are two separate issues. But should they be? There’s a direct correlation between road conditions, and fuel consumption and wear and tear on vehicles.
The CAA study goes on to make the case for road maintenance. Every dollar spent on pavement preservation today can eliminate or delay spending $6-$10 on rehabilitation or reconstruction in the future, it reports.
“While new road construction generates headlines, proper maintenance saves us all a lot of money,” the report concludes.
The benefits of increasing spending on road maintenance would directly impact the nation’s trucking industry. Better roads will reduce equipment damage, enhance fuel efficiency, improve uptime and strengthen the supply chain.
That’s to say nothing of the jobs that would be created, jobs that are badly needed as Canada’s economy emerges from the havoc wrought by Covid-19. South of the border, U.S. President Joe Biden is touting a $2-trillion infrastructure bill. While it encompasses much more than roads and bridges, it’s a serious commitment to rebuilding deteriorating infrastructure.
Canada should follow suit, or risk being left behind.
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