Earlier this year, when a Bill amending the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 (MVTA) was introduced in the Senate, Transport Minister David Collenette issued the following statement:"These amendments ...
Earlier this year, when a Bill amending the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 (MVTA) was introduced in the Senate, Transport Minister David Collenette issued the following statement:
“These amendments establish carrier safety as the primary focus of the federal regulation of motor carriers, and create the tools for ensuring national consistency in safety performance regulation.”
Specifically, the revisions use new National Safety Code (NSC) standards as the basis for creating a national safety rating system measured by actual road performance.
Notwithstanding significant commitments of time and energy by government and industry over the past seven years, there is still little prospect for a nationally consistent standard. That is, unless certain fundamental changes are made by the federal and provincial governments in their approach to implementing the NSC and the safety rating standard in particular.
Otherwise, it is probable that the current Canadian Council Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) process will lead to a variety of provincial or regional rating systems, which will entirely undermine the objective of a consistent and effective national standard upon which to base a revised MVTA.
The methods used by different jurisdictions to determine carrier safety ratings show a lack of consistency across the country, even now.
Arguably, the safety rating standard could be the most important component of the NSC, in that it has the potential to assess a carrier’s level of compliance with all other standards. However, if inconsistent methodologies are not resolved, it is inevitable that the effectiveness of this standard will be undermined to the point that safety ratings, as well as the MVTA, will have little or no meaning to regulators or to the marketplace.
As the era of economic regulation was drawing to a close in the late 1980’s, the MVTA, delegated to the provinces the administration of the federal government’s constitutional authority over extra-provincial truck and bus transportation.
The downside of the federal government’s decision to remain on the sidelines in the period leading up to and following deregulation was that the provinces filled the void by putting in place separate, and inconsistent, regulatory regimes.
As the trucking industry has grown since that time to become national and international in scope, this lack of consistency in regulatory approach has become a constant source of frustration and increased cost for motor carriers and their drivers who operate across provincial and international borders.
However, in preparing for deregulation, the federal government had indeed recognized that in the new trucking marketplace, a mechanism would have to be found to ensure that carriers across the country would be subject to a consistent regulatory regime.
In 1985, the then minister of transport stated in Freedom to Move, “I would like to indicate unequivocally that the government will neither propose nor permit any economic regulatory reform that might be detrimental to safety standards.
“In view of the importance of safety to the economic well-being of trucking, consultations will be undertaken with the provinces to discuss federal-provincial cooperation in the development of a consistent national safety program for the industry.”
The solution arrived at was the National Safety Code. However, 16 years after Freedom to Move, not one of the 16 standards in the NSC has been adopted in a consistent manner by all provinces.
In the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s (CTA) view, this is the result of an approach to developing regulations which is fundamentally flawed, in large part because it relies on a loosely knit partnership of governments which is accountable to no one if it fails to live up to its own agreements.
The CCMTA process incorporates no meaningful or practical mechanism to ensure that standards derived through consensus among governments, often after years of discussion and negotiation, are implemented in the form and manner agreed upon at the CCMTA table.
The CTA has maintained from the outset of discussions in 1994 – and most government delegates to CCMTA have agreed – that unless all provinces harmonize their safety rating methodologies so carriers with similar performance receive the same ratings, the standard will fail. And it will become just a disjointed series of provincial or regional carrier profile systems.
Our fear is that without a commitment of political will and increased funding on the part of the federal government to ensure that the NSC is consistently applied in all jurisdictions, the requisite leadership will be lacking. And a national rating standard may be unattainable
The time has come for the federal government to expend the political capital and financial resources necessary to effectively exercise its constitutional authority over trucking.
That would put an end to the patchwork quilt of regulations currently hampering industry productivity and competitiveness. n
– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.