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Bradley advocates working towards brighter future

BANFF, Alta. - Three-time Olympic gold medallist Marnie McBean addressed the delegates at the Alberta Motor Transport Association management conference with an inspirational message on becoming career...

BANFF, Alta. – Three-time Olympic gold medallist Marnie McBean addressed the delegates at the Alberta Motor Transport Association management conference with an inspirational message on becoming career champions.

She began by finding common ground with the room, explaining that being a rower is just like being a trucker, making a living by sitting down.

“Actually it’s more like a politician because I sit on my ass and go backwards,” she joked with the crowd.

The comment received a positive response from the crowd.

But it was David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, who expanded on the trucking industry’s involvement with the government.

“With the election of a new federal government it puts a fresh face on parliament and builds a fresh approach to policies,” he explained. “It’s important now to reflect on transportation policy and where we’re heading in the next few years with the restraints of a minority government.”

In past years a change in government usually coincided with a change in transportation policies. Bradley remains skeptical that a new national policy will garner the results the industry is seeking.

He cited a past attempt at a national policy, which provinces failed to buy into and there was a lack of consultation with other federal departments, most notably the finance department.

“What we really need is an economic policy that recognizes freight transportation issues,” he told the conference delegates. “It needs to be a component of every decision in parliament.”

A major obstacle facing the Canadian trucking scene is a shortage of capacity, he said. Right now that capacity shortage is due to a shortage of drivers. Bradley pointed to the fact that being a professional driver is not viewed as a skilled or vocational occupation by policy makers.

“For too long it has been taken for granted or viewed as a necessary evil,” he explained. “It does not receive recognition by people whose hands are on the lever of power.”

A key to the change in attitude will result from shifting focus from the industry’s cost to society, to its contribution to society. New ultra-low sulfur diesel will be arriving at the pumps in the fall, followed shortly thereafter by a new line of environmentally friendly engines, which are expected to increase prices by up to US$10,000.

Despite the industry coming together to reduce any negative impact on the environment, Bradley is not convinced a national policy is the answer.

“The very idea of a national policy is problematic. Look at the National Safety Code,” noted Bradley. “It is 17 years later and not one safety standard has been adopted right across the country. No federal government is likely to exercise its right on inter-provincial trucking.”

Canada remains the only G-8 country without a national highway policy, but Bradley is encouraged that the new Transport Minister is also holding the Infrastructure and Communities portfolio.

“Hopefully we can leverage that key link,” said Bradley. “I’m pleased to see the government promised to negotiate with a national transportation and infrastructure program. I’m pleased to see it, but we’ll have to see what happens.”

Before any significant infrastructure changes can occur, Bradley says it is imperative that changes be made to the environmental assessment process.

“Long ago it became less about the environment and more about preserving property values,” explained the economist.

As the trucking industry continues its emergence from deregulation, Bradley says the industry has suffered by not having a strong shipper voice to compliment concerns voiced by the trucking industry.

“We’ll never be able to attract the people we want and need until we change compliance attitudes,” he said. “There’s a clash right now between old ways and new ways to do things but I think we will emerge stronger. That’s why we now are taking bold positions like on-board recorders and speed limiters.”

“We couldn’t dream of that five years ago, now we have a national policy,” Bradley continued. “We can wait to be told what to do or we can take bold positions and move forward with initiatives on our own.”

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