CALGARY, Alta. - In the spring of 2002 the Van Horne Institute (VHI) held a one-day conference called Reality Check, which explored Calgary's position as a Western Canadian transportation hub and how it can maintain its competitive advantage.
CALGARY, Alta. – In the spring of 2002 the Van Horne Institute (VHI) held a one-day conference called Reality Check, which explored Calgary’s position as a Western Canadian transportation hub and how it can maintain its competitive advantage.
At Reality Check 2004 many of the issues discussed two years ago remained in focus.
While Calgary still enjoys its reputation as a major player in Western Canada’s transportation picture, it can’t afford to be complacent warned Fred Robinson, president of Transportation and Logistics Consulting.
“That growth can rapidly and dramatically shift,” he said while moderating a panel discussion on local surface transportation issues facing trucking and rail.
Calgary must continue to address its shortcomings or it could lose its status as a prime Western Canadian transportation hub to cities such as Edmonton which are also thriving, Robinson said.
“Our most direct competitor is Edmonton and it’s well-deserved because that is a well-run community,” he said. “We’re ahead of Edmonton because we’re blessed with the right geography.”
Representing the trucking industry’s concerns on the panel was Don Chapman, manager of safety and compliance with Canadian Freightways.
The timing of his presentation was impeccable as it was announced just hours beforehand that the long-awaited east-west ring road around Calgary would finally go ahead.
The project has been hung up for decades due to legal wrangling between the city and a Native band that owns some of the land required for the bypass.
Chapman said he’s encouraged by the news the ring road will proceed because right now, the fact the Trans-Canada Highway runs right through Calgary poses serious productivity challenges.
“That national highway travels right through Calgary and it becomes a bottleneck,” Chapman explained, adding other segments of the TCH are equally troublesome.
“Hwy. 1 from Regina to Calgary and almost to Lake Louise is all four lanes and it provides a fast and efficient means of getting products to our customers,” said Chapman.
“West of Lake Louise the national highway turns into something quite different. Sometimes that highway quite frankly resembles a goat trail. Frequently we have delays, we have frequent road closures and that impacts the service that we provide to our customers.”
In and around the Calgary area, trucks must contend with other infrastructure issues as well. Canadian Freightway’s trucks routinely contend with lengthy railway crossing holdups six or seven times per day, Chapman said. Then there’s the Glenmore Tr./Elbow Dr. area, which is frequently backed up due to the most minor of incidents.
Chapman also gave credit where it was due, however, congratulating the city on the Deerfoot Extension, which he dubbed “a first class highway.”
Productivity issues plaguing the trucking industry are being exacerbated by the impending Hours-of-Services changes, Chapman lamented.
He said changing the hours of work rules are not the proper way of battling driver fatigue.
“If anybody has taken any education on fatigue management they know that Hours-of-Service is not the place you address driver fatigue,” Chapman said, adding education, increased awareness, lifestyle changes and in some cases treatment are more practical solutions for fatigue management.
The forthcoming HOS changes “reduce industry and carrier capacity and it will also reduce the earning capacity of the drivers and owner/operators…Our industry is already dealing with capacity issues,” Chapman said.
Another key local surface transportation concern involves the interaction between regular motorists and commercial vehicles. Chapman said accidents involving tractor-trailers “usually hit the front page.”
As a result, improving the collective safety of the trucks on the road should be a priority Chapman insisted, but he’s not sure the four truck officers who patrol the city are able to do it alone.
“Unfortunately, every industry has its poor performers,” he said. “We’re relying on that four-man safety net to try to take them to task.”
Many of the unsafe operators simply avoid the provincial inspection facilities such as the one at Balzac, just north of Calgary on Hwy. 2, Chapman added.