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CTA pressures Ottawa for change on several fronts

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - Meetings, meetings and more meetings.In a nutshell, that's what the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has been up to lately, and senior vice-president Graham Cooper visited the Alb...


LAKE LOUISE, Alta. – Meetings, meetings and more meetings.

In a nutshell, that’s what the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has been up to lately, and senior vice-president Graham Cooper visited the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s management conference Oct. 26 to keep westerners abreast of the latest developments in the capitol.

Impact of terror

It was no surprise the recent terrorist attacks in the U.S. and their impact on Canadian trucking companies has been commanding a lot of time and energy from the association lately.

Although the CTA understands the importance of improving security along the U.S./Canada border, there are concerns trade between the two countries will continue to slow towards a trickle.

“I think we would be naive to think that the transport of commercial shipments are at the same level overall as they were before the attacks,” says Cooper, noting Canada Customs has reported a nine per cent drop in cross-border freight from this time last year. “Clearly it’s going to have implications on our industry, so we’re following this very closely.”

Recent theories being floated in all media sources about a continental security perimeter still have many holes, says Cooper.

“Will it be just around Canada and the U.S., or will it include Mexico? Would a so-called Fortress North America mean a European Union state of security?” are just some of the questions he says the fleet group is asking. “We need concrete measures put in place. The usual government timelines of several months are not appropriate.”

If Parliament doesn’t act soon, Canada runs the risk of having decisions made for it, and the effects could be devastating on the trucking industry, warns Cooper.

“While the U.S. values our trade relationship, there’s no doubt what their priority is,” says Cooper. “We can’t stand by while the U.S. develops border policies south of the 49th and imposes them on us.”

Same message out East

The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) heard more on the effects of the terrorist attacks on our neighbors south of the border.

Cooper told the eastern fleet group the effects of the slowing, and sometimes stopped, movement of goods on the dates of Sept. 11-13, may have cost the trucking industry as much as $55 million. The number was based on the fact that each day there is $1 billion in export trade from Canada to the U.S.

Transport Canada has established a task group, the Motor Carrier Policy Group (MCPG) and has also formed a road security team. The MCPG will head up an effort to look at the trucking trade flows and will try to find ways to ensure trade flows are not interrupted at the border. The road security team, a group of people from industry and government will look at road security issues including the protection of infrastructure and the transportation of hazardous materials.

While the CTA warns Ottawa of the need for quick action to improve cross-border trade, a number of other issues have surfaced as well.

Other issues discussed

One of the more startling revelations to the association is the recent emergence of the much-anticipated Railway Association of Canada’s Hours-of-Service proposal.

It calls for lax restrictions which would allow conductors and yard workers to put in up to 18 hours of work in a 24 hour period.

“We will be following this up with the Minister (of Transportation),” vows Cooper. “When we do get our day in court to talk about the trucking Hours-of-Service, we’ll be talking about this, too.”

He found it especially interesting the proposal was accompanied by a circular indicating breaks must be long enough for workers to enjoy a bite to eat or a cup of coffee.

“There’s nothing about sleep there,” says Cooper. “There is no weekly cap, no monthly cap, no yearly cap.”

The only thing required of employees who rack up unreasonable hours is involvement in the railway’s fatigue management program, which Cooper suggests pales in comparison to the trucking industry’s efforts.

“CRASH (Citizens for Responsible and Safe Highways) has called our (Hours-of-Service regulations) a licence to kill,” he says. “I’m not even going to speculate on what the railway program should be called.”

On the trucking hours front, the CTA recently agreed with Teamsters on some of the finer points of the proposal currently sitting before the House of Commons Steering Committee.

“By putting in place this agreement, Teamsters agreed they would support all remaining components,” he says. “The major union involved with trucking is now on-side.”

He says the next challenge is to break through the bureaucratic red tape, which has engulfed previous attempts to reform the trucking’s hours of work.

Although Cooper says the CTA doesn’t condone a ramrod approach, he suggests it may be the only way anything gets done while Transport Canada is so wrapped up with airline security issues stemming from Sept. 11.


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