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CTA review

The Canada Transportation Act Review Panel has issued its final report on transportation issues and although it has echoed many of the recommendations made by the Canadian Trucking Alliance in its sub...

The Canada Transportation Act Review Panel has issued its final report on transportation issues and although it has echoed many of the recommendations made by the Canadian Trucking Alliance in its submission to the government last year, the Alliance was looking for a stronger stance on some issues.

Key among these was a call for a stronger federal role in trucking and more federal leadership in securing a truly national safety system. The Panel recommended that “federal, provincial and territorial governments collectively recognize the need for a cohesive framework to govern the multiple elements of the trucking sector” and urged the jurisdictions to “establish a time frame for developing and implementing an effective framework to govern all elements of the trucking industry.” A good start, but the CTA says the panel should have gone further.

“We would have liked to see some stronger language. You’ve got an expansive review of the problems and some fairly wishy-washy recommendations at the end. We would have liked a stronger message from the Panel to the federal government that there’s a need for them to get more involved. There are some serious differences, across jurisdictions, that ultimately have an impact on safety,” says the Alliance’s Massimo Bergamini, vice president, public affairs.

Bruce Richards, president of the Private Motor Truck Council, expressed disappointment that the Panel did not examine why it is taking so long to implement a National Safety Code.

“The Panel could have looked at the root causes in the delay. Had the Review Panel looked at that question, maybe we could get some other things done. The Panel also seems to have left out a lot of the work being done in the Customs area, for example on self-assessment and on streamlining border processes. We need some federal money poured into bridges, border crossings, and electronic communication. There’s a lot that needs to be done in order to accommodate that growth,” he says.

Another key Alliance recommendation adopted by the panel dealt with the creation of a national highway infrastructure investment agency, funded through road fuel taxes. The Alliance had argued that the state of Canada’s highways placed an unnecessary brake on the country’s economy in addition to representing a growing public safety hazard. The Panel recommended concepts for funding that would see users pay for roads, by means of appropriate charges and fees, with charges based on costs imposed, differentiated so far as practical by nature of vehicle, type of road and amount of congestion. Managers of the road network, according to the Panel, would have responsibility for both charging and spending decisions, but users would be involved in decisions on charges and expenditures, and alternatives to road spending in other modes should be allowed to compete for road funds.

The Alliance, however, was concerned by the panel’s recommended use of new taxes to contribute to this fund, specifically the introduction of weight-distance taxes.

The Alliance argues that trucks already currently pay close to half a billion dollars a year in federal excise taxes as well as an additional $1.5 billion in provincial fuel taxes. Furthermore, the Alliance points out that every heavy truck in Canada also pays taxes to provincial governments based on their gross vehicle weight (GVW). For example, in British Columbia a truck with a GVW of 10,000kg pays $392 in registration fees, while one registered at 50,000kg pays over $3,000 annually.

“The bottom line is trucks already pay handsomely. We already pay for our share of the road and we don’t need new taxes. Let’s take the money collected today and start investing in our highway system, starting with the two billion a year from the trucking industry alone,” said Bergamini.

The PMTC’s Richards also took issue with some of the statements the Panel made about the trucking market, that ‘since deregulation, the trucking market is highly competitive, and that an operating ratio of 0.95 for for-hire carriers with annual revenues of at least $1 million suggests that most trucking firms, while perhaps not as profitable as owners would like, are surviving.’

“This suggests to me that they think survival is good, and then I think they’ve missed the boat again. An industry that the country depends on so heavily can’t be ‘just surviving.’ I have a feeling they’ve also ignored a large sector of the trucking community by not focusing in on the smaller carriers,” he says. Richards also stresses that having absolute national uniformity in regulating the industry may not be the way to go.

“I’m not sure that absolute uniformity is desirable in every issue. If we do have uniformity we should aim for a denominator that allows a fleet to travel inter-provincially, coast to coast, but intra-provincially, the provinces should be allowed to do what they want, for example, with gross vehicle weights, if one province can handle greater weights they should be allowed to offer that for operations within the province. But everyone would understand a minimum level of compliance. To some degree, that’s what the National Safety Code was attempting to do,” he says.

And with regard to funding schemes for a national infrastructure program, while the Panel had acknowledged that the fiscal system could be used in the pursuit of environmental policy objectives, the Alliance says it failed to deliver a clear recommendation in that regard, and taken a rather one-sided view of full-cost accounting. “It’s simplistic and superficial analysis for a report of that scope. The problem we have is with the full cost accounting and the suggestion that there be a costing mechanism that takes into account the social costs of infrastructure, i.e. accidents, but which don’t take into account the benefits of trucking,” says Bergamini.

The Alliance had proposed an accelerated capital cost allowance, funding credits of sorts, to encourage and the development and use of cleaner engine technologies.

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