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Industry Forecast: Full Plate for ’05, QTA Says

MONTREAL, Que. - The Quebec Trucking Association is predicting keeping the border fluid will be the main preoccupation of Quebec truckers through 2005.

MONTREAL, Que. – The Quebec Trucking Association is predicting keeping the border fluid will be the main preoccupation of Quebec truckers through 2005.

“Our main problems will revolve around the border,” said QTA president Marc Brouillette.

“We do have systems, like PAPS (pre-arrival processing system) and FAST (free and secure trade) in place now, but they haven’t yet reached maturity. This year will be all about learning to use the systems properly. We can only hope we will have accomplished that three to six years from now.”

Infrastructure issues will also play a role in the industry’s ongoing health through 2005, added Brouillette.

“We need major investments in infrastructure and staffing at the border. If there are five booths at the border and the staff isn’t in them, it’s not going to do much good,” he said.

Infrastructure leading up to Quebec border crossings needs major investment as well, Brouillette went on to say.

“Places with crossings like Lacolle (a Quebec municipality at the U.S. border) are having traffic problems. We need the governments at all levels to work together to improve circulation,” he said.

The value of the Canadian dollar vis-a-vis the U.S. greenback is also a concern.

“The Canadian economy is based on exports, and with the value of the Canadian dollar rising, it may have a negative effect on the transportation industry. Demand for exports to the States may decrease.”

Other factors contributing to the state of the industry in 2005 will include the Quebec government’s review of vehicle configurations and thaw restrictions.

“The good news is that Transport Quebec will allow us to haul more up to the border,” Brouillette said. “Before we were allowed to haul two trailers but one could only be half full. Now we can load both, thanks to weight and length increases. That provides us with an advantage in terms of reducing reloading and paperwork. Now we’ll be able to send a trailer that’s been fully inspected and sealed directly to the border, instead of having to unload it and reload it and rewrite the bill.”

Transport Quebec will also be reviewing thaw restrictions at the beginning of 2005, Brouillette said.

“The QTA will be asking for Transport Quebec to continue the status quo and not increase weight restrictions during the thaw,” said Brouillette.

The revised thaw restrictions are due out in April, he said.

Transport Quebec will also be looking at harmonizing its configurations regarding wide base tires with those of Ontario, Brouillette added. Disc brake legislation will also be on the agenda. And so will Quebec’s fining system for violations of the Highway Code.

“We’re hoping the government will consider reducing the fines and increasing the use of the demerit points system for commercial vehicles,” Brouillette said.

“We also want the government to look at how the points are assigned – for example, why should a driver be able to contaminate an otherwise good carrier with his own poor driving? Drivers’ performance, good or bad should be measured, and they should be recognized when they reach a certain level of excellence. We’d also like to establish a joint program between the industry and the government to recognize these drivers.”

As far as Canadian hours of service go, the QTA supported Canadian Trucking Alliance’s 18-hour work window proposal which has since been dropped.

The window provided increased flexibility to the individual driver and was especially useful if electronic on-board recorders became mandatory, Brouillette said.

“After all, drivers like to have the time to eat, stretch their legs or take a nap if they need it. They need a certain amount of freedom, or they’ll leave.” As far as Brouillette is concerned, the QTA is well on its way to accomplishing many of its goals. “We’ve spent two years negotiating with Transport Quebec and a lot of things we were talking about are finally coming to fruition this year,” he said.

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