Living in harmony

WINNIPEG, Man. – Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) executive director Terry Shaw met with a pair of government officials in mid-August to discuss some of the regulatory barriers facing the trucking industry in the province and beyond. Speaking with Manitoba’s minster of infrastructure, Blaine Pedersen, and minister of growth, enterprise and trade, Cliff Cullen, Shaw iterated several opportunities he said would help reduce the ‘burden of the industry’s regulatory environment.’

“That said, I did start the meeting by suggesting that while we’re pleased to be working with them at the (New West Partnership Trade Agreement) NWPTA level,” Shaw said, “all parties need to remember that national and international harmonization should be the goal.”

The NWPTA is a partnership between the provincial governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan with the goal of creating Canada’s largest, barrier-free, interprovincial market. Each of the three jurisdictions commit to full mutual recognition of reconciliation of their rules affecting trade, investment or labor mobility in an effort to remove barriers to the free movement of goods, services, investment and people within the participating provinces.

Manitoba is not part of the NWPTA, and though the MTA does support coordination ‘to the highest level,’ it does not have a specific position when it comes to Manitoba’s involvement with the NWPTA. Shaw said both ministers were receptive to his desire to achieve better national and international harmonization, but that several challenges for the trucking industry remain.

“We believe discussions on our regulatory environment at the NWPTA level might afford our industry some relief,” Shaw said, “and might also set the stage for less difference nationally, which would benefit not only our members, but industry nationally.”

The MTA put together a nine-page briefing note prior to the meeting with ministers Pedersen and Cullen highlighting a wide variety of what the association sees as being internal barriers that are currently hindering the trucking industry.

Shaw said some of what was highlighted was not necessarily regulatory in nature, but rather differences in provincial interpretation and practice.

“This means that if there’s political will across NWPTA members, we could see a variety of these barriers reduced rather quickly and easily,” Shaw said.

In addition to issues surrounding cargo securement and national safety code (NSC) audit practices, an example of these variations in provincial practices is the long combination vehicle (LCV) standard, and the fact that in Alberta, this matter is dealt with differently from other provinces, like Manitoba.

In Alberta, anyone wanting to operate a LCV must have a ‘satisfactory’ safety rating, but in other western provinces it is acceptable to have a ‘satisfactory unaudited’, ‘conditional’ and ‘satisfactory’ rating. Alberta also allows a carrier to make corrections or adjustments after failing an audit in order to achieve a ‘satisfactory’ safety rating, where other provinces require a complete facility audit to have the rating changed to ‘satisfactory.’

Truck West contacted the Alberta Motor Transport Association for comment on the province’s LCV standards, but did not receive a response by press time.

Shaw said the MTA is presently discussing the matter with the AMTA.

“We’ll allow them to advocate for change in Alberta should they choose to,” Shaw said, “but we’re hoping to collaborate with them on a mutually agreeable outcome to this concern, which is significant for our Manitoba members.”

In addition to Shaw’s recent meeting with the ministers, the MTA has had meetings on this matter with other Manitoba government partners, including enforcement staff.

“While they obviously don’t have the authority to address change in another province,” explained Shaw, “they can choose to influence certain items with their government peers, as we are with our industry peers.”

Another vital issue for the MTA is the absence of safety rating reciprocity between Canada and the US.

“It has been suggested that the lack of a national harmonization in Canada regarding carrier profile and safety rating systems may be on the reasons the US hasn’t welcomed reciprocity on Canadian safety ratings,” Shaw said.

The MTA still feels that any US carrier operating on Canadian roadways should be held to the same safety fitness framework as Canadian carriers, which is currently not the case in Western Canada.

“As of today, no US companies operating in Western Canada need an NSC number in order to operate heavy commercial vehicles,” said Shaw. “This means that despite their on road activities, these US companies will never be subject to audit or other safety intervention measures.”

Shaw said this matter has been discussed at the national level for years, and the MTA would like to see a resolution in the near future.

During his meeting with Pedersen and Cullen, Shaw also underscored a handful of initiatives the MTA board has been advocating for, including working with Manitoba Infrastructure on a scale bypass program.

Other topics discussed included the mandated use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) and entry-level driver training, two items Shaw said would bring improvements economically and from a safety standpoint to the industry.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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