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Manitoba eyes Transportation Partnering Program

WINNIPEG, Man. - Manitoba fleets may get stuck with the tab for upgrading substandard routes and bridges if the province's Department of Highways and Government Services has its way.In an interview wi...

WINNIPEG, Man. – Manitoba fleets may get stuck with the tab for upgrading substandard routes and bridges if the province’s Department of Highways and Government Services has its way.

In an interview with Truck News Don Norquay, the department’s assistant deputy minister in charge of the transportation policy branch, confirmed that the province hopes to table a legislative proposal on some form of Transportation Partnering Program (TPP) this fall.

Saskatchewan operates the only existing Canadian TPP, a mechanism to charge carriers who wish to routinely move oversized and overweight loads and divert the money into an infrastructure repair and improvement fund.

“This is very much in the preliminary stages,” Norquay explains. “We’re trying to develop some over-arcing policy … it’s going to require some legislative changes first.”

He says the main concerns of the move would be, first, to enhance safety, and secondly, to fund repairs and upgrades to roads and bridges.

“We’re looking at the possibility of some special safety requirements,” Norquay says. Placarding, escort services, and the possibility of so-called ‘black box’ trip recording devices, may all be required under the future TPP, he says.

Manitoba’s neighbor to the west already evaluates each application on a case-by-case basis under its program. When Saskatchewan first began introducing its TPP, one of the key components was that a portion of the funds would go into an infrastructure improvement fund.

The government calculates the operational efficiency of new, oversize or overweight configurations and – once any repairs required to the route have been paid for by the carrier – 50 per cent of the remaining savings is taken from the fleet by the government.

“Rates really vary between agreements,” says Jim Friesen, general manager of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association. “Some of them really are extremely high.”

Original government estimates said there would be $20 million in a trucking industry-controlled fund, to make improvements requested by the contributing companies. Reality, as so often happens, didn’t come anywhere near the political predictions and now there is only about $2.6 million in the stash.

Since Saskatchewan looks at the entire trip, and not simply the portion covering substandard routes, a great deal of money has been appropriated from fleets for general highway repair and maintenance.

“If you have a logger using the same routes for a period of time, there will obviously need to be repairs made to those logging roads, or maybe even new roads cut threw the bush,” says Friesen, adding the STA has no problem with TPP-funded programs of this nature.

“But what about fleets running the dual highway from Regina to Saskatoon?” he complains. Friesen adds that there have been a number of advances in the world of trucking over years. But, thanks to the TPP, carriers won’t see any of the benefits from any future innovations. Any savings either go to improving roads or are passed on to the shipper.

“Our advice would be to fight hard to keep any type of partnering program out,” he concludes.

Norquay contends that compared to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, “won’t likely take that severe of an approach.” But, he stresses the public and shippers will be the big winners under the proposed program.

“I really see the trucking industry as one of the few that is truly competitive,” says Norquay. “So there’s not a lot in this for the trucking industry.”

As far as Bob Dolyniuk, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association, is concerned, the industry doesn’t want to have anything to do with a partnering program.

“I haven’t heard or seen anything official from the province yet,” he stresses, “but if they’re serious about this we’ll certainly oppose it.”

Norquay says the program is moving forward and estimates the trucking and shipping communities, as well as the public, will be consulted on their views of a TPP by June or maybe even sooner. n

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