Manitoba’s Transport Minister Calls Trucking Fund a “Win/Win”
February 1, 2004
WINNIPEG, Man. - As Manitoba continues to tinker with its Highway and Transportation and Highway Traffic acts, the Trucking Productivity Improvement (TPI) Fund has emerged as one of the most interesti...
WINNIPEG, Man. – As Manitoba continues to tinker with its Highway and Transportation and Highway Traffic acts, the Trucking Productivity Improvement (TPI) Fund has emerged as one of the most interesting proposals.
The fund would generate revenues through permit fees, penalties and contributions from private companies, and channel the money towards roads.
The extra cash for roads is badly needed, since only $7 million of the $165 million in fuel taxes collected by the feds in Manitoba is returned to the province.
Given the program’s name, the obvious question is “Just how will the Trucking Productivity Improvement Fund actually improve trucking productivity?”
Truck West posed that question to Manitoba’s Transport and Government Services Minister, Ron Lemieux.
“It allows trucking companies to haul more than their legal weight limits…so the carriers are able to profit by being permitted to exceed weight restrictions and government is also able to ensure the quality and safety of our roads and highways,” explained Lemieux.
The program is very similar to Saskatchewan’s Transportation Partnership Program fund, in which carriers are allowed to exceed weight restrictions provided they put a portion of any savings back into the fund. That fund is then used to rehabilitate the highways that suffer incremental damage as a result of the increased weights.
In Saskatchewan, it’s a no-brainer for carriers, as they are only required to contribute a portion of their savings, thus they really can’t lose. In Manitoba, however, carriers will have to do their homework to ensure their savings will amount to more than the cost of the permits. It may not be practical for all trucking companies to participate.
“The haulers have to make the determination themselves whether or not the positive side outweighs the cost of the permits and so on,” said Lemieux. Manitoba’s proposed fund comes after a pilot project involving three carriers, and Lemieux said each of them were pleased with the program.
“I’ve been advised they’re all very happy with the outcome,” he said.
Another source of revenue for the fund is penalties collected from carriers who operated illegally. Does this mean that enforcement will be stepped up in Manitoba in an effort to bolster the fund?
“It’s something that we’re looking at,” admitted Lemieux, adding he hopes it won’t be necessary. “We’re hoping that there’s not a need for a lot of increased enforcement and extra penalties…but it’s something we’re certainly not closing the door on. The last thing the province wants to do is hire more enforcement officers and give out more penalties. There shouldn’t be a need for that.”
But increased enforcement may not necessarily be a bad thing, said Bob Dolyniuk, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA).
“We’ve had a position with the Manitoba government frankly that we have not been happy with the level of on-road enforcement,” said Dolyniuk. “We don’t think it’s adequate. We continually hear of people operating illegally and it seems they continue to do so because there aren’t the resources to have the officers on the road whether it be at the scale houses or portable scales.”
All in all, the MTA is encouraged by the development of the new fund.
“At this point, we’re certainly not in opposition to the legislation,” confirmed Dolyniuk. “They’re looking at generating revenues from public-private partnerships and I know there are a couple of (forestry) companies in Manitoba that are looking at taking advantage of such a partnership if it comes through and paying for the incremental damage they would do to some of the roads getting their product out of the bush and into the mill, and I certainly don’t have an issue with that.”
However, there are still some unanswered questions about the proposed fund, Dolyniuk said.
“One of the things that we have some concern about is that nowhere within the legislation does it indicate or suggest the revenues generated from a specific highway will be returned to that highway,” he added. “The money should go back into that section of roadway (where the incremental damage occurred).”
Lemieux told Truck West that will, indeed, be the case. He said the money will be re-invested in the roadway “that’s bearing the most weight or bearing the most traffic” as a result of the program. And it may not be restricted to roadways, but bridges could also receive attention under the program.
And private companies that contribute to the fund can have their money directed to the road or bridge of their choice. Lemieux said the plan is a “win/win” situation and that it will go a long way towards improving the overall image of the trucking industry.
“A lot of communities see trucking companies as the ones that are beating up our highway system and that’s really not the case,” he explained. “What we are trying to do with this is work in partnership so we are dual stewards of the highway system. The companies are putting their money where their mouth is. It’s a win/win not only for the people of Manitoba who use those highways, but also for the companies who are making a pretty good profit as a result of the business they do here.”