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MONTREAL, Que. - As members of the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) milled around him, at their annual convention, executive vice-president Claude Pigeon stopped to talk about several issues concerni...

MONTREAL, Que. – As members of the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) milled around him, at their annual convention, executive vice-president Claude Pigeon stopped to talk about several issues concerning the province’s trucking industry. The following were his comments:

TRUCK NEWS: Can you explain the experiment the QTA is conducting with on-board computers and logbooks?

CLAUDE PIGEON: We’re conducting a kind of pilot project, with two volunteer companies, to see if it works out better to record log entries on the computer, rather than in a paper logbook. The project started this fall under the Societe d’Assurance Automobile du Quebec, and we’ll soon be looking at the results. The object isn’t to be able to control hours of service, but just to log them electronically.

TN: Many association members are worried about the growing shortage of drivers. What are some of the ways the Quebec Trucking Association could help make the trucking industry more attractive to potential job candidates?

CP: We’re in the midst of mounting an information campaign to the public that would make known the daily impact the trucking industry has on their lives. Hence, the video that was presented at the QTA convention’s opening ceremony, on how a simple little tub of yogurt relies on trucks, from milk product to final container, to get to its destination.

The trucking industry – and trucks – are seen as big, threatening, and dangerous. The public doesn’t differentiate between the good truckers and the delinquents.

We want to make it known that we, the trucking industry, have cleaned house, and we’re proud of it.

We also want to ask the police, and roadside inspectors, to do a better job.

TN: There has been a call among many of your members for a better police presence in the province. Why?

CP: There is a small minority of delinquent drivers that are giving the rest a bad name. Only the authorities can remove these delinquents who pay little attention to the rules and regulations. But the police have a tendency both towards indifference on the one hand, and an unwillingness on the other hand to hand out infraction notices to truckers, for whom they feel sorry a lot of the time.

The police need better sensitivity training in some areas, but in others, they need to come down harder with infraction notices. At this time, the Surete de Quebec is renegotiating labor contracts, though, so this is not their top priority.

TN: In the Quebec Ministry of Transport’s Green Paper on Highway Safety, the contents of which were much discussed in the province during the past few months, there is the suggestion that introducing photo radar could help the police do their job. Would it?

CP: No, not at all. Photo radar only addressed speeding problems. It doesn’t address cutoffs and dangerous driving. We also don’t want to give the police even more reason to stay off the roads. We feel photo radar would make them even less visible.

TN: The Quebec Ministry of Transport recently announced it would spend $3.8 billion in infrastructure for highways and public transit over the next 10 years. Is it enough?

CP: The ministry is investing less and less on infrastructure, as a whole. We need a belt expressway, or ring road, in Montreal, one that would create a route around, not through, the city. On the south shore of Montreal, there are still 25 kilometers of uncompleted highway along Hwy. 30. We don’t see the day when it will be completed. The ministry keeps promoting public transport while existing routes deteriorate.

TN: Is looking to the private sector a possibility for infrastructure improvements?

CP: We would consider looking at constructing toll roads if there were still a choice available, if that weren’t the only route.

TN: In Ontario, leaving that choice open often means that the toll road goes unused by trucks. Would there be an incentive to use such a road in Quebec?

CP: For the trucking industry, a toll road construction, such as the 407 in Ontario, would probably be feasible. It costs $50 an hour more for a truck to be stuck in traffic rather than for the driver to pay a toll, once you factor in brakes, fuel costs, increased chance of accidents on busy roads, pollution, etc. n

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