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Quebec introduces the “Bote noire”

MONTREAL, Que. - Quebec will once again be showing just how distinct it is. One year from now, the province will lead the way in North America when a new Transport Quebec law goes into effect introduc...


MONTREAL, Que. – Quebec will once again be showing just how distinct it is. One year from now, the province will lead the way in North America when a new Transport Quebec law goes into effect introducing so-called black boxes in tanker trucks transporting dangerous goods.

“Quebec will be the first place anywhere (on the continent) to require such special equipment for tankers,” Sophie Tremblay of the Quebec Trucking Association told Truck News.

Tremblay, the association’s co-ordinator for technical and operational issues, said the industry and government reached what she called “an acceptable compromise” on the matter. The measure was originally to be put into effect last August, but she explained the move was postponed to allow time to standardize recording systems currently on the market that would best meet industry needs.

While stressing the industry certainly isn’t against any technology that will make trucking safer, “the government had not demonstrated it would do that.”

Patrick Kaigle, national director of transportation for Air Liquide Canada, pointed out from his Montreal office that the Quebec fleet of about 100 tankers has been equipped with black boxes for a decade.

“We already conform (to the new regulations),” he said. “It’s a positive tool to better manage safety.”

Air Liquide is following the European model where Kaigle said black boxes or similar technology has long been in use by the trucking industry. He sees only one disadvantage with implementation of Quebec’s revised law – that it won’t be Canada-wide even though any tankers entering the province after mid-August 2006 will have to comply. For now, he said it works against Quebec truckers because they have to shoulder the extra expense to buy the equipment.

Julie Casaubon, who takes care of technical and dangerous goods matters for the QTA, said members won’t be able to depend on any government subsidies to pay for buying, installing, operating or maintaining the required equipment.

The black boxes, for example, run between $100 and $1,000 each.

In reaction to the proposed new industry rules for driver hours of service and black boxes last fall, the head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance supported use of the recorders.

CTA chief executive David Bradley said in a November statement that the alliance’s member firms were calling for the mandatory use of electronic on-board recording technology for all trucks governed by the National Safety Code to ensure compliance with the new regulations.

Bradley said it is “imperative from a safety point of view, which of course is paramount, but also in terms of providing responsible carriers with a level playing field with competitors who might otherwise chose to bend or break the rules to increase driving time.”

The industry south of the border is less supportive of black boxes.

Both the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association in December spoke out against mandated black boxes, expressing fears the data could be used in civil litigation.

TDG tankers in Quebec that don’t have black boxes by Aug. 15, 2006, will have the option of instead installing an electronic stability system to assist drivers in attempting critical maneuvers.

Vehicles manufactured before that date will need a system that limits maximum speed to 100 km/h, a Transport Quebec measure put into place in June.

Casaubon said speed-governing systems cost as much as $2,000 a piece.

In other matters, the QTA’s Sophie Tremblay said an assessment is expected next month on an experiment that is keeping Canadian Pacific Railway’s Lachine Terminal in Montreal open 24-hours a day.

“CPR offered to alter its opening time for the summer as a test,” she noted. “If there is increased activity mornings, evenings and weekends, we hope the extended hours will continue year-round.”

Alan Parry, CPR’s general manager of Intermodal Operations, announced in June that the initiative was created after joint consultations with representatives from the QTA (including Tremblay), the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association and the shipping community.

Since June 6, the terminal has been open from midnight Sunday until midnight Friday, a move designed to increase operating hours that would enable trucking companies to better serve their clients by having the ability to expand their own delivery schedules through increased access to their loads, Parry explained.

“Our association is encouraging truckers to make use of the extra hours,” Tremblay said. “We hope it will unclog the yard during the day.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association recently reported that CPR has increased staff levels, added five new top-lift machines and will soon begin a two-year track expansion project at the Lachine Terminal to help prepare for future volume growth.

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The 53rd annual Quebec Truck Driving Championship is scheduled to take place Aug. 13 at the Centre de Formation du Transport Routier Saint-Jerome in Mirabel to find out which provincial drivers will compete in the National Driving Championships being held Sept. 23-25 this year in Moncton.

– Mike King can be contacted at mking@videotron.ca


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