The province of Ontario has recently undertaken two studies that in part, look at the issue of parking for travelers, and more specifically, commercial motor vehicle drivers.
One of these studies, the Southern Ontario Rest Stop Study, is currently underway (see pg. 9). The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has commissioned SPR Associates to engage stakeholders in consultations that will help it identify areas in need for parking and what type of facilities are needed in these areas. There were three in-person stakeholder meetings held in October in Ottawa, Toronto, and London, and a survey of truck drivers is currently underway. The input of the drivers is a key area of this study, so ensure that your view is heard by visiting www.SPR.ca, where the surveys will be posted.
The other study, the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy (NOMTS), commissioned jointly by the MTO and the Ministry of Northern Development of Mines, was an all-encompassing multimodal transportation strategy for the next 25 years. This involved many stakeholder meetings and consultations over a two-year period, and produced a draft that was recently opened for comment and closed on Sept. 15.
The NOMTS study identified many needs, one of them, not surprisingly, was the lack of sufficient parking for commercial vehicles.
In the short term, it identified three seasonal rest areas in Northern Ontario to invest in to ensure year-round access for passenger and commercial vehicle access. On this approach,
I commend them, and hope construction starts soon.
This approach, in my view, is the right one. Most operators are not looking for anything fancy. Would showers, restaurants, lounges and the sort be a dream come true for most drivers? Absolutely. However, in my view, the government’s responsibility should lie with what I will call “must haves,” not “nice to haves.”
Private businesses can supply the nice to haves. A government’s first responsibility should always be to protect the safety and security of its citizens, which in this case, is the motoring public. The immediate need – and one that has existed for years in this industry, right across Canada – is a simple, safe and secure place to park. Provide us with a paved lot, well lit, with some animal-proof garbage cans, and a building that has a bathroom complete with running water and a bit of heat, and most drivers will be thrilled.
It would be a big improvement over what exists in a lot of places across the country today, which is nothing. Drivers are forced to follow hours-of-service rules and park for 10 hours a day, eight of these consecutive, yet in many cases, drivers are forced to either park well short of their driving limit in order to obtain parking, run past their driving limits while trying to find parking, or park unsafely on the side of a ramp or abandoned lot.
Worse yet, they are sometimes driving while fatigued as a result of not being able to find a safe place to park. If we concentrate on trying to build areas that have everything, like restaurants and showers, we will end up supplying our drivers with facilities that will take longer to build, take more capital, and come up short on our biggest need, enough safe places to park.
Some jurisdictions, such as B.C., have been investing a lot of money and resources over the last few years constructing new rest areas in locations of severe shortage, and providing simple things, in addition to the must haves I mentioned above, such as Wi-Fi for drivers to be able to keep current on road conditions, and enjoy some downtime. Bravo on them.
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to see studies are being commissioned, and I believe drivers and the rest of the industry should participate in them, however I am cautious in my enthusiasm. Studies have come and gone in the past – a study serves no purpose whatsoever unless we act upon the results of that study.
The study will no doubt help governments decide where the priorities are and where to start. A lesson might be drawn from the U.S., where a National Coalition on Truck Parking has brought all of industry and government together to address this issue.
One thing I think we can all agree on, we have a parking shortage, and the time for some real action is now.
Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the only national association that represents the views and interests of the private fleet industry. He can be reached at email@example.com.