Trucking industry could work with the railways: Bradley

by David Bradley

The next few months will be pivotal in terms of determining whether the phony war between Canada’s railways and the trucking industry is finally over. For many, we have been down this road before. But, if the events of November 1999 are an indication, then maybe there is reason for some cautious optimism. The trucking industry has always maintained that working together on behalf of the freight transportation sector, would be better forboth modes as opposed to wasting productive resources on a political war of words.

On Nov. 27, the chief executive officer of Canadian Pacific Railway, Rob Ritchie, while promoting the virtues of his new Expressway intermodal service, was quoted by the Canadian Press as stating that the “key is partnership with the truckers” and “if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.”

During his Nov. 18 speech to the Ontario Trucking Association annual convention, Canadian National Railway boss Paul Tellier acknowledged that he is “impressed with how well (the) truckers can serve (their) customers.” He also stated that “the railroads have a lot to learn (from truckers).” (In fact, he told a railway audience in Montreal on Nov. 30, that their service had been “lousy.”) And, following his speech to OTA, there was his admission that “it’s very difficult to suck and blow at the same time. It’s difficult for me to stand up here today and say ‘let’s work together’ and turn around and give money to CRASH …”

Of course, the trucking industry will need to see if indeed the railways’ deeds match their words.

But, there are a number of things that give us some hope that an end to the cold war between the two modes could be a reality and that rail and truck interests could begin working together, in earnest, for a new national transportation policy for Canada:

Neither mode, acting independently, is being as successful as it would like to be in achieving tax changes that will advance the competitiveness of Canadian carriers as compared with their U.S. counterparts (e.g., accelerated CCA rates);

Both railways are investing some significant dollars in intermodal technologies and services. They need the truckers to use the services if they are to earn a return on that investment. The truckers will if the price and the service are attractive and if the railways really do want to work as partners;

The trucking industry, through OTA and CTA, is fighting back against the one-sided and misleading anti-truck rhetoric from the railway lobbyists and their supporters. A number of important issues have recently been exposed that serve to underscore the old adage that ‘those who live in glass houses should not throw stones’. These include the weaknesses in the Rail Safety Act and the under-estimation of NOx emissions from railway locomotives;

and finally, CRASH has also managed to alienate virtually every government in the country. Consider the following excerpts from the Nov. 8-9 meeting of the CCMTA’s compliance and regulatory affairs committee when discussing hours of service. For example, “a number of participants requested a review of the CRASH press releases on the Hours of Service proposal noting they were offended by the allegations. It was suggested the press releases made a number of erroneous statements relative to the proposal and the (CCMTA consultative) process…” And, finally “a number of participants noted in the two years the Project Group had met CRASH had not provided a single proposal or position paper from their members for consideration.”

In the lobby arena, these are damning statements. They are also well deserved. Still, some recent rumblings suggest that CRASH- related pro-rail groups such as Transport 2000, and maybe even some disaffected critics of the air and marine modes, might be considering banding together in some form of new alliance. In the meantime, the trucking industry welcomes meaningful discussion with the railways aimed at a future that will maximize the profits for both. n

– David Bradley is the president of the Ontario Trucking Association and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

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