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Trying hard not to be cynical

CTA and the provincial trucking associations make it their business to try and work in co-operation with government where possible. We always attempt to promote constructive dialogue, to understand th...

David Bradley
David Bradley

CTA and the provincial trucking associations make it their business to try and work in co-operation with government where possible. We always attempt to promote constructive dialogue, to understand the complexities that governments must contend with and offer practical solutions. We are not given to knee-jerk criticism. But, as 2007 draws to a close, the trucking industry’s patience is being tested on a number of fronts and recent developments on some key issues are fueling cynicism over the value of government commitments.

Take the Windsor-Detroit border situation. A joint press release issued at the end of November by Transport Canada and the US Department of Transportation contained yet another announcement about the importance of the Windsor-Detroit crossing. It highlighted the fact that Lawrence Cannon, Canada’s Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and US Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, had signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to maintain a high priority on the development of enhanced capacity of the border crossing infrastructure in the Detroit-Windsor region. According to the press release, the MOC follows the direction given at the North American Leaders’ Summit on Aug. 21, 2007, in Montebello, Quebec, by the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States.

Fine. And, I suppose we must take some solace in the statement from the minister that “…the Government of Canada is committed to developing additional border capacity along the Windsor-Detroit corridor. It is a crucial support to the continued growth of the economies of Canada and the United States.”

Secretary Peters echoed similar sentiments:”Providing new capacity at this critical crossing will strengthen our economies, cut congestion, and improve the flow of goods and people that define the special relationship between our two nations.”

Moreover, I would be among the first to acknowledge that with three levels of government on both sides of the border involved, not to mention the various self-interests at play, this is a difficult file politically.

But, if I had a dollar for every time a politician told us how important a second crossing at Windsor-Detroit is to Canada’s future…

Buried in the backgrounder accompanying the joint press release is the statement: “Detailed evaluation of (the specific crossing) options will lead to identification of a single pre- ferred alternative by the spring of 2008.The environmental assessment documentation will be submitted for approval by governmental authorities by late 2008 with formal approvals expected in 2009.”

The deadline for announcing the preferred crossing has changed numerous times over the years. Most recently it was supposed to be before the end of 2007. This was one deadline we had hoped would be met. Without it, everything else gets backed up further.

Another case in point is the most recent debacle over the adoption (or lack thereof) of the “new” federal hours-of-service standards by certain provinces. The hours-of-service regulations are not perfect; they never will be. But, the fact is that all the provincial governments had committed to adopting and enforcing the federal standards by the end of 2007 -for both intra-and extra-provincial carriers. Few have. But more worrisome, is that fact that a handful of the provinces, in what appears to be some sort of regional pact or understanding have indicated that collectively or individually they are not inclined to adopt the federal rules (which took over a decade to develop) intra-provincially; or to impose them on all vehicles exceeding the National Safety Code weight threshold. Indeed, it appears that these provinces are receptive to having entire sectors whose principle business may not be trucking, but who operate trucks nonetheless, exempted from the federal standards.

The hours-of-service standard, is arguably the most important of the National Safety Code (NSC) standards. It is certainly the one that has the most implications for carrier operations and productivity. The trucking industry has had to make the necessary adjustments to its operations to take account of the new rules. This has not been easy. It has been a costly venture. But, the industry did it. It had to. And while there is still bound to be problems and issues, the industry has little stomach to re-open things at this early stage.

Moreover, the industry cannot countenance an hours-of-service regime where some carriers by virtue of where they are based, or the GVW of their vehicles, or the scope of their operations will be able to operate under different rules than others. It cannot risk the chances of achieving reciprocity on safety ratings with the United States because some provinces choose not to follow the NSC. And, its trucks and drivers cannot be the only ones that have to comply with the tougher new rules. It was after all supposed to be about safety.

I hope that in the coming months, things will work themselves out on both of these issues. I would like nothing more. Commitments are extremely important to motor carriers. When they are unable to meet their commitments, carriers’ businesses immediately suffer. All levels of government must realize that when they do not meet their commitments, we all suffer. •

-David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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