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Viewpoint: Hwy 407 Sets Blood Boiling

There is a monster in our midst.


There is a monster in our midst.

This beast bears the mark of 407ETR and it must be stopped.

The hypocrisy, greed, and arrogance that appear to drive the management of Ontario’s least-loved highway have become too much to bear.

If you have the misfortune of trying to run your truck, or your fleets of trucks, through Toronto’s highway gridlock nightmare, no doubt you’re aware of 407ETR’s shenanigans this summer; they make the blood boil faster than a Hogtown heatwave.

407ETR’s bosses, who have already pushed through several rate increases, insist we must pay higher tolls yet again. And they want the Ontario government, which wants to roll back tolls and says it has the legal right to renegotiate the tolling portion of its agreement with 407ETR, to butt out. The Spanish-led consortium which runs the 108-km highway even had the gall late this summer to warn that Ontario’s action could threaten a proposed trade deal between the 25-member European Union and Canada. And that’s not all. 407ETR is agitating once again to have drivers with overdue tolls prevented from getting their licence plates renewed.

Although the 407ETR’s need to deal with drivers who are not paying their tolls is understandable, let’s not forget that we’ve been down this road before.

Denying licence plates to drivers with outstanding bills was suspended by the previous Conservative government because it was swamped with complaints about unfair bills and difficulties contacting the company to try to sort them out.

I was one of those complainants after falling victim to the rather annoying inconvenience of receiving repeated bills for trips I never made, even after the car in question had been sold to a parts dealer and the plates were sitting in my basement. Trying to speak to customer service about the repeated erroneous bills required waiting for up to an hour on the phone and they still wanted me to send a letter contesting the charges. The 407ETR proved much faster when it came to slapping motorists with their infamous $30 late payment fee, which was collected on amounts as low as a dollar, if they were overdue more than 60 days, even if the non-payment was because of the erroneous billing.

The 407ETR, of course, says it has resolved its billing problems. But based on past experience, should we trust their word? I wouldn’t.

I always wondered if I, with my “fleet” of just three vehicles using the toll highway infrequently could get so screwed up with 407ETR’s billing system, what could happen to a dump truck owner using the highway several times a day or a truck fleet owner with 50 or 100 rigs using the highway?

Of course truckers, already peeved with 407ETR’s high rates for commercial trucking and questionable customer service, routinely show what they think of the highway by staying away. For example, the section between Mississauga’s boundary and the 403/QEW junction in Burlington attracts so few trucks that the two east-Burlington inspection stations seem almost permanently closed.

When it was being built the 407ETR was hailed by government and many in the trucking industry as a savior to Toronto’s traffic woes. Greed and arrogance is preventing that from happening. It’s time for all of us in the transportation industry, whether in commercial trucks or our passenger cars, to send the 407ETR’s bosses a clear message by boycotting this corporate monster of greed.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached at lou@TransportationMedia.ca or (416) 510-5142.


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