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Viewpoint: Time to Reinvest

I've got one wish for the industry this year, and it's important to everyone making a living plying our highways.


I’ve got one wish for the industry this year, and it’s important to everyone making a living plying our highways.

Although the challenges the industry faces are many, this one issue requires immediate attention. To wait any longer could cause irreparable damage to our industry and the Canadian economy.

The issue I speak of is the crying need to improve our transportation infrastructure. Simply put, it’s not good enough for secure and efficient transportation. My wish for 2005 is that all government levels stop placing this issue on the backburner and start giving it the attention it deserves. But I have no confidence this can happen without a significant push from us.

A quarter century of under-investment at all levels of government has crippled our roadways, bridges, ports and other key parts of our infrastructure. There has been renewed government spending the last few years, but according to an eye-opening report from the TD Financial Group, momentum to address the problem is already losing steam.

The report places the investment gap – the accumulated annual deficit between the amount needed to properly maintain or replace existing infrastructure as well as support growth, and the money actually spent – at somewhere between $50 billion and $125 billion.

Like an engine that’s allowed to go considerably beyond its scheduled maintenance check and oil change, this is a disaster just waiting to happen. I know that every driver and owner/operator who has written to me over the past year to complain about the deteriorating state of our roadways knows and understands this. But we also have to face the fact that our politicians just don’t get it.

Left to their own shortsighted ways, our politicians will continue to allow infrastructure to lose out to other areas which enjoy wider voter appeal. Considering how low interest rates have been in recent years, they have already missed out on a golden opportunity to invest in our infrastructure.

What we desperately need is a national transportation plan outlining a vision for the future and a strategy for achieving it.

The creation of this plan must bring all transportation stakeholders – shippers, carriers and intermediaries – together. It must also bring an end to the current system of trying to solve intermodal problems with single-mode solutions.

I have no confidence our governments can do this on their own. This must become our rallying cry.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Challenger Motor Freight president Dan Einwechter on winning the 2004 Trailmobile Service to Industry Award.

I can’t think of a more deserving recipient than the man who began building one of Canada’s most successful fleets armed with a pager and some rental trucks, who pioneered the use of satellite tracking, who was bold enough to take his service offerings all the way to Mexico, and who somehow regularly finds the time to be a leading voice in so many industry association efforts.

He truly embodies the spirit that has made trucking the undisputed transport mode of choice.

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


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