OTTAWA, Ont. — Policy-makers must recognize that freight transportation is essential to Canada’s economic and social well being, says CTA’s David Bradley.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO made the remarks at the annual meeting of the Canadian Transportation Research Forum yesterday.
“Transportation policy must begin to reflect the realities of the Canadian economy,” Bradley said.
“It’s time to stop taking freight transportation for granted, or considering it a necessary evil. The freight transportation industry is just that – an industry – and should be recognized as such.”
Bradley said there are five realities that policy-makers need to fully comprehend and take account of:
1. Canada is a trading nation and our major customer will continue to be the United States.
2. Freight transportation costs are a major component of the final cost of goods produced and sold in Canada.
3. The marketplace determines which mode or modes of freight transport shippers will use.
4. You cannot have a vision for transportation that does not include a funded national highway policy.
5. The freight transportation sector faces a significant shortage of labor.
Canada must ensure the country has easy, efficient and predictable access to the U.S., market, Bradley said.
“Without this, Canada may lose the biggest economic advantage it has traditionally held over other countries. If we lose that advantage, direct investment will surely flow elsewhere.”
U.S. security concerns won’t likely diminish, Bradley added, calling for Canada to “repair its relationship with its largest trading partner and best customer.”
More than one-third of Canada’s GDP is dependent on trade with the U.S., Bradley pointed out.
“Since most of what we produce must be shipped to the U.S. Anything that increases the cost of freight transportation will be reflected in the competitiveness of Canadian products.”
Canadian freight transportation has been sidetracked over the years by an almost singular focus on intermodalism, Bradley said.
“Government’s approach to intermodal freight transport has pitted the modes against each other, and this has done more to impede co-operation and integration between the modes than it has to encourage it,” Bradley said.
“Intermodalism is growing because in more situations it now makes business sense; service and pricing have improved.”
But intermodalism isn’t necessarily the answer to all our social ills, Bradley added.
Given that 70 per cent of Canada’s trade by value with the U.S. moving by truck, and that the border starts anywhere goods are picked up or delivered, it “is incredible that Canada remains the only industrialized country on the planet not to have a national highway policy,” Bradley said.
He criticized the federal government’s “one-off” announcements for highway funding, saying they do not equal a long-term funding strategy.
Bradley also criticized federal excise taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline, as well as federal Transport Minister David Collenette’s recent contention that fuel taxes are a matter of fiscal not transport policy, saying the contention “shows how little transportation is regarded in other federal departments.
“The recent fixation on road pricing would be somewhat more credible if there was actually a policy for which it could be applied,” Bradley said.
Bradley also lambasted the federal government for “failing to recognize freight transportation workers like truck drivers as skilled workers.”
“There is an intellectual snobbishness in the (federal government’s transportation) strategy which suggests that only people with PhDs or Masters degrees are skilled,” said Bradley.
“This thinking has, for example, prevented the trucking industry from bringing in skilled truck drivers as immigrants.”
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