CTA: End urban war on trucks

WASHINGTON – Trucking, in the minds of far too many urbanites and city planners, is "at worst viewed as a necessary evil and at best it is taken for granted."

That’s part of the message Canadian Trucking Alliance boss David Bradley delivered to government officials, academics, and infrastructure consultants at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

Part of a panel entitled, Balancing Freight Movement Needs in Liveable Urban Areas, Bradley said it’s "incredible that so many urban communities that are wholly dependent upon trucking to deliver the consumer goods and necessities of life can be so decidedly anti-truck."

Freight transportation, he continued, is often an after-thought for planners and certainly for politicians. "We see it in the debate over funding of transit versus roads; in the design of roads and intersections that don’t accommodate modern truck configurations; in the lack of parking for trucks; and inadequate loading/unloading facilities, both old and new."

If officials truly want to deal more effectively with freight transportation, "they need to get beyond the myths about urban goods movement — such as getting the trucks off the road by using more rail; or that trucks are always running around half-empty; or that trucks are the main cause of congestion – and start dealing with realities."

Essentially, truckers and urban dwellers want the same things: To get out of busy downtown corridors.

"All truckers want is to be able to get into and out of cities quickly, with a minimum of disruption. They want to minimize or reduce the costs of operating in congested urban areas. With the price of fuel and the limits on a driver’s hours of service, that is critical."

Bradley offered a number of ideas that could solve the problem for both carriers and cities.

For one thing, encouraging more off-peak deliveries. "All our trucks have lights on them, so operating at night is not a problem for us, so long as there is someone there to receive or ship the goods and that is often not the case. If you want to address this, the supply chain needs to be engaged, not just the truckers."

As well, cities need strategic infrastructure investment, such as better funding for transit and roads; examining the feasibility of truck-only lanes; design roads that accommodate modern truck configurations (Bradley cited problems with the design of roundabouts which are growing in popularity); de-politicize decisions on truck routes/bans; and come up with sensible ticketing policies.

Clear traffic incidents more quickly would also help, Bradley added.

"Trucks are not going away," he said. "So we had better start looking for real solutions."

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