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Ministers optimism driven by road projects and new programs

BANFF, Alta. -- Just four months into his tenure as Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Luke Ouellette i...

Luke Ouellette, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation
Luke Ouellette, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation

BANFF, Alta. — Just four months into his tenure as Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Luke Ouellette is confident his ministry is paving the way for a positive year in the trucking industry.

Ouellette addressed industry stakeholders during the Alberta Motor Transport Association Management Conference in Banff, Alta. on April 27 and highlighted some government plans for the upcoming year.

While road construction projects sit at the top of the ministrys to do list, Ouellette also made note of the launch of two programs and where the provincial government is sitting on the issues of hours of service and speed-limiters.

Its no secret we have not been doing enough to keep our roads in good condition, said Ouellette. We plan to repave 2,500 km of roads in the next three years. Its not as much as I want or would like, but its a start.

The ministry has several new road projects beginning in 2007, which include twinning highways leading up to Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray, as well as continuing ring road development around the provinces two largest cities.

The launch of the Professional Driver Certificate program through Red Deer College is expected to improve the skills of entry-level drivers, while the re-launch of the Partners in Compliance program in May should allow enforcement officials to focus attention their on unsafe carriers.

Red Deer College has partnered with a handful of driver training schools throughout the province to administer the post-Class 1 certificate program.

The Professional Driver Certificate program responds to the need of educating new drivers and its an exciting new initiative, noted Ouellette. Carriers dont just want people with a Class 1 licence, they want people with experience and skill.

Ouellette also commended the AMTA for the re-launch of the Partners in Compliance program, which recognizes carriers who excel in safety compliance allowing drivers to bypass all 12 weigh stations in the province.

This program is run independently of the government, so the government can focus on targeting unsafe carriers, added Ouellette. Were pleased to partner with the AMTA in this important safety initiative.

As industry programs move forward, two pieces of regulation will be kept in the wings until further consultations are undergone.

The provincial government received a lot of feedback regarding changes to hours of service legislation and Ouellette told the crowd his ministry is not rushing into a decision just yet.

The minister gave no timeline for when changes will be made to the current legislation, but noted with the large amount of feedback from both sides of the argument he still needs to speak with a number of industry stakeholders.

We want to be sure we take time to develop regulations and standards that will benefit everyone and still provide the safety requested by your industry, he explained.

As for speed limiter legislation in the province, Ouellette said it might be a possibility down the road, but for now the ministry is taking a wait and see approach.

Weve basically parked it for a while, said Ouellette. Once we have a better understanding of the issues we may examine it in the future.

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