WINNIPEG, Man. – Following a public outcry from various Manitoba motorists, as well as the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), the provincial government has decided not to close the Pine Grove Rest Area.
Responding to Truck West May 29, the Manitoba government said it was reviewing the previous NDP government’s plan to close 12 of 17 rest areas across the province, and Pine Grove was one of two remaining that had not yet been closed.
“It will remain open for travelers, and our government is committed to re-evaluating this NDP plan,” the government stated. “Manitoba Infrastructure is currently in the process of reviewing the previous government’s decision to close this facility.”
As the lone public rest area between Winnipeg and the Ontario border, Terry Shaw, executive director of the MTA, said it is a key location for several association members.
“This is the Trans-Canada Highway,” said Shaw. “This isn’t some throw-away item.”
Shaw said some MTA members teach their new drivers to utilize Pine Grove as part of their hours-of-service management plan, making it an essential rest area for driver compliance.
But Pine Grove is just one rest stop, and for years the MTA and other trucking associations have been advocating for more – an issue that will be underscored once ELDs are mandatory in Canada.
“If this rest stop never even got mentioned,” said Shaw, “there still aren’t enough rest stops.”
Shaw pointed to an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study done in the U.S. as evidence that Canada is in desperate need of additional rest stops for commercial vehicles.
“American infrastructure, it’s well documented and well known, is better than Canadian infrastructure, and the Top 4 issue on the Top 10 issues of trucking companies list was truck parking,” he said, adding that hours-of-service and driver health and wellness were not as high on the list as rest areas.
The MTA presented the ATRI report to Manitoba’s minister of infrastructure as proof there is a need for more rest stops.
“What are you doing to meet the needs of the road public and the provincial economy, such as the trucking industry?” questioned Shaw.
Shaw had also heard from various media outlets that the government was reviewing several rest areas in the province, not just Pine Grove, and made a request to sit down with the government and review which areas would potentially be impacted.
With a new conservative government leading the province over the last two years, Shaw understands there will be a different approach compared to the NDP.
“They are a significantly different government than the one we saw…we had 17 years of NDP now we have two years of conservative, so we know they are focused on reducing costs and financial tightness,” said Shaw. “So we didn’t want to bombard them with our infrastructure plan, we wanted to see what theirs was and critique and provide input.”
The MTA met with Manitoba Infrastructure late in 2017 to discuss what its long-term funding plan would be moving forward for infrastructure in the province. Shaw said the MTA had ideas that were not provided at that time, as the association was waiting for the release of the plan, which was due to be unveiled this spring, but as of the end of May, had not been announced.
Communication between the new provincial government and the MTA has been a concern for Shaw.
“The lack of communication consultation from the department (of infrastructure) is something we’ve seen in the past,” said Shaw, recognizing that he does not believe the absence of communication on the Pine Grove Rest Area was by design, but rather an oversight.
Shaw said he heard of the potential closure of Pine Grove through the media and other concerned parties, not from the government itself.
Though there are alternative places to stop in the area around Pine Grove, they are smaller, causing issues for trucks, not open 24 hours, and privately owned, which means motorists must make a purchase to use the facilities.
“What seems like a reasonable alternative to (the government),” Shaw said, “may not necessarily be considered to be a reasonable alternative by the trucking industry.”