OTTAWA — A Senate committee on transportation is recommending that the federal government approve several crucial trucking initiatives urged on by the industry.
The report — titled Time for a New National Vision – Opportunities and Constraints for Canada in the Global Movement of Goods —
recommends that Ottawa support the adoption of new environmental technologies as demanded the trucking industry through tax incentives and accelerated depreciation.
It also suggests that Citizenship and Immigration Canada classify long-distance truck drivers as skilled labor to allow more foreign workers to take advantage of immigration policy. Plus, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) should harmonize trucking regulations across the country, the reports states.
The Committee heard evidence that it is "almost impossible to earn a living in the trucking industry while playing by the rules, because truckers will work under the table and not respect regulations in order to work."
In spite of trucking services being essential to the movement of goods, the Committee was told that federal policy has had a negative impact on the trucking industry.
"For example, the federal government has not supported the adoption of the newer, more productive technologies through tax credits or accelerated depreciation," notes the report.
And although there’s the perception that the federal government was to shift freight away from trucks and onto trains and waterways, only about 10 percent of freight traffic could easily be carried by rail as by truck.
Furthermore, a lack of harmonization among provincial regulations have reduced labor productivity in trucking. The country should have uniform policies on size and weight rules, double trailer trucks (LCVs), and special equipment permits like single wide-base tires. "One witness suggested that harmonization of the regulatory regime in Canada could make truck drivers’ work less complicated, while another told the Committee that if driver efficiency were improved, the labor shortage might not be so serious."
The Committee also took a look at the container transport sector, mainly on the west coast, where drayage carriers appear to be threatened by factors affecting the labor force and productivity.
Trucking officials recounted the situation at the Port of Vancouver in 2005, in which thousands of independent container haulers went on strike to protest fuel prices and rates. The government ended the conflict by forcing drayage companies to acquire a port licensing system, which among other things, imposed minimum rates for container truck services.
If a similar dispute should arise again, the Committee was told, federal and provincial governments should "exercise swift, certain and severe enforcement of the law to prevent a service disruption."
But more importantly, the marketplace should establish compensation rates for container trucking and the trucking officials made it clear they do not approve of the way in which industry participants were driven to the licensing regime.
Meanwhile, the Committee also recommended that the government take action to address problems in the rail industry.
It suggests that Transport Canada should adjust the capital cost allowance to encourage railroads to accelerate investment in new equipment.
As well, the government needs to consider remedies that deal with the lack of availability of rail container equipment; the lower level of service and higher freight rates to "captive" shippers; the lack of consultation between the railroads, shippers and ports regarding service delays; and the lack of accountability on the part of the railways in dealing with shippers and ports regarding these issues.
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