MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — It seems like a lot of the truck news coming out these days are regulation based – speed limiters, energy efficiency, hours-of-service etc. – so it was only natural that a session on regulatory issues in transportation was held at the annual Surface Transportation Summit on Oct. 15.
The session saw two experts who were both allotted a time to speak to the audience about their views and opinions on the recent regulations in the transportation industry that will affect freight in the coming years .
First up to talk was David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Truck Alliance and president of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA). He began by saying there is “always a ticking time bomb out there” and “an issue waiting to happen” and his role is to anticipate and to see what’s coming and to address these issues head-on as opposed to the band-aid solutions that the government offers up.
“We really try to drive the agenda as much as anything as opposed to taking the issues and arguing afterwards, when it’s usually too late,” he said.
Going off the cuff (or so he told the audience) with no notes or powerpoint slides, Bradley spoke about the current media focus on the recent Toronto Star piece on driver training and licensing of Class A drivers in Ontario.
“We anticipated something like this would occur because of the issues around Class A driver testing in Ontario,” he said. “We have been pushing for action, for concrete action for some time and I’m hopeful that this press while negative is going to help us to get there.”
Bradley said the biggest issue for carriers is hands-down their Human Resources challenges, specifically getting truck drivers to work for them. He reminded the crowd that the average age of truck drivers is now 46, while a third are 55 or older, which means tens of thousands of people are retiring without the industry replacing them.
“At the same time, the training industry is not producing, on a consistent basis at least, candidates that most reputable carriers would feel comfortable hiring,” he said. “We have this conundrum where you’ve got good schools at one of the spectrum and the other end of the spectrum where they provide basically enough training to allow you pass the Class A test, which is pretty easy to pass if you have virtually any skill to drive a vehicle.”
Bradley says this makes many people licensed drivers who don’t eventually work (or do for “bottom-feeder carriers” who then pose a threat to the public) for the industry but are technically truck drivers because of the license they hold. This in turn, said Bradley, gives the Government another excuse to not help the trucking industry find workers because there are so many unemployed drivers in Canada.
Bradley said that what he and his association(s) has recommended is to introduce a level of mandatory entry level training before one can take the Class A test. He added that he knew it sounded counterproductive to make it more challenging for drivers to get a license while there is a severe driver shortage in the industry, but that too often driving is considered to be a job of last resort.
“We’ve got a situation for the time kids are coming out of university with their degrees and they can’t get work,” he said. “So now they’re considering the trades. Well again, trucking is not a trade. They want that piece of paper, they want to have adequate training. We won’t get the occupation deemed to be skilled, I think, until we have mandatory entry-level training.”
Bradley also spoke about electronic trucking devices, saying: “It is only a matter of time before we see that Canada will be moving towards an ELD mandate and I think that is good for the future.”
His last topic was GHG reduction standards, saying that normally Canada waits for Obama in terms of fuel economy, but that we cant replicate what the US is doing, and that he is “trying to pressure Environment Canada now” to find solutions.
Next, Michael Gullo, director of policy, economic and and environmental affairs at the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) spoke about rail regulations. He focused his talk on the Lac-Megantic tragedy and how safety is handled now.
“We know we’re in a different environment now, and we accept our position and our responsibility,” he said. “It is important to note that in Canada just like in the US, the shipping of dangerous goods by all modes of transportation is generally considered to be very safe.”
He added that within days of the accident, two safety advisory letters were issued.
“Canada’s railways collaborated fully with Transport Canada in order to get these safety improvement in place immediately,” he said.
Gullo ended his speech with a last word about safety.
“In summary, in the case of safety, a robust legislative regulatory compliance and enforcement regime…is complimentary…here in Canada.”
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface