Minister of state for transport, Steven Fletcher, told a large gathering of carrier members of the Canadian Trucking Alliance that he will recommend the federal government moves to address several issues affecting the industry, including improving highway infrastructure, continuing to work on an EOBR policy and reducing the “regulatory burden” on the industry by streamlining rules from province to province.
Fletcher, who has been travelling across Canada meeting trucking industry representatives about the business issues they face, wrapped up his tour with a stop at the CTA’s annual spring retreat.
Fletcher said Transport Canada has a limited role in regulating trucking, but at the same time it is responsible for a number of issues affecting the industry, including hours of service and environmental regulations and ensuring that trucking safety rules remain consistent across the country.
“Your industry is a critical link in the supply chain that moves goods from producers and suppliers to markets. Without it our domestic transportation system, our trade with the U.S. and the entire Canadian economy would look about as good as the chances of the Phoenix Coyotes winning their division this year,” the charismatic Winnipeg Jets fan quipped, prompting chuckles from a room of over 100 carrier owners and managers. “As the saying goes, if you got it a truck brought it.”
On improving border infrastructure, Fletcher emphasized the federal government’s recent spate of funding announcements for various Canada-US land crossings as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. He said the funding will increase capacity for commercial traffic, reduce wait times at the border and strengthen security.
“But crossing the border is just part of the journey. You also need good roads to get the goods there,” said Fletcher, adding that the CTA’s infrastructure wish list has been invaluable in helping the government prioritize projects.
He added that he and Transport Minister Denis Lebel are meeting with trucking industry stakeholders to guide development of a future long-term strategy under the Building Canada Plan.
Fletcher said that Transport Canada is working with the provinces and territories on Safety Rating Reciprocity and to establish National Safety Code standards. Based on the meetings with trucking associations across the country, he understands the importance of such issues as roll stability control, indemnification clauses in freight contracts, and EOBR legislation.
In response to a question of whether he will include a recommendation to adopt an EOBR mandate, Fletcher fell short of making a commitment, indicating there are still issues to be ironed out. However, he said “it seems like a no brainer” as a way to improve highway safety and level the competitive playing field.
A hot topic at this year’s retreat, the driver shortage was another issue Fletcher weighed in on. He identified the driver shortage as a major problem – in particular “in the fast-growing Western provinces” – and acknowledged that efficient, free-flowing cross-border trade with the U.S. is also vital to the health of the trucking industry.
Before closing, Fletcher highlighted his government’s “commitment to streamlining regulations and reducing the regulatory burden on Canadian businesses,” namely, for trucking, by harmonizing rules across Canada and with the U.S. “The goal is clear but getting there, as you know, can be more difficult.”