CTA challenges results of Transport Canada study on transportation costs

by Canadian Shipper

OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is not overly impressed with the results of a Transport Canada study that attempts to pin down the overall cost of transportation in Canada.

The ‘synthesis report’ was the result of a three-year analysis that pegged the full cost of transportation in Canada in 2000 at between $198 billion and $233 billion, taking into account the financial costs of providing and the use of transport facilities and services as well as the costs of road congestion, delays and environmental damage.

CTA chief David Bradley referred to the study as: “Interesting work, the first of its kind in Canada, but the data gaps and limitations are so wide you could drive a truck through them. Beyond an interesting intellectual exercise, the report is not of much use and certainly cannot be relied upon for policy purposes.”

Bradley said the section of the study that tried to calculate the ‘social costs’ of transportation was particularly flawed.

“Try as they might, allocating costs and determining social costs of anything, especially transportation is at best an art, it is certainly not a science,” said Bradley. “As a result, to use this report for policy development would be very risky.”

Bradley also took issue to a section of the study that compared various modes, using an outdated tonne-kilometres formula, which seems to have placed modes other than trucking as advantageous.

“It is still reliant upon tonne-kilometres as the chief measure of modal activity. And, when you use tonne-kms of it favours modes like rail and marine which move heavy loads over long distances. Trucks aren’t in that market,” Bradley explained. “They operate in the shorter distance, smaller shipment market. There is no accounting for this difference in service when conducting modal comparisons and therefore there is always going to be a bias against trucking when tonne-kilometres are used.”

He also complained that the environmental assessment fails to consider the fact that today’s trucks are a lot cleaner than most of the trucks that were on the road in 2000. Finally, Bradley said the study failed to examine the benefits of transportation, instead focusing on the costs. Having said all that, Bradley did concede that there was plenty of interesting reading material contained within the report. To view the report, visit: http://www.tc.gc.ca/pol/en/aca/fci/menu.htm.

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