CTA chief offers three priorities for shaking up Canada’s transportation industry

by Canadian Shipper

FREDERICTON, N.B. — The Canadian trucking industry needs a “strong, competitive customer base featuring an efficient, predictable, and reliable supply chain,” said the CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance who spoke at the 2008 Canadian Transportation Research Forum, in Fredericton, N.B.

It was the first of three priorities David Bradley offered to the forum, with a talk entitled: Shaking up Canada’s Transportation System.

“Truckers are in the transportation service business,” he said. “With all the issues currently conspiring to alter the volume, trajectory, and mix of freight in North America, capacity of available truck service, and balance of freight to, from, and within Canada, has changed drastically.

“In some parts of the country, there is too much capacity: in others not enough; it seems. Where the economics of trucking is predicated on how empty a trailer is; many lanes have seen balance turned on its head. To counteract both the capacity and balance challenges, many things need to occur, but it is essential to the trucking industry that we have a strong and diverse customer base, that can create freight volume and allow carriers a better opportunity to balance their loads.”

Bradley said this is an issue whether you are a transborder carrier operating between Canada and the US, or a carrier operating between Alberta and the rest of the country.

While the responsibility for creating that customer base rests with the industrial sectors themselves, to improve their competitiveness, and for governments to use the means at their disposal to encourage direct investment in Canada (through reduced business taxes, infrastructure investment, smart borders, etc.), Bradley said that trucking can also play a role, if it is allowed to do so.

His second priority would be to remove impediments from the trucking industry’s ability to contribute to a strong, competitive customer base.

“The hallmark of the trucking industry is its service, its efficiency and its productivity,” he said. “But further efficiency and productivity gains are constrained in part by aging and rigid regulation of such things as: weights and dimensions, taxation of investment in business inputs, a lack of harmonization of truck safety standards, congestion due to bottlenecks on the highways, and a thickening of the border.”

Taxing investment in new equipment, for example, and requiring carriers to take a payload penalty – in order to accommodate fuel efficiency devices on their trucks – makes little sense, he said. “Especially now that fuel has displaced labour as a carrier’s number one operating cost, in many cases.”

By accomplishing the first two priorities, Bradley said conditions would be created that would assist carriers in what is perhaps “their number one priority” – earning a reasonable rate of return on investment.

“We shouldn’t have to be shy about stating that our companies’ – like any other businesses’ goal – is to maximize profit. That’s what creates jobs and wealth for all.”

In today’s world, the industry’s economic goals are more closely aligned with society’s environmental and safety goals, than ever before, he added.

“Safety is good business, and with commercial diesel fuel prices going through the roof, improved fuel efficiency is a major preoccupation for the trucking industry.”

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