OTA praises province for giving gridlock issues priority

by Canadian Shipper

TORONTO, Ont. — The Ontario Trucking Association is commending Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for giving priority to solving gridlock in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and acknowledging the toll congestion costs exact on the supply chain.

In a letter to the Premier, OTA president David Bradley says the association will be a “constructive participant” in the conversation about funding options, but says there are a number of important issues that need to be part of the conversation from the outset.

Metrolinx, the government agency created to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the GTHA, unveiled its 25-year, $50 billion regional transportation plan (called the Big Move) to bring 80% of the region’s population within two kilometres of rapid transit in 2008. Although the province will make the ultimate decision, the agency has been tasked with coming up with recommendations on the revenue tools that could be used to fund the plan by June.

Bradley says the OTA recognizes that improved transit can help alleviate road and highway congestion if enough people actually get out of their cars. But, he argues “efficient goods movement, while related to the movement of people, requires its own distinct planning.” He contends the Big Move provides only a superficial and rather outdated treatment of goods movement issues. “Private motorists can choose whether to drive or take transit,” he says. “Commercial truckers have no such choice.” Bradley questions whether it’s “fair then that they should be expected to contribute to the cost of transit, or should the monies collected from them be dedicated to maintenance and strategic expansion of roads and highways?”

He also points out that governments currently take in more revenues from road-related taxes and fees than is put back into the system. He says truckers are willing to pay their fair share and contends they already do. The OTA says figures extrapolated from the public accounts show the revenues generated from what truckers currently pay in diesel fuel taxes and vehicle plate fees is roughly equivalent or somewhat more than the total annual expenditures under the Provincial Highways Management Program.

“The issue is one of trust,” Bradley says. “In order to regain the trust of taxpayers that ‘this time things will be different,’ rather than focus solely on new revenue tools, governments must also ensure all current, existing sources of revenue are exhausted and all road-related revenues are dedicated – preferably to a special trust fund, not general revenues.”

In recent comments in the media, the Premier appears to be leaning in this direction, which Bradley says would be an important step in the right direction.
However, he says there must also be greater accountability and transparency so the amount invested can be clearly determined and people can identify what is new money versus what is a re-announcement. He calls for a “value for money” approach to ensure funding goes to projects that will create optimal congestion relief and trade route/supply chain efficiency.

“The trucking industry, and indeed all road users, want measureable results in reducing congestion costs, wear and tear on vehicles, etc.”

Governments, Bradley continued, “need to take steps to maximize utilization of the existing infrastructure through such things as expanded use of LCVs, incentives for off-peak deliveries, faster accident clean-up, inspection station/scale by-pass technology.”

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