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Marijuana, ELDs, and NAFTA Top Issues Affecting Transport

The legalization of marijuana, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, and the possible reworking of NAFTA were three of the biggest issues facing the Canadian transport industry, according to Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and Ontario Trucking Association.

Laskowski, speaking on a panel at the Surface Transportation Summit this week, said Canada is in danger of dropping the ball when it comes to protecting employers when marijuana becomes legalized next July.

Truck News reports:

“The decision was made to legalize marijuana. That’s fine, we’re moving on. But the issue here is, the government must have the fortitude to stand up beside employers and say that in safety-sensitive positions we’re going to allow drug and alcohol testing.”

Employers will have difficulty determining whether or not their employees are high on the job, as there is currently no test available that determines impairment.

“This was rushed from the beginning,” Laskowski said. “It’s a complicated issue.”

The rail industry is equally concerned, according to Gerald Gauthier, vice-president of public and corporate affairs with the Rail Carriers Association of Canada.

“Our concern is the impact of marijuana on safety-sensitive positions,” he said. “It’s a drug. It has an impact on your concentration.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian version of the U.S. ELD mandate should soon be posted in the Canada Gazette, Laskowski, adding shippers will need to work with carriers to better manage the supply chain.

Bob Ballantyne, president of the Freight Management Association of Canada, said his members are eager to do so.

“There’s going to have to be a lot of cooperation,” he acknowledged.

Laskowski said it’s estimated only 30-40% of carriers are currently using ELDs. Implementing them, he said, can require a 12- to 18-month transition period.

Asked if drivers and owner-operators will exit the business rather than adopt ELDs, Laskowski said most fleets report drivers come to like them.

“Time is money,” he said. “Drivers no longer have to fill out paperwork. It’s easier to audit. There are a lot of other time savings that equal money at the end of the day.”

The renegotiation of NAFTA was another concern listed by the panel. Laskowski said the ongoing NAFTA talks at least provide an opportunity to get trucking issues back on the table with government. He noted the CTA made submissions to government on more than 13 areas that could be improved with regards to border operations.

“Getting the attention of government on some of our micro issues in transportation is difficult,” he said. “Here is an opportunity…we have a wonderful opportunity to modernize NAFTA. There are a number of issues we’d like to work on as the trucking industry, and hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to discuss them.”

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