Canadian National Railway president and CEO Paul Tellier told delegates to the Ontario Trucking Assns.' 73rd annual convention that the Railway Association of Canada, Canada's railroad industry's lobby group, may reconsider its funding of anti-trucking lobby group, Canadians for Reliable And Safe Highways.
"I'm ready to raise the issue with my colleague, (Canadian Pacific Railway president) Rob Ritchie," he said. "It's very difficult to suck and blow at the same time," Tellier told the crowded room. "It's difficult for me to say to you, 'Let's work together,' then turn around
the next day and give money to CRASH. You have my commitment that we are not alone at the RAC in thinking this way."
Tellier appeared before the convention delegates with a prepared speech that suggested Canada's two principal transportation providers, trucking and railroads, had more to gain from cooperation than confrontation.
"I'm suggesting to you, the trucking industry, that it's time to address the efficiency issue as a whole," Tellier said. "It's time to get together and compare notes."
Tellier suggested that the regulatory inequities faced by both industries could be better addressed by presented a common front when dealing with government. His remarks were directed at the competitive advantages American truckers and railroaders enjoy over their Canadian counterparts; in particular, unfavorable tax treatment, traffic density and lane utilization, complex regulations and infrastructure funding problems. "Canada must match American regimes that have made the American system the most efficient and low-cost rail system in the world," he noted.
But his remarks deviated in several substantial ways from the prepared text. Tellier struck several sections that appeared in the prepared text, which were released to the news wires just hours earlier. Among them: "Regulations should encourage rail where it makes sense. That means hours of operation regulations for trucks that don't encourage long hauls that should be put on rail," and, "Both your industry and ours will benefit if more shippers move traffic from highways to rails.
"You reduce the highway congestion that is choking your ability to move. We increase our density, making our networks more viable."
Instead of the vaguely inflammatory remarks, Tellier told the nearly 1,000 delegates, "For the past 40 years, you've been eating our lunch every day of the week. I'm very impressed by the way you service your customers. I wish we could accomplish the same level of service."
Tellier's comment received the following response from industry veteran and OTA member Bill MacKinnon of Guelph, Ontario-based MacKinnon Transport. "Well, maybe we made a better sandwich."
In concluding his presentation, Tellier suggested that both industries could profit from "speaking with one voice to get the attention required to put our issues at the top of the public agenda," adding, "You know as well as I do that government can't solve all the problems."
OTA president David Bradley said he was encouraged by Tellier's comments. "Decades of anti-truck lobbying efforts have been fruitless," Bradley said "If I was the CEO of RAC, I'd get as far from that group as I could. They are not grassroots and the public seems to realize it."