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Maple Leaf Motoring: Ontario gets new transport minister

Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: Ontario gets third transport minister in less than a year, Mullen raises capital, the federal government delays trailer emissions standards and new VR videos test rail safety knowledge.

Ontario has a new minister of transportation as part of a cabinet shakeup. Caroline Mulroney was demoted from the post of attorney general to oversee transportation in Canada’s largest province.

Premier Doug Ford announced the cabinet shuffle on June 20. Mulroney, a lawyer and daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, became Ontario’s third transportation minister in less than a year.

The shakeup had little to do with the ministry itself. Instead it reflected widespread public outcry about the Ford government’s extensive cuts.

The Ministry of Transportation plays an outsized role in the trucking industry. It operates 12,000 inspection stations in the province, oversees licensing and registration, and enforces safety rules.

An Ontario Ministry of Transportation commercial vehicle inspector. Photo: Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Mulroney has a limited record on the transportation side, apart from a stint on the Windsor–Detroit Bridge Authority, which oversees the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. But she has visited trucking companies as part of her constituent work as a provincial member of Parliament.

Mulroney replaces Jeff Yurek, now the minister of the environment. Under Yurek, the province introduced a pre-clearance program for inspection sites, and a pilot project for increasing speed limits, which excludes trucks.

Yurek, a pharmacist, had little notable transportation experience when he became minister.

Mulroney is likely to continue the larger policies of the Ford government, which has made a point of reducing regulations for businesses.

Mullen Group closes C$110 million bought-deal offering

Mullen Group (TSX:MTL) announced on June 21 that the Alberta-based transportation and oil services firm closed a C$110 million bought-deal offering.

The offering, expanded from C$75 million, is slated for general company use and could fund potential trucking and logistics acquisitions.

It carries a 5.75 percent interest rate and is due in 2026. It allows for conversion into common stock at a rate of C$14 per share.

Mullen also announced that it had increased its credit facility with the Royal Bank of Canada by C$25 million to C$150 million.

Canadian government delays new emissions standards for trailers

The Candian government has pushed back the implementation of new greenhouse gas emissions standards for trailers to May 2020.

Environment Canada announced the delay in its June 15 Official Gazette. It did so in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Phase 2 regulations being delayed by litigation by trailer manufacturers.

The Canadian regulation is designed to be harmonious with the EPA rules.

New virtual-reality videos test drivers rail-safety skills

A screen from a Train to Drive video. Photo: Operation Lifesaver Canada.

Canadian truckers can test out their skills at navigating rail crossings through a pair of virtual reality videos.

The Train to Drive VR videos, produced by Operation Lifesaver Canada, simulate the experiencing of driving across rail crossing, and test users on the effective course of action.  They are available for truckers and commercial bus drivers.

“We tried to incorporate some of the real-world challenges that bus and truck drivers face near tracks and trains, to test their decision-making abilities in real time,” Sarah Mayes, National Director of Operation Lifesaver Canada, said in a statement.

Operation Lifesaver is an organization dedicated to preventing collisions at railway crossings.

Challenger opens driver academy

Challenger Motor Freight, one of Canada’s largest trucking companies, has opened its own driver training academy.

The Cambridge, Ontario-based company will begin taking students in July. The school is among a handful run by private transportation firms in Canada.

It will offer a 103.5 hour entry-level course for an AZ license, or an extended 200-hour course, according to The Record. The company plans to interview all graduates for jobs.

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.

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