Truck Transport

Tremendous advances in trucking transportation have been made since 1898, when the first commercial truck, bought by the Robert Simpson Company of Toronto, was used in Canada. Originally, the cabs of the trucks had no doors, heaters, or automatic—if any—windshield wipers; thirty miles was considered a long run and would take all day to complete. The shift from horse to truck in 1914 was one of the greatest developments of World War I. However, the trucking industry almost came to a halt in the late 1920s because the roads needed for long-distance commuting were non-existent. By the early 1930s, an excess of cheap manpower was available owing to the Great Depression, and the highway systems project was well underway.

In the late 1930s, Saskatchewan had only 132 miles of paved road and 2,402 miles of gravel. At this time, a group of ambitious truckers formed the Saskatchewan Motor Transport Association; by the 1950s, the name was changed to the Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA). The STA represented the industry in government discussions regarding issues such as deregulation, weights and measures. During World War II, trucks were essential for carrying supplies, soldiers, and other materials. By 1940, there were 278,777 commercial vehicles registered in Canada, and fierce competition grew between the railway and trucking industries. The golden age for many long-haul truckers was the mid-1950s to 1970: there was no traffic congestion, new training methods were implemented, and two-way radios emerged. The Trans-Canada Highway opened at Roger’s Pass in BC in the early 1960s; in 1970, the $1 billion highway was completely paved and spanned 7,821 km.

Today, Saskatchewan has over 185,000 km of rural public highways, one of the most developed road systems in Canada. Since the 1970s both the amount and type of truck traffic have changed, with truck traffic volumes tripling. Saskatchewan's truck grain hauling is seventeen times higher than in the early 1970s; in 1997, Census Canada listed trucking as the number-one employer of Canadian men. The removal of the Crow Rate subsidy on railway grain hauling forced railway companies to abandon some Saskatchewan rail lines. The trucking industry responded by expanding its fleet of trucks and employees so that grain would reach the market in large quantities and at a reasonable rate.

In the early 1990s the trucking industry was deregulated. Safety, engine emissions, employee welfare, tracking technology, and customer satisfaction are now the STA’s main concerns. One initiative is to follow the National Safety Code Standards which will benefit and protect all drivers. In Saskatchewan, trucks transport 95% of goods moved within the province, and over 28,000 people are employed by the transportation industry. Approximately 2,400 registered trucking companies import hundreds of millions of dollars into Saskatchewan every year.

Pat Rediger