Marine Atlantic ends truck reservation system

Marine Atlantic is cancelling the controversial mandatory reservation system for trucks on its ferries between Nova Scotia and southeastern Newfoundland.

Marine Atlantic is cancelling its controversial mandatory reservation system for trucks travelling on its ferries between Nova Scotia and southeastern Newfoundland.

As of Nov. 14, trucks will no longer need a reservation to get on a vessel, Marine Atlantic said Friday. Marine Atlantic will go back to "load and go" truck traffic which it scrapped in March.

Independent truckers had been complaining for months about long waits to get on ferries, especially after the breakdown this month of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood, one of the federal Crown corporation's largest ferries,

That breakdown and a decision by the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association brought matters to a head.

For months, Marine Atlantic justified its mandatory booking system by saying the trucking industry had asked for it and most trucking companies supported it. But at its annual meeting last week, the truckers association, with over 300 members, pulled its support for the reservation system.

Jean Marc Picard, the association's executive director, said there was no way the reservation system could work while Marine Atlantic doesn't have enough capacity.

Sunk by 'capacity issue'

"They made some changes, some improvements, but at the end of the day, the timing for the implementation was off," Picard said Friday. "But it still didn't address the capacity issue. So with the summer that we just had, it was extremely busy, so it was extremely difficult to work with the reservation system."

The association contacted the ferry corporation this week asking it to cancel the system, at least for now. Wayne Follett, CEO of Marine Atlantic, said this request combined with other challenges, forced the decision to scrap reservations.

"Most noteworthy being the mechanical breakdown of the Joseph and Clara Smallwood in October and, you know, we had difficulty carrying the commercial traffic with just two vessels, and this put a spotlight again on the commercial reservation system," he said.

Marine Atlantic may put the reservation system back in place, he said, when two new larger ferries enter service next summer.