Transportation Leaders Examine the Broader Impacts of Technology

November 16, 2018 | Category: News Releases

Fall Forum Advisory: Technology promises sweeping changes for transportation - how will we prepare for the future? 

WESTAC & Government of British Columbia Partner on Sector Labour Market Partnership

Vancouver, British Columbia – November 14, 2018 – Over 50 of Canada’s leading transportation organizations gathered in Vancouver for the Western Transportation Advisory Council (WESTAC) Fall Member Forum. Shippers, railways, ports and terminals, governments and labour leaders discussed the broader social, political, and competitive impacts of fast-paced technological changes.

Hon. Ron Schuler, Minister of Infrastructure, Government of Manitoba and Chair of WESTAC, welcomed Hon. Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Government of British Columbia and Vice Chair of WESTAC, and all Members to the WESTAC Fall Member Forum.

Futurist Nikolas Badminton kicked off the Forum, by boldly interpreting some of the latest advances in technology. He foresees a future with intense electrification and where data is the world’s most valuable commodity. Badminton asked members to imagine a future where “everything is done to the split-second, using sensors, cameras and autonomous systems that are controlled by artificial intelligence, with oversight of a small expert team. The control room’s operations are connected to all other (land/sea/air) freight operations, and municipalities, where key communications are sent, payments made, and small adjustments in scheduling are made in micro-seconds and accessible by all.”

Although this seems far-fetched, Badminton reminded members that it is a well-documented human tendency to overestimate short term impacts of technology and grossly underestimate the long-term seismic shifts. Some technologies are looming as short-term disruptors while others, such as unmanned vessels and Hyperloop remain decades away.   

Other presenters offered more nuanced views on the practical implications of advances in the tech sector about public safety, regulation and trade patterns.

Presenters Sunil Johal (Mowat Centre) and Dr. Jason Millar (University of Ottawa) spoke on the challenge for governments to keep pace with regulations and legislation in this rapidly changing landscape. International presenters included Dr. Christian Bluth from the Bertlesmann Foundation in Germany and Reyer Will from the Port of Rotterdam.

 “The transportation industry must be forward thinking – this means understanding not only the technologies available to increase efficiency, but also to understand its impact on workers and society,” said Oksana Exell, President & CEO, WESTAC.

As much as the meeting focused on technology and its changes, today, the industry has identified solving the looming skilled labour shortage and ensuring future workers have the right skills as a shared priority. This priority was identified in WESTAC’s Compass Survey as well as throughout the Western Trade Corridors roundtable on October 11, 2018. In 2019, WESTAC will work closely with the Government of British Columbia’s Sector Labour Market Partnerships program and industry to develop strategies to attract and retain more youth, Indigenous people, and women to the sector.

See the full agenda


See the forum supplement - INFORMATION OVERLOAD: Distilling technology for transportation

Here (members only)


The Western Transportation Advisory Council, WESTAC is a Council of major transportation organizations, represented by senior business, labour, and government decision-makers. The members focus on critical issues that affect Western Canada’s freight transportation network to ensure that it is safe, efficient, reliable and competitive. For more information visit, or on Twitter @WESTAC