The Smart Freight Symposium on sustainable urban and regional freight innovation was held November 4, 2019 at the University of Toronto Faculty Club. The one-day event featured two keynotes and 21 speakers in four panels. About 100 invited guests attended from the private sector, four levels of government, NGOs, associations, consulting firms, and universities.
The symposium was presented by the Smart Freight Centre (SFC), a collaborative network established by the Region of Peel, McMaster University, University of Toronto, and York University. A centre of excellence on goods movement, the SFC was launched in April 2019 and plans to present a Smart Freight Symposium annually.
The mission of the Smart Freight Centre (SFC) is to improve goods movement across the Greater Toronto area and Peel Region. The SFC was founded to examine urban and regional freight transport issues which require long-term solutions and that cross regional and municipal boundaries, and thus cannot be addressed in isolation.
U of T’s Dean Christopher Yip gives welcoming address
The symposium was opened by Dr. Christopher Yip, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at University of Toronto. Dean Yip noted that goods movement is often overlooked in discussions of transportation. The Smart Freight Centre answers the need for continued industry-government-NGO partnerships with universities, and the transfer of research outcomes to industry practice and government policy.
“There is great concern in all sectors with the challenges we face in climate change, and solutions in freight transportation will be an important part of that equation,” he said.
First session focuses on key freight transportation challenges of government partners
The day’s first session, moderated by Allan Thompson, Mayor, Town of Caledon, heard from representatives of civic, regional, provincial and federal governments. The panel featured Dr. Sabbir Saiyed, Manager of Transportation System Planning for the Region of Peel, Barbara Gray, General Manager of Transportation Services for the City of Toronto, Michael Casey, Manager of the Provincial Planning Office at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), and Louis-Paul Tardif, Director of Economic Analysis and Research at Transport Canada.
Dr. Saiyed discussed traffic congestion as one of the top issues in Peel Region, and gave an overview of their Goods Movement Program. Gray talked about the City’s efforts to manage the impacts of unprecedented growth, citing curbside management, last mile connectivity, equity and other challenges. Casey gave a brief summary of MTO’s role in improving goods movement to benefit the province’s economy and their goal of finding the best mix of policy and planning to mitigate transportation issues. Lastly, Tardif delved into the policies, such as data governance, affecting improvements to freight transportation.
Industry leaders spotlight innovation in freight transportation in second session
The second session of the symposium featured industry leaders who discussed their firms’ positions in the freight sector and their innovations, and was moderated by Dr. Saiedeh Razavi, McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics. Jim Estill, CEO of ShipperBee, Sandra Rothbard, Associate at Sidewalk Labs, and Khelil Khelil, Manager, Business Research & Development, Network Strategy Dept. at Purolator were featured speakers. Estill discussed how an explosion of freight demand has allowed new players to enter the market. Rothbard highlighted the challenges increased freight demand has put on urban designers and gave an overview of the innovative freight system that her team is designing for the Sidewalk Toronto development. Khelil gave an overview of the new technologies Purolator is implementing and the research initiatives his team is supporting.
Keynote by Nando Iannicca, Regional Chair of Peel Region
Nando Iannicca, Regional Chair of Peel delivered a keynote address at lunch. He spoke to the importance of freight transport in everyday life, with the example of “getting dinner on the table.” He noted that, despite its critical importance, goods movement receives little attention compared to passenger transportation.
Iannicca pointed to Smart Freight Centre research and partnerships as a means of ensuring the safety, efficiency and economic growth of the Region while an estimated $1.8 billion (and growing) in commodities travels daily to, from and through. A significant freight hub for Canada, Peel is keen to support research that helps manage existing and future traffic flow and congestion of goods movement in the GTHA.
“The transportation infrastructure in Peel must accommodate the needs of our residents,” Iannicca said. “It is my hope that collaboratively we can ensure that our goods movement industry is sustainable, safe, competitive and innovative.”
Early Smart Freight Centre initiatives presented in session three
Session three was moderated by Dr. Mehdi Nourinejad and highlighted research initiatives at the three collaborating universities of the Smart Freight Centre. Professor Matthew Roorda of the University of Toronto provided an overview of the Smart Freight Centre’s mission and, with Sabrina Khan from the Region of Peel, presented early results on the “off-peak delivery” project. Professor Elkafi Hassini of McMaster University presented on trends in e-commerce, highlighting the growth of the sector. Professor Peter Park of York University discussed potential changes in infrastructure that would better facilitate freight transport.
Sustainable freight transportation targeted in final session
The fourth session of the symposium, moderated by the Region of Peel’s Erik Nevland, featured talks from pioneers in sustainable freight transportation. Maddy Ewing of the Pembina Institute talked about decarbonization of the freight transportation sector through implementation of new low carbon technologies and operational practices such as cargo bikes and micro hubs in last-mile delivery. Colin Sutherland, Executive Vice-President of Geotab, discussed telematics technology and how it can decrease truck fuel consumption. Dr. Marianne Hatzopoulou, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto spoke about her research on the effects of diesel vehicles on air quality, health, and the economy.
Looking forward to new Smart Freight Centre research
In his closing remarks, Professor Matthew Roorda, Chair of the Smart Freight Centre, thanked all symposium participants, attendees and volunteers as well as those who assisted behind-the-scenes. He reiterated the goals of the symposium, which were to foster interactions between government, industry and academics, and to showcase some of the early progress of the Smart Freight Centre.
“In my estimation, we achieved our goals,” said Roorda. “We learned a lot and the discussions sparked new ideas for research at the Smart Freight Centre.”
An annual research day is invaluable, said Roorda. He closed by inviting all attendees to return next year for the 2020 Smart Freight Symposium.