Updated: Fri, 04 Jan 2013 13:58:58 GMT | By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com

Military truck deal set for jump start



OTTAWA - An on-again, off-again program to replace the military's aging trucks is back on.

A series of meetings are scheduled later this month between government officials and companies vying for a contract for a fleet of new medium-sized logistics trucks for the Canadian Forces.

The meetings are to take place between Jan. 17-22 in the Ottawa area.

"The main objective of the one-on-one meetings is to validate certain aspects of the SMP procurement approach ... and to provide an opportunity for industry to meet with government representatives to discuss their views," says a notice posted on a government contracts website.

"Any solutions, ideas or issues raised during the one-on-one meetings or during any other additional sessions will be analyzed for further consideration by Canada."

The multimillion-dollar truck program had been in limbo since last summer, when Public Works emailed bidders three minutes before deadline to say the deal was off.

Economic, marketplace and budgetary circumstances have changed since this solicitation process began," the July 11 email said.

"Therefore, the government of Canada needs to reassess this procurement to ensure that the right equipment is acquired for the army at the best value for Canada, prior to proceeding with a new solicitation."

The abrupt cancellation left representatives from some of the would-be bidders scratching their heads. But the plan to replace the trucks is now back up and running.

"Engaging industry is part of our smart procurement approach and the new way forward," Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said in a statement.

"In working closely with industry, our government will ensure the best value for Canadian taxpayers, while providing the Canadian Armed Forces with the equipment and capability they need to do their jobs."

In a news release, the government acknowledged the "complex" nature of the procurement, noting it involves five different types of trucks and equipment to go with them, as well as in-service support while they're in use.

Former Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor first announced the truck-replacement program back in 2006.

"This government is committed to strengthening the Canadian Forces by ensuring that they finally have the equipment they need to get the job done," O'Connor said in a news release at the time.

The government originally planned to buy 1,500 logistics trucks and 800 commercial vehicles adapted for military use, along with equipment to go with them, at a total cost of $1.2 billion.

The new Standard Military Pattern Vehicles were to replace the current fleet of trucks, which has been in use since the 1980s. The vehicles are reaching the end of their service life.

"The requirement for this equipment is urgent," the Defence Department said in 2006.

But in November 2011, Public Works told prospective suppliers it was restarting the process after six companies and eight types of trucks had already been pre-qualified, citing "further refinements in the technical specification."

"The refinements in the requirement were necessary to identify the interface control constraint between the vehicle and the payloads it must carry," the department said at the time.

The medium-weight trucks are considered the workhorses of the regular and reserve forces, ferrying supplies to troops at home and abroad.

But after more than two decades of service, the trucks are rusted out and have brake problems.

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