It is that time of the year again when WCHN features the elected leaders of our three associations (AMTA, STA and MTA) in a roundtable discussion on how the year has gone, what issues currently engage them, and what the industry can look forward to in the coming year.
Q – How has your leadership term gone so far? Is your association in a healthy position? Have there been any surprises?
Doug Paisley – It has been very exciting. The association in the last year has evolved with the development of new competency-based training, new technology exploration, GHG reducing technology testing, and a new world class facility at Edmonton International Airport to facilitate all of these endeavors.
The AMTA is in a very healthy position due to being at the forefront of the industry with all the initiatives going forward. This will benefit the industry in the quest for injury reduction.
Unfortunately, the only surprise was the tragic incident on April 6, 2018 with the horrible collision between the truck and coach involving the Humboldt Broncos. This tragedy is a major catalyst in making the necessary changes in the transportation industry going forward.
Reg Quiring – I have officially been the Board Chair for one year, and have enjoyed every minute of it. Participating in the board has always been important to me and the Board Chair position brings an increased excitement.
Our Association is in a great position right now. The tragedy here in April changed the way the industry is viewed and treated, and the STA is more relevant and important now than it ever has been.
John Erik Albrechtsen – It has been an interesting term so far, without a doubt. One of the first actions we undertook as an association after I became President of the MTA was to strike a subcommittee to address concerns with the proposed carbon tax plan in our province. We worked really hard on the carbon tax for a long time, to the point that we were starting to escalate our concerns beyond the various departments to the Premier’s office, and then poof, the carbon tax in Manitoba was cancelled. So that was a really interesting exercise, but one that I think shows how united the MTA is on issues. The biggest issue facing our industry, one that was potentially going to cost us almost a million dollars per week and had companies threatening to leave Manitoba, was placed in the hands of a few capable individuals in whom we, as a Board and as an Association, placed our trust that they would act fairly and effectively on behalf of all of our members. To me that speaks volumes about the quality of our Board members, and the quality of our association members. We are all in this together, and at the end of the day, we know that and can cooperate to work as an effective voice.
Q – What was your first ‘AHA’ moment when the realization hit you that you were the leader of your provincial trucking association?
Doug – It was at our AGM in Banff last spring where I was appointed the Chairman of the Board of Directors, taking over from Grant Mitchell. You realize very quickly that you have big shoes to fill and you don’t want to let down the previous leaders that have made such significant, impactful contributions to the association and the industry as a whole.
Reg – In 2017, the staff changed the way they delivered information to the board; it now comes in information packages, which was eye opening. We meet at least four times a year and each time there are nearly 200 pages of advocacy updates, membership growth information, charts, data, etc. – and that is only for the STA. The Association also owns three additional businesses. There is a lot going on all the time and it is very exciting to be involved in.
John Erik – It first became apparent shortly after the AGM when I was asked to attend several events along with interviews representing the association. Providing direction and insight to Industry and Government stakeholders.
Q – How are you managing to juggle your job and association work?
Doug – This is a challenge for anyone running a busy and demanding business. Transportation is 24/7 and all board members have their individual priorities with regards to their family, work and association commitments. Technology helps overcome some of the demographic challenges of getting the directors together for meetings and discussions. Ultimately, though, it’s Chris Nash and his staff at the AMTA that keep everything moving in the right direction.
Reg – This position has been less demanding than I thought it would be thanks to the exceptional work of our Executive Director as well as the rest of the team, who are highly competent and look after all of the details.
John Erik – I have been involved in the trucking industry literally since day one, as Paul’s Hauling Ltd and I both came into this world around the same time. I have been involved with the MTA for almost 40 years. Both of these organizations have played such an important role in my life for so long that it is just seems natural to me to have a role with both organizations. Plus, I love working with both organizations, so I personally haven’t found it too challenging or strenuous to strike a balance.
Q – What major issue(s) currently concern(s) your Board of Directors?
Doug – The major issues now are similar to most others in the transportation world in North America and that is dealing with the driver shortage crisis, combined with the new MELT programs being considered and introduced, and the legalization of cannabis. The industry needs to be recognized as a profession and the truck driving occupation needs the certification and designation of a professional or journeyman. In my opinion, this is critical if we are going to attract new drivers into the industry.
Reg – Mandatory Entry Level Training is high on the priority list right now. The industry has been asking for it for years and we just want to see the government step up and make an announcement. Second is a federal issue affecting the industry: the use of drivers and personal service businesses with payroll expenses and taxes being cheated by both the company and the one-person corporation set up by the driver. This is causing problems for carriers with the desire to be compliant and it needs to stop.
John Erik – Even though the province has cancelled their carbon tax, we are still trying to gain a solid understanding of what the provincial carbon policy looks like for our industry. At this time, very few details have emerged. Our industry is already running on tight margins. This means that, unfortunately, increased costs for industry are going to be passed down to consumers. That we don’t have any solid information about what the federal carbon pricing policy will look like, just a few short months from implementation, is a bit alarming. We will continue to promote the GrEEEner Trucking Efficiency Initiative as much as we can, which is a program we developed that encourages the use of trucking industry-generated revenues (via a carbon tax) back into our industry through research and development initiatives that will allow us to reduce our carbon footprint.
We are also advocating for MELT in our province, but again, don’t know what that is going to look like. We are also in the process of applying to a sector council, as well as undertaking a public relations campaign to help Manitobans better understand the trucking industry.
Q – What lobbying successes has your association experienced in 2018?
Doug – In northern Alberta, there has been much headway in the successful solutions made with Alberta Transportation to address axle weights on various configurations, saving companies a significant amount of time and money going forward. We continue to make progress in Alberta with the provincial municipalities’ acceptance and blanket approval of New Generation Single Wide Base Tires (NGWBST).
Reg – The expansion of the Wide Base Permit Pilot system to include all National Highway System Roads was an important step towards having the tires written into regulation. This year the STA also collaborated with other employer representation groups to advocate on some key Saskatchewan employment issues such as impairment. While the outcomes of both these efforts are still unknown, it increases the yield of our efforts to be able to work with other groups representing thousands of companies. This is something we will continue to do moving forward.
John Erik – We have had a lot of big projects on the go for a long time that are nearing completion, but we saw some success on smaller projects this year, as well. We successfully lobbied to prevent the closure of the Pine Grove rest area, the only rest area between Winnipeg and the Manitoba-Ontario border. We also participated in the review of the Chevrier Boulevard bike lane construction project, wherein we reached out and changes were made that improved safety for everyone using this construction corridor. Of course, the driver funding training program was a huge win for us, and, really, the Province. Almost one hundred and fifty new, well-trained drivers are now working in the industry, which is positive for everyone.
Q – Where does your association stand on MELT and do you see it happening in your province any time soon?
Doug – The AMTA stands with Alberta Transportation with the development and implementation of the MELT program on March 1, 2019. This is the start of bringing the commercial driver into a recognized career and possibly a trade or designation. This is long overdue.
Reg – As I mentioned, our association wants to see MELT happen yesterday. Saskatchewan is moving towards a standardized curriculum and while
it’s a step in the right direction, it is
just not quite there yet; so we are working diligently to have the issue solved shortly.
John Erik – We have been for a long time, and continue to be, strong advocates for Mandatory Entry Level Driver Training. With the support of MPI (Manitoba Public Insurance), we successfully ran a professional entry-level driver training program in this province for a decade. When that program ended, we lobbied for a driver training funding program that was implemented this year, and has proven to be very popular. We want it, industry wants it, and the province wants it; we just need to get everything in order to have MELT implemented in Manitoba, hopefully in the next year.
Q – What about reciprocity and border issues with the US? Is the uncertainty of NAFTA negotiations affecting the industry?
Doug – The window for harmonization has been opened with all of the changes going on now in the transportation industry. Cannabis, ELDs, NAFTA changes, etc. are all opening the door to the exploration of harmonization.
Reg – As Saskatchewan is land locked, our borders are very important to us. While being able to move into the US with ease is critical, so is being able to operate across the country. Canada still has plenty of harmonization gaps; therefore, shortening that list would be very beneficial to the trucking industry.
John Erik – I won’t comment too much on trade agreements, but I can say that we have seen no change in regards to US or customs policy. While we can’t change too much on the southern side of the border, we are very concerned that US companies are still exempt from the Safety Fitness Framework of the NSC while operating in Canada in competition with Canadian companies. Manitoba and all Western Canadian provinces currently allow companies to operate with a US safety on their roads unless of course you’re a Canadian company at which point it’s “not safe.” There is still far too much red tape in place and it is an unnecessary distraction from genuine safety discussions.
Q – Where is your association and province in regards to ELDs?
Doug – The AMTA is in full support of the implementation of ELDs in Alberta and Canada and continues to train companies, drivers and shippers as to what ELDs mean to the industry.
Reg – The STA supports the federal ELD mandate. Many of our companies are already using them and would like to see all federal carriers be mandated to do so. Here in Saskatchewan we have a Provincial Hours of Service regulation that adds a complication and would require a separate software set designed specifically for provincially regulated carriers, but we are working on it.
John Erik – We are on-board with them; we just want to ensure that they, along with any other new regulations or safety measures, are done in such a way that our industry isn’t unfairly punished or impeded. We also want to ensure ALL trucks are required to have devices not just the regulated community.
Q – What is the latest on environmental issues coming from your association? Where does your association stand on carbon pricing?
Doug – The AMTA Climate Change White Paper discusses the need for technology research to find new GHG reducing solutions. Alberta carriers have contributed over $636,000,000 to the Alberta Carbon tax levy with none of this money being redirected back to the transportation industry. The AMTA is requesting access to these funds to put towards research and development of GHG reducing technology for the transportation industry.
Reg – The latest environmental issue we have here is concerning delete kits; the use of these is rampant and goes unenforced. The STA has been advocating to SGI to begin enforcing the federal regulations on environmental equipment. Again, we believe that this is a ‘level-playing-field’ issue. Companies striving to operate compliantly should not do so at a disadvantage. In regards to carbon pricing, we side with our provincial government in that we are not quite in agreement with the federal government’s current carbon tax proposal.
John Erik – Some form of carbon tax is going to impact our industry. We don’t know what that looks like, even though we are only a few short months from implementation. What we want, and expect, is that revenues generated from our industry be returned to our industry, so we can work to develop initiatives and technologies that will allow our industry to reduce our carbon footprint. If the goal truly is to lessen industry’s impact on the environment, then there shouldn’t be an issue. However, if the goal is to play politics, then that’s a different story, one where no one wins in the end.
Q – Can you tell readers about your association’s recent safety initiatives? What effects did the Humboldt tragedy have on the industry and your association?
Doug – This was a horrible incident for the family, friends, team members, and the nation as a whole. As a result of this incident there were three areas of concern that are being addressed by Alberta Transportation with the support of the AMTA: MELT (driver minimum knowledge requirements), Safety Fitness Certificate requirements (what it takes to become a commercial carrier and register commercial vehicles), and the driver examiner model (ending the third-party examiner model and bringing back into government).
Reg – The tragedy affecting the Humboldt hockey team was devastating to us all, both as individuals and as an association. Many of us knew those boys personally, as Saskatchewan is a tightly knit province, and the incident shook us all. Our Association is used to speaking for the industry in our province and we knew what was the right thing to do, so we did it. All the media in the world will not change what happened, but we had the ability to make change for our province’s heroes – the first responders. Saskatchewan depends on these people, who are often volunteers, to save lives every day. Through the All Roads Lead to Safety Campaign, the STA lead the charge in raising funds across Canada to assist with stress and mental health initiatives for first responders. Seeing everyone pull together in a difficult time to help those directly affected made me not only proud to be from Saskatchewan, but prouder than ever before to be a part of the trucking community.
John Erik – At the end of the day, we are all people in the trucking industry, people with friends and families we want to see. The Humboldt tragedy impacted us, like it did every Canadian. Safety has long been important to the members of the MTA, and we can see that by the interest in RPM, our industry’s safety association. We can see it in our member’s participation in the driver training funding program. Our members want to do right as far as safety is concerned.
Q – What is the current state of the workforce shortage? Are governments (all levels) doing enough on their end to help the situation? What more can the industry do?
Doug – The current workforce shortage is critical and is mainly due to an aging workforce. The average age of a Canadian commercial driver is 47 years old and expected to be 49 by 2024. In the US, the average commercial driver age is 55 years old. There needs to be new, innovative practices to attract new drivers from all demographics. Whether it is attracting millennials, underrepresented groups, or foreign workers, we as an industry need to make sure we are finding ways to engage and accommodate these new to the industry people. The MELT program will add a level of consistency and credibility to the training of new drivers and hopefully raise the professional standard and level of pride with in the drivers in the industry.
Reg – There is a driver shortage here, as there is everywhere. The STA is working with the Ministry of Immigration and Career Training to develop provincial strategies on how we can get drivers behind the wheel – safely, of course.
John Erik – The workforce shortage is real. The largest cost to carriers today is the lost opportunity involving unseated trucks. The economy has moderated so there is sufficient freight to move but not enough people to move it. Truck driving is complex and requires skill to operate these various configurations safely across our continent. Government has not recognized the truck driving position as a skilled profession. This limits training opportunities and entrance opportunities to our industry. This is a skilled trade that needs to be implemented into our schools & trade programs.
Q – Do you think the profile of trucking has improved in recent years? What more can be done to improve it?
Doug – Absolutely – the industry is becoming more advanced every day by way of efficiency, technology and the overall driver experience. There is still work to be done to attract a transportation workforce and this will be accomplished by creating the pathways for all demographics to enter the industry. The message is ‘trucking is open for business!’
Reg – The STA had a great panel discussion about the profile of the trucking industry at the Annual General Meeting. I think we’ve made some progress, but we still have a long way to go. We in the industry need to work hard to get in front of the next generations and spread the message that trucking is a career. Jim Olson of SGI Canada, who is also on the STA Board, was on the panel and said the following: “I wish the public saw what we get to see, like the in-house driver training programs, the vehicle maintenance programs, electronic log books, driver bonuses for incident-free miles, sophisticated fleet monitoring systems.” Olson pointed out, “I truly don't think the public understands the amount of time, effort, and resources that is put into keeping the drivers and the general public safe.” This message rings true for many of us.
John Erik – I don’t think that the general public truly understands the trucking industry. That’s not meant to underestimate or undermine the general public in any way; how can someone without experience in the industry understand or appreciate what we do? That could be said for anyone who is outside of an industry. At the MTA, one of our upcoming initiatives is a public relations campaign to help those outside our industry better understand what we do. If the public better understands us, it will be easier to move our direction in the industry we want, since public will drives government action.
Q – Describe the current relations between your association and the provincial government?
Doug – The AMTA has a great working relationship with the Alberta government. The focus being on solutions rather than blame has fostered the good working relationship to this point. With the retirements and position changes over the last year, in both AMTA and Alberta Transportation, we are working hard to continue the relationship going forward.
Reg – As it has been for years, the STA maintains a great relationship with the provincial government. The trucking industry and our government here have a lot in common; at the end of the day we just want a strong economy and a strong Saskatchewan.
John Erik – I think our relationship is as strong or stronger than it has ever been. We have a good dialogue with the administration and ongoing discussions along with various working groups within the various departments. We consult on major initiatives that effect both industry and our community constituents. We can have healthy debates while maintaining a high degree of mutual respect. We may not agree on initiatives, but we can discuss them and understand each party’s position.
Q – What New Year’s Resolution would you make for your Association?
Doug – The AMTA commits to bringing more value to our members and our industry in 2019!
Reg – I would make our New Year's resolution: to be less humble. If we want to recruit and retain new industry participants, we must be the first to proudly promote our industry. And we need to do it loudly. As an Association, we need to tell non-Member companies that they should join, that the STA is paving the way for the future of trucking in Saskatchewan and that they should really be involved in that.
John Erik – Providing the public with a better understanding of the trucking industry; creating an education strategy; and hopefully developing an industry sector council. Also, continuing to promote (and see adopted) our GrEEEner Trucking Efficiency Initiative. These are our priorities as an association. As well, we would like to see the launch of MELT by the provincial government in 2019.
Q – Are there any other issues that deserve mentioning before we sign off?
Doug – The AMTA is very proud to be in our new facility at the Edmonton International Airport! With a 20,000 sq. ft. training facility, along with a five-acre paved surface for training, research and technology testing, we are bringing the commercial transportation into the future with opportunities not offered anywhere else.
John Erik – Industry needs to evolve to a position that we are competing for the next generation of employees with all industries. We need to provide balance, quality of life and competitive wage packages equal to other trade professions. We need to have more flexible hours that permit drivers to operate safely and maximize their time with the people that are important to them. Industry needs to be recognized by the as the essential service it is. Both the public and those within Industry need to embrace what we do to promote everyone’s quality of life. Only then will we become more attractive to the next generation.