“ Our tenacity is our strength. We know who we are, we know our industry, and we are not afraid to go after what we want.”
– John Erik Albrechtsen, MTA
Q. How has your leadership term gone so far? Is your association
in a healthy position? Have there been any surprises?
Jude Groves – Great – in saying that, the only constant is change. The AMTA executive committee and leadership from the association staff have had the opportunity to develop good working relationships with our new government finding workable solutions to Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT); trying to get New Generation Wide-Base Single Tires (NGWBST) across the line municipally; ongoing discussions on regulatory red tape and emerging issues such as ELDs; provincial hours of service; and a multitude of other regulatory issues impacting how efficiently we all do business. The association is healthy. As always, we love a good challenge from our members with how we could better support them.
Reg Quiring – The Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) has made significant strides in the province of Saskatchewan in forming relationships with industry regulators, government officials, our membership and other truck transport organizations across Canada and the US. Through countless government relations meetings, Board committee meetings, and staying in communication with the other trucking associations across Canada, the STA continues to be a leader and voice for the truck transport industry through authentic advocacy and education. We are committed to continuous learning to ensure the STA is ready to manage any surprises the trucking industry may have for us.
As for surprises, the trucking industry is full of surprises, which is why the STA always works to keep up with where the industry is headed.
John Erik Albrechtsen – My term has gone well. I think we were pro-active on a lot of topics, especially carbon tax and MELT. We didn’t always get the results we want, but our association is generally held in high regard by the provincial government. We provide the government with input on a number of items on a wide range of topics.
We are still challenged by the time required for the decision-making process of this government. We appreciate their process is different from industry’s, but we had expected to see more progress by this point.
Q. Trucking is an economy’s bellwether. How are your province and industry faring these days?
Jude – We are just coming down from two elections in which a new provincial government and a Federal minority government were elected. Now that we can all breathe again, I am hoping for a national result better aligned with our provincial direction in 2023. I am sure we are all feeling some ambivalence in Alberta as the country accepts our new leaders and tests the water with what economic influence their first steps will drive.
Reg – Saskatchewan is a trading province, contributing 6% of total Canadian exports, while only accounting for 3% of the Canadian population. This means that Saskatchewan exports more per capita than any other province in Canada. Movement of goods in Saskatchewan relies heavily on truck transport, with 80% of merchandise being moved by truck.
The Saskatchewan trucking industry makes life in our land-locked province possible, however, concerns do exist. Rising fuel prices are a concern, especially with the addition of the Federal Carbon Tax. Additionally, there is a serious driver shortage of skilled workers, with Saskatchewan having 3,500 jobless positions from drivers to dispatchers to mechanics.
John Erik – Our industry is always striving to be better, whether that relates to safety, human resources, or economics. I would say that there’s room for improvement, but it is okay.
Q. What makes you most proud of your provincial trucking association?
Jude – The last two years have been inundated with regulatory changes, new partners in industry, provincial and federal governments, and several new AMTA team members on staff. The association has maintained existing partnerships and developed new allies; all led by a new president. The association is strong, our voice is being heard, and we are making a meaningful impact with – and on behalf of – our membership. In explaining who the AMTA is, the association likes to use: “the voice, the standard and the resource for Alberta’s transportation industry,” and I couldn’t agree more. Our Board is made up of passionate leaders from across Alberta – all corners of industry, which aids us in making sure our memberships’ needs and concerns are voiced and addressed. It is an honour to be in this role and to work with such a team of skilled leaders.
Reg – Without a doubt, it would be the history of the association. For 80 years, the Saskatchewan Trucking Association has stood up for the interests of trucking in the province. To be a part of that same association many years later is exciting. We have a committed Board of Directors and staff members who are passionate about trucking and helping our industry grow in Saskatchewan.
John Erik – Our tenacity is our strength. We know who we are, we know our industry, and we are not afraid to go after what we want. This doesn’t mean that we are bull-headed or have blinders on; it means that we go after what we want without hesitation.
Q. What major issues and
challenges currently concern
your Board of Directors?
Jude – There are several challenges we are currently focused on including the driver shortage, driver recruitment, and compliance with new provincial mandates for training and licensing. Wide-base tires have been approved on provincial highways, but we continue to work with municipalities for blanket approval in Alberta. While we built our new Edmonton facility with what we thought would be an excess capacity, we have had some opportunities surface from key partners in the Edmonton region to expand the facility beyond its current size and function while maintaining a sustainable funding stream. Stay tuned!
Reg – The driver shortage and where the next generation of the workforce will come from is a major concern and challenge. Canada wide, there are
20,000 unfilled truck driver positions. By 2020, the gap between the supply and demand for drivers is expected to be 25,000. This number could exceed 33,000, assuming a lower rate of productivity growth. This is cause for concern, not just for the trucking industry, but for its customers, the Canadian economy, and, ultimately, consumers.
These numbers only paint part of the picture. More than 30% of truck transport drivers are over 55 years of age, which speaks to the aging workforce in the trucking industry, nonetheless, attracting Millennials to the industry has been challenging, as less than 18% of that generation
make up trucking, whereas women make up 3% of truck transport drivers
If we look more specifically at Saskatchewan, according to the Asia Pacific Gateway Corridor Trucking Sector Labour Market Outlook 2016-2025, it stated that employers will face difficult conditions in hiring the workers they need in the 12 trucking sector occupations starting in 2017. In the next 10 years, it is expected that the trucking sector in Saskatchewan will need to fill 7,575 job openings and will lose 26% of its workers.
John Erik – Our industry is at a tipping point: human resources, technology and the environment are all factors changing how we do business. And we have to change how we do business because the old days are done. Our Board is looking at truck electrification, environmental funding, succession planning, a whole slew of topics.
Q. What lobbying successes has your association experienced in 2019?
Jude – Last October, Mandatory Entry Level Training was finally mandated. MELT ensures that all commercial vehicle drivers receive a minimum standard of training. The south twinning of Highway 40 (until this project was put on hold with the new budget). The official opening of the Highway 43 bypass at Grande Prairie. Our largest success by far is having developed an open-door relationship with provincial and municipal leaders across Alberta who are open to hearing our challenges and helping to find solutions.
Reg – The number one lobbying success of 2019 would be working with SGI and other stakeholders involved in Mandatory MELT training.
John Erik – We had a promise from the provincial government of $12 million dollars to help our industry reduce its carbon footprint just prior to the election, and we are looking forward to ensuring our industry benefits from that promise now that the election is over. We successfully advocated for the elimination of CT and PSV plate distinctions, per the MTA belief that “a truck is a truck is a truck,” and then worked to ensure that the costs associated with “trading in” the old plates would not be burdensome for our members. The driver training funding program has been extended again and we are currently administering a driver retention program of almost $300,000 available to industry.
Q. Can you comment on the
MELT program in your province? Is your association happy with its current status?
Jude – As of March 1, 2019, Class 1 or Class 2 drivers in Alberta require mandatory training including hours in-class, in-yard and in-vehicle modules. The AMTA supports pre-license training with further recommendations to include funding to support pre-license drivers, elimination of retest for Class 1 and Class 2 drivers, comprehensive manuals and audio visual training for students and instructors and regulatory changes be made to establish driver’ license endorsement for both standard and automatic transmission equipped commercial vehicles of 11,794kg.
Our partners in government have worked closely with industry and the association to ensure they are establishing realistic, responsible and achievable mandates for industry and new entrants while challenging that as a profession you need recognized and competency-based skillsets.
Reg – The STA supports the commercial transportation industry, the Government of Saskatchewan and vested stakeholders in the implementation of Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT), effective March 14, 2019. The STA was proud to have been consultants in the make-up of MELT in Saskatchewan.
In its first seven months, MELT has seen varying results with respect to the MELT curriculum. To address the challenges and criticisms of the curriculum, SGI has created a working group, which the STA sits on, to oversee the program and find ways to enhance MELT. One important message that we have heard is that the quality of driver coming out of MELT is better than it was Pre-MELT, but there is still work to be done to better enhance the program.
John Erik – I have always said that government will is directed by public will. The public made it clear that they wanted our drivers to be held to a higher standard. We have made progress in that we now have a standard, but understand it is a pre-licensing standard. Industry needs supports on pre-employment policy too. It is the same logic we have always put forth: having a Class 1 license does not necessarily make you a safe and successful truck driver. MELT in Manitoba licenses Class 1 drivers; it does not educate professional commercial drivers.
Q. What about ELDs? With the US mandate in effect, and the Canadian Federal Mandate coming, what is your advice to industry?
Jude – My advice to industry is to start planning for how ELDs will impact your business processes, people and capital investment needed. While the U.S. rollout was not without challenges, it did not have as negative an effect as some believed it would.
The Canadian ELD mandate is driving necessary conversations in Alberta with how we will be moving forward to address two jurisdictional operating mandates – Federal and Provincial Hours of Service – through industry consultations being formally announced in the coming months.
Reg – The STA supports the Federal mandate of ELDs in 2021, as there are significant benefits to the drivers and companies that use them. First, ELDs will increase safety and help manage fatigue management; and second, ELDs will automatically record a drivers Hours of Service data, ensuring drivers are compliant to HOS regulations. Data suggests 25% of HOS convictions were exceeding maximum hour allotment and 11% of convictions found operators using two daily logs at the same time, or falsifying log info.
The advice I would give to the industry is, be prepared, join the Association and stay up-to-date on the ELD mandate as 2021 approaches.
John Erik – Well-considered efforts to improve the safety of our industry are welcomed. ELDs are something the provincial and national trucking associations have long sought, so my advice to industry is to welcome this change. There will be hiccups, as is always the case when new technology is implemented, but there is not much left for us to do as an industry on this one other than be prepared for it.
Q. What is the latest on environmental issues coming from your association? Where does your association stand on the controversial carbon pricing issue?
Jude – Our industry is without a doubt the most progressive transportation segment suffering at the hand of carbon pricing. At the end of the day, the impact to our industry is an additional cost borne by the consumer as a cost of distribution/transportation and needs to be recognized as such by governments.
On the proactive side, in June, the AMTA was the recipient of $7.3 million
of the Emissions Reduction Alberta
$100 million investment into clean technology research. The association received the money for the Alberta Zero Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration (AZETEC). AZETEC is an industry-led initiative to reduce emissions from Alberta’s commercial transportation sector by harnessing the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell electric powered drive trains.
AZETEC includes construction of two hydrogen fuel cell trucks to be trialed on Alberta highways. Alberta natural gas will be utilized with vehicle completion expected late 2020 and testing to continue into 2022. As well, we are proud to be housed in a facility designed to LEED silver standards at our Edmonton Campus.
Reg – The STA is pleased to stand with the Government of Saskatchewan in being opponents of the Carbon Tax, as it is an undue hardship on Saskatchewan’s trucking industry and export-based economy. Not only are carriers paying more at the pump, but costly hours are being dedicated to filling out paperwork that is confusing and unnecessary, to the point where some companies have weighed the cost-benefit of simply not complying with the program.
The trucking industry has been a leader in green technology long before the talk of carbon tax from the Federal Government. Small adjustments in how governments allow industry to use said technologies will be much more effective in fighting the global issue of climate change than yet another tax in an already heavily taxed industry.
Desired reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be met through improvements in the engine, transmission, driveline, aerodynamic design, low rolling resistance tired, extended idle reduction technologies, and other tractor accessories. Examples of technologies currently available but underused in Saskatchewan include new generation wide-base tires and natural gas. These consumption reducing technologies are underutilized due to existing policies that prevent trucking companies from using them to their full potential.
John Erik – Like with ELDs, the horse is already out of the stall on this one. Manitoba is a backstop province because Manitoba, like many other provinces, has not implemented a federally approved carbon tax. This presents challenges for industry; financially and from a red tape perspective. However, the MTA has always said that we are more than willing to do our share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so long as it is a fair share and programming is effective. I think that we are sometimes viewed as an easy target, and so are expected to do more than others.
The trucking industry is definitely interested in looking at new technologies that will help us reduce our carbon footprint. The MTA is soliciting a pilot project using electric trucks, for example. As an industry, there are some technologies available to us; however, the investment can be cost-prohibitive, which is why government programs that allow all carriers to get on board are so appreciated, when they are implemented.
Q. Briefly, can you comment on your province’s truckling-related infrastructure?
Jude – In June, at the grand opening of our new AMTA Edmonton facility, Alberta Transportation announced the construction of three new rest stops in the province. Two along the Yellowhead Highway west of Highway 43 and another on Highway 2 near Lacombe. We are actively working with Alberta Transportation to increase roadside rest area and washroom facilities across the jurisdiction through non-conventional partnerships. It is important we provide a constant reminder that highways are our workplace and roadside services are essential to our workers.
Reg – The STA has identified a need for improved truck parking along the highway in Saskatchewan, mainly Highway 1. Additionally, the STA was pleased to see completion of the recent twinning project on the busiest section of Highway 39, east of Estevan. The project aimed to improve safety and efficiency for motorists and truckers. The new two-lane overpass allows trucks safe access to nearby coal deposits for the area’s power plant. The junction of Highways 39 and 18 east of Estevan near Bienfait has also been re-aligned.
John Erik – Working with a consortium of other advocacy groups, we have been able to better voice our concerns regarding infrastructure in this province. The last budget saw a cutback in infrastructure investment, which is a concern.
As we do every year, we released our infrastructure concerns. The top concerns as addressed by the MTA with input from our members included the Chief Peguis extension, Kenaston Boulevard widening, PTH 100 South perimeter at-grade crossings, the Headingley bypass and
St. Norbert bypass. All of these concerns will improve our industry’s efficiency and safety.
Q. Can you tell readers about your association’s recent safety concerns and initiatives?
Jude – As an industry, we are focused on identifying, addressing and learning from incidents that occur in our workplaces. As a result, Partners in Compliance initiated a weekly safety moment shared openly within industry for carriers to use (Twitter: @PICAlberta). The AMTA and our Alberta government partners revamped the COR Audit tool and Auditor criteria requirements. The association is nearing finalization of the Certified Transportation Safety Professional (CTSP) designation consisting of eight mandatory and three elective courses and a final qualifying examination. We continue to work closely with WCB and key industry partners to develop an industry specific Training On the Job program – a key initiative to focus on re-training workers that have been seriously injured or permanently disabled to ensure they are able to remain a member of the workforce in a meaningful role. If you have any interest in this program, please email email@example.com.
Reg – Our biggest safety concern is the lack of suitable truck parking in Saskatchewan. One of the main challenges the trucking industry has been faced with is non-compliance of carriers with respect to hours of service. HOS are designed to ensure drivers are receiving adequate rest while on the road. Unfortunately, too often accidents happen, and the investigation finds the driver of a commercial vehicle non-compliant with their hours of service. The STA has re-opened the agenda on rest stop infrastructure in the province and has been working with the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure on identifying key areas in Saskatchewan where improvements can be made. At the end of the day, ensuring the roads are safe is the number one priority.
John Erik – Obviously, MELT has been a big item for our association this year. As I previously mentioned, we expect the standard that was implemented will improve road safety. We are also happy that the government has continued to fund the driver training program, which in an opportunity for drivers to gain pre-employment training at little to no cost, but as it is not committed funding there remains concern.
RPM, our safety association, has been huge for Manitoba’s trucking industry. With the introduction of the Small Employer Certification Path, and almost $2 million in savings for our industry in reduced WCB premiums, it is easy to see how RPM is impacting our industry.
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?
Jude – It is no secret that our industry needs good people – we all have ads looking to build our teams – the challenge is finding qualified, competent people wanting to join our ranks. The AMTA executive and staff have had preliminary meetings with Alberta Labour discussing how to create employment and training opportunities to get Albertans back to work – between course offerings through the association and new MELT training. The Board of Directors is also discussing opportunities to better engage with HR professionals and company management within industry to develop initiatives to add team members and diversify our workplaces. The AMTA partners with and supports the Women Building Futures Professional Class 1 Driver course, which has so far seen 37 women graduate, and continues to bring more female drivers into industry as well as our partnership with WCB’s Training on the Job initiative.
Reg – Nationally and provincially here in Saskatchewan, the workforce shortage is a hot topic and has without a doubt been felt by Saskatchewan Carriers. In Saskatchewan, the 2019 job opening projection from the Saskatchewan Detailed Occupational Outlook 2019-2023 shows a need for 3,220 transport truck drivers, which is the occupation with the most job openings that requires high school completion.
The STA has recently been working with the Ministry of Immigration and Career Training, including Labour Market Services to discuss strategies on how to recruit the next generation of workers into the trucking industry. Immigration and Career Training has identified trucking as a priority, and we will continue to work with them in our recruitment efforts.
John Erik – Industry has been working to address the workforce shortage for years, and we keep talking about it. The MTA has done a good job of targeting a variety of potential workforce members, but it still isn’t enough. In my opinion, industry needs to look inward to see what changes we can make so we attract good people. A few years ago, we competed with each other for drivers and technicians. Now, we are competing with other industries, industries with different schedules and pay scales than what we have. We have to see what they are doing that appeals to employees, and then do better if we want to end this situation.
Q. Speaking of governments, there have been recent changes in your respective provinces (Alberta: a new government in April 2019; Saskatchewan: a new premier in 2018; Manitoba: a re-elected government in September 2019). Can you describe the current relations between your association and the provincial government – the positives and negatives?
Jude – The AMTA has been actively engaged in discussions with the current Alberta Government including several meetings with Transportation Minister Ric McIver, Deputy Minister Andre Tremblay, and Assistant Deputy Minister Crystal Damer. Working closely with leadership teams, we have been able to proactively review the issues that are facing us and work towards mutually beneficial solutions or just the ability to educate on the real-world impacts of the policies implemented or decisions being made. Discussions with officials have included acceptance of wide-based single tires, provincial highway rest stops, and our top five position papers covering Safety Fitness Certificates, MELT, Hours of Service, the Foreign Workers Program, and Regulatory Interpretations/Application of Enforcement.
Reg – The STA values the partnerships we have formed with the provincial government. Mutual respect exists and the government recognizes the STA’s voice as an important stakeholder for the trucking industry in Saskatchewan.
We are currently working with four branches in the government of Saskatchewan (Highways, Immigration and Career Training, SGI, and Environment) and will continue to work with them on behalf of our membership.
John Erik – We were happy to see with the most recent cabinet shuffle that we had good working relationships with two of the three ministers with whom we interact the most. The third minister is new to cabinet and so we have not had many interactions, but we are looking forward to developing a good relationship there as well. I would say our working relationship with the province is good, but we are still challenged in the ability to get things done quickly. We have lots of back and forth and regular meetings, but there has not been finality on as many files as we want.
Q. Do you think the profile of trucking has improved in recent years? What more can be done to improve it?
Jude – As an industry we need to be proud of what we do for the people of Canada day in day out – but don’t keep it to yourself – our industry is made up of amazing people supporting amazing companies doing amazing things. As the age-old quote from John D Rockefeller says, “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” In a time where national news media has its sights directly on our industry, now is the time to stand up and remind our customers, co-workers, friends and family about how we are a responsible, environmentally aware career choice, with room for growth. The transportation industry is obviously driver focused, but there are also opportunities for careers in administration, dispatch, management, mechanics and more. Some ways we’re encouraging people to take up a career in transportation include the AMTA Road Knights program. Road Knights are exemplary drivers with superior skill and driving records. They attend events, conferences, job fairs, and local schools sharing their experiences and what it means to choose a career in the transportation industry. As I mentioned, another way of diversifying the work force is our partnership with Women Building Futures and their Class 1 driving program.
Reg – Trucking has had the spotlight shone on it in a way that the industry has never experienced before. While this has highlighted issues within the industry with safety and compliance, it has also shown our dedication to building better companies, a better industry and investing in the people and products to make that a reality. For carriers who have built cultures of safety, dedicated extensive resources to it and are proud to be compliant, it is nice to see regulators go to work on companies that wilfully ignore these rules.
John Erik – We have often said at the MTA that the trucking industry is an invisible one, until something bad happens. The tens of millions of miles driven safely every year generally go unnoticed by the public, and that is something we should celebrate. However, what it does mean is that the only time the public considers us, it is usually in a negative light, which does not do much for our profile.
Our PR campaign is designed to give the public a better understanding of what we do in the trucking industry, as well as see the opportunities available in trucking. While we have work to do to make sure we are competitive with other industries, I believe that we can meet those challenges. We are an innovative group that is not afraid of a challenge!
Q. What are your hopes from the new government in Ottawa and its role in the trucking industry?
Jude – The regulatory framework within Canada needs to address interprovincial barriers to trade and operational effectiveness: tires, weights and dimensions need to be front and center. Our government leaders need to support an evolving industry and support innovation while fostering an environment that embraces new technologies to allow us to continue improving our safety and environmental performance without burdensome regulatory oversight.
Reg Quiring – Nationally, we have made great progress towards safety with the announcement of a national entry-level training standard, which is something the industry across the province is proud of. Regardless of who is in power, we all want the same things – safer roads and thriving economies. On a federal level, we have worked productively with both major parties; they understand the critical role trucking plays on making Canada function.
John Erik – I don’t want to speak too much for the CTA, but I think that, nationally, they are in a similar position to where we are in Manitoba: let’s finish what we started four years ago when these governments were first elected. Let’s make some progress on new ideas and develop some momentum for our industry.
Q. What hopes do you have
for your Association in 2020?
Jude – It has been a busy few years –
we have several projects that we are in the final throws of getting across the
line. There is the opportunity to share a new partnership for the use and continued expansion of our EIA facility in Edmonton and we have an amazing working relationship with our partners in the Provincial Government’s Transportation and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement teams.
Reg – Our hope is that we continue to be the voice for truck transport in Saskatchewan. We have exciting new training opportunities happening in 2020 around a trucking industry safety certification; the STA will be launching their Image of the Industry Campaign aimed at dispelling myths of the industry and highlighting the amazing career opportunities that are in trucking;
we also look forward to continuing building our relationship with the provincial government and regulators to ensure the safest roads for everyone.
John Erik – My term as MTA President ends next year, but I know that the MTA will continue its good work in being on top of government plans. The MTA is held in high regard by government and other stakeholders, and I hope that our voice continues to be heard in this province.
Q. Are there any other issues that deserve mentioning before we sign off?
Jude – As is the case with all associations, the Board and executive are grateful for the amazing team of professionals we work with at the AMTA. They are the ones who take our members visions and turn them into tangible impacts on our industry. If you are a member and you have an idea, problem or question, please reach out to Chris and his team. And if you want a seat at the table when it comes to our lobbying efforts, want new networking opportunities at great events, and more, consider a membership and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reg – Keep an eye on the STA social media and website in the upcoming months – there are some exciting announcements coming from the association. 2020 is going to be a great year for the association and trucking
John Erik – As an industry, we need to start the conversation of how we attract people to trucking. With an average age of 55, and only 15% of the trucking workforce under 30 years of age, we are heading towards a crisis. We need to stop driver churn and taking drivers from each other and look at the big picture. Other industries are our main source of good workers, but we need to be competitive. For example, construction workers get paid overtime after 45 hours. The trucking industry has to become a desirable employer, and right now, we are not. How do we change that? Flexibility, separating labour and safety standards, and getting drivers safely home to see friends and family. It is going to be a difficult discussion to have, but, in my opinion, as an industry, we need to have it, and the sooner, the better.