HALIFAX, N.S. -- A full contingent of Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) staff were on-hand at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s Transportation Summit here today.
Geoff Wood, vice-president of operations and safety, Ron Lennox, the CTA’s Ottawa-based v.p., Jennifer Fox, vice-president of Customs and Stephen Laskowski, senior vice-president, all took part in a panel discussion moderated by CTA chief David Bradley in which they shared their respective expertise on a wide variety of subjects.
Here’s a summary of what they had to say:
On cargo crime
Fox said the CTA has just announced a deal with CargoNet, which will facilitate the 24/7 reporting of cargo theft incidences to law enforcement agencies.
The partnership will allow participating fleets to electronically report cases of cargo theft and to receive priority contact with law enforcement. CTA carriers will be given a discounted membership rate.
“This is tough for us as an Alliance,” Bradley said of addressing the cargo theft pandemic affecting the industry. “We don’t want to give prominence to those sorts of issues, because it doesn’t reflect well on our industry, even though our industry is a victim here. We’re in a situation where we have to demonstrate to the highest levels of the enforcement community and government that this is what we are dealing with now, and hopefully they will put the resources towards tackling the issue that’s needed. We need the carrier community to report these incidences to somebody and for that information to get to the enforcement folks. That’s what CargoNet does.”
On government priorities
“They only have one priority at this point in time, and that’s economic growth,” Bradley said.
He lauded the feds’ commitment to reducing red tape in the trucking industry and said the fact federal Treasury Board president Tony Clement this week chose to make an announcement to this effect at a trucking company’s facility was “noteworthy.”
Bradley said the trucking industry can appreciate the federal government’s goal to stimulate economic growth.
“We need economic growth to generate freight,” he pointed out. Bradley also said while issues like the implementation of an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) mandate are still high on the CTA’s agenda, the federal government seems willing to wait until it receives further direction from the provinces before bringing forth any regulation.
On indemnification clauses in shipper contracts
Lennox said the CTA continues to work with its provincial associations to bring attention to this issue. There are now 35 states in the US that have legislation or regulations in place that prevent shippers from passing on their liability to a carrier in the event of a loss or accident.
Indemnification clauses are now appearing in Canadian contracts between shippers and carriers and the CTA is alarmed.
Lennox said any legislative changes would most likely have to be made provincially, making it a “long process.”
On industry priorities
Bradley lamented there’s little the CTA can do to address the two issues of most concern to trucking fleets: rates and the driver shortage.
“We’re not involved in the rate process and we’re not involved in setting compensation or working conditions for drivers,” Bradley said.
Still, Bradley noted the CTA has created its Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage, which essentially involved “locking 10-12 carriers in a room and not letting them come out without some sort of plan for the industry to deal with this.”
The result was a “landmark report” that included a statement of guiding principles that, if adhered to, would improve working conditions for professional drivers.
“I think the response we’ve gotten so far, for the most part, has been that it’s been an honest and open review of the problem,” Bradley said. The CTA has commissioned the Conference Board of Canada to conduct a study, to be released in the next few months, on the driver shortage. Bradley also said a significant development to come from the exercise was the industry’s endorsement of a national training standard for entry-level drivers. If the idea receives provincial buy-in, it could pave the way for professional driving to be recognized as a skilled trade.
On ACI e-manifest
On Nov. 1, carriers will need to electronically file Customs documentation on Canada-bound loads to Canada Border Services Agency prior to their arrival at the border. Fox said most carriers are asking whether or not the implementation date will once again be pushed back?
“The answer is no,” Fox said. “That date will not move.”
Fleet managers on-hand seemed unconcerned with the impending deadline.
On other cross-border initiatives
Fox said she recently met with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on the subject of US/Canada trade relations and found that a promising “inspect once, accept twice” initiative may not come to fruition without challenges.
The concept, discussed as part of the Beyond the Border pact between Canada and the US, would see containerized shipments arriving at Canadian marine ports inspected by CBSA and then transported into the US by truck without further inspection at the US border.
The problem is, it costs the importer about $1,800 for a CBSA inspection and only $300 when inspected at the US border. As a result, it’s expected importers may cry foul and insist their shipments are inspected at US land crossings rather than Canadian marine ports.
Lennox provided an update on the CTA’s longtime objective to allow the movement of empty trailers from point to point within the US. While this issue seemed dead in the water when it was omitted from the Beyond the Border agreement, Lennox said foreign shipping lines are now seeking permission to move their own empty containers within Canadian territorial waters.
If this goes through, it could provide the CTA with the impetus needed to once again bring this issue to the forefront.
“Fair is fair,” said Lennox. “They should do the same for the trucking industry as well. We have told the department (Transport Canada) that if they move on this for shipping companies, then we would certainly expect Canada to go to bat for us in the US and take up our cause again.”
On a sleep apnea
In a curious clerical blunder last year, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mistakenly issued a bulletin to medical doctors, requiring them to refer any CDL holders with a body mass index of 35 or higher to be screened for sleep apnea before receiving their licence.
The agency then said the bulletin was issued to medical examiners by mistake and immediately backtracked, but Laskowski thinks the industry will once again see that bulletin resurface.
“My personal opinion is that this was a shot across the bow to industry, to let them know this is what they’re thinking,” Laskowski said.
If cross-border truckers with a BMI of 35 or higher are suddenly required to be screened - and treated, if necessary - for sleep apnea, there could be more demand on Canadian sleep clinics than can be supported. In Saskatchewan, Laskowski noted, there is a wait time of three years to get into a sleep clinic.
With that in mind, the CTA has developed a sleep apnea screening and treatment program that removes the sleep clinics from the equation. Testing is done at a carrier’s facility and in a driver’s home and/or truck cab.
“Within 72 hours, your drivers, at your terminal or their home, are tested, screened, diagnosed and fitted with the (CPAP) equipment,” Laskowski said. He added it’s likely the US will move forward with a sleep apnea testing requirement for CDL holders by December, with a law in place within a year.
“It’s going to be very difficult for folks to comply with this,” Laskowski warned of carriers looking to go through the traditional route involving sleep clinics.