LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — The remarkable landscape surrounding Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise may not have contributed to the success of this year’s annual Management Conference for the Alberta Motor Transport Association, but it certainly didn’t hurt. And by the time the last member had gone home again they’d been treated to some fine wining and dining, as well as plenty of food for thought they can take with them going forward.
“I think overall it came off pretty well,” said Lorraine Card, the AMTA’s executive director, about the event. “We heard lots of positive feedback and from the comments I heard it was a spectacular venue. The service was great, all the meals, the rooms, we had no issues with the venue.”
There was a bit of typically Albertan spring snow on the evening of May 1, but it didn’t seem to put a damper on the festivities and Card said the organization will probably go back to the same venue next year, though the final decision has yet to be made.
The 2015 event saw a larger turnout than in recent years, a fact that came as somewhat of a surprise to the AMTA.
“We had 180 delegates registered and we haven’t had numbers that high since 2010,” said Card, noting that “we had something like 27 member carriers – and really good strong member carriers – that came out, some of whom hadn’t come out in a long time. And if you get the carriers to come out then the associate trades members come out.”
The surprise for Card was that the turnout was so good “given the economic situation here in Alberta. Last year’s numbers were 130 and we were thinking if we broke 100 we would be doing well.”
This year’s Conference lacked a speaker from the Alberta government, though the reason for the omission was understandable.
“It was because of the election,” Card said. “We had our Minister scheduled to attend and then the election was called and he was not able to, so we called the assistant deputy minister to see if he was available.”
As it turns out, he was – and the AMTA had him scheduled to speak, but “he called back a few days later and said he wouldn’t be able to give an address on behalf of the Alberta government because of the election.”
Card said they encouraged him to show up anyway because there’d be plenty of opportunity for him to network, an offer he took them up on. “There’s a lot of high-profile trucking companies that had not met him,” she said, “so I think to be able to just make those introductions this weekend was extremely beneficial. And he did talk to lots of key people.”
Trucking HR Canada’s CEO Angela Splinter rode to the rescue, filling the hole in the speaking schedule. “We’d asked Angela to come anyway,” Card noted. “So we just moved her up and gave her a little bit more time.”
Splinter outlined her organization’s duties and talked about issues such as their Driving the Future initiative, which she said “has us clearly identifying the knowledge, skills and abilities that Canada’s commercial vehicle operators or truck drivers need to perform their jobs.”
Snow greeted delegates at the AMTA’s management conference in Lake Louise, Alta.
She noted the work started a year ago with the establishment of a national working group made up of experienced drivers, driver trainers and others “to help us and to guide our work.”
She also previewed her organization’s National Occupational Standards document, which she said “will support certification programs which identify drivers who have the required knowledge, skills and abilities.”
The Friday afternoon session dealt with transmissions, specifically automated ones, with a panel of industry experts on hand to extol their virtues, not only from a technology standpoint but also as a way to recruit and retain drivers. “(We) did engines a number of years ago,” Card said, “and it was such a success before it was decided we’d try doing transmissions. It was a huge hit and there was lots of participation.”
For the less “shifty” in the crowd, the afternoon “Pampered Spouse” program was where delegates’ significant others could sample wine and cheese and partake of some line dancing before Friday night’s evening extravaganza, which had a Western theme and was held in the nearby Brewster Cowboys’ Barbecue and Dance Barn. Transportation between the Chateau and the barn was via open-sided, horse drawn coaches, and of course that was when the snow started. Brewster served up a healthy Alberta dinner of beef, beans and beer (and other stuff) and rumour has it the evening went on, there and elsewhere, till the wee hours.
Saturday morning’s post-breakfast events were kicked off by the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s David Bradley, who noted that Canada needs a strong Alberta. His wide-ranging address covered everything from the driver shortage to electronic logging devices, wide-base tires and cross-border issues. Bradley said he’s still bullish on the industry, despite its challenges and when asked how healthy he thinks the industry is right now, replied that it’s “basically okay. It could be worse.” When asked about the trend toward consolidation among carries noted that he thinks it’s “a long way from the end of the family-owned trucking company.”
Trucking HR Canada’s Angela Splinter was one of many speakers at the event.
At the AGM, held after Bradley’s address, it was revealed that, like the growth in attendance at the Conference, the AMTA itself has also seen substantial expansion in its membership.
“We’ve been very proud of our growth this past year,” Card said, noting that she credits hard work by the organization overall for the approximately 15% increase. “It’s just our getting out there and really promoting the AMTA brand,” she said. “We have a lot of committees that people are very active in and (president and CEO) Richard Warnock had a lot to do with it as well. He really raised the bar again and got (the organization) very engaged again in industry and with government and I think he should take credit for some of the strong growth within our membership.”
A new board was named at the AGM as well, with Dan Duckering taking over the centre seat from Carl Rosenau. The new board shakes out like this:
Chairman of the Board – Dan Duckering
Senior Vice Chairman – Rod Shopland
Vice Chairman – Gene Orlick
Past Chairman – Carl Rosenau
Past Chairman – Willie Hamel
Director at Large – Greg Sokil
Director at Large – Don Achtemichuk
Director at Large – Don Goodwill
Director at Large –Richard Warnock
Director at Large – Bob Hill
Director at Large – Ed Malysa
Director at Large – Ken Rosenau
Director at Large – Grant Mitchell
Calgary Regional Director – Vacant
Central Regional Director – Cam Jesse
North East Regional Director – Vacant
Fort McMurray Regional Director – Jude Groves
Edmonton Regional Director – Tim Boychuk
Southern Regional Director – Doug Paisley
North West Regional Director – Shirley McDonald
At the meeting’s close, the new crew of Road Knights was introduced, a quintet of pros decked out to the max in their Road Knight suits. The Knights will represent the industry around the province for the next two years, basically being the face and voice of Alberta’s truckers.
After a lunch that featured a return engagement by the Atomic Improve troupe, the AMTA unveiled officially its new portable driving simulator, a heavy-duty and state-of-the-art trailer-mounted bit of technology that can travel the province and offer companies a virtual driving experience – and an instructor – for $30 an hour, travel costs not included. Card said the simulator and its fixed brother at the AMTA’s Edmonton office cost about $500,000 in total and were in the planning stages for several months.
“The opportunity came that we might be able to make this happen last year,” she said, “and so we put together the business plan, it was approved and (the simulators were) purchased in December of last year.”
So far, the reception has been everything for which they’ve hoped. “We’ve had tremendous response to the simulator ever since the word started getting out.”
The conference wound up Saturday evening with the Presidents’ Banquet, a semi-formal fete at which the Service to the Industry Award, sponsored by BFL Canada Insurance Services Inc., was given to the outgoing chairman of the board, Carl Rosenau.
As is customary, other award presentations were spread throughout the two days:
Alberta Driver of the Year (sponsored by Volvo Trucks Canada): Al Nicholet, Bison Transport
Associate Trades Award (sponsored by the AMTA): Arup Toore, First Truck Centre.
Safety Person of the Year (sponsored by HighStreet Insurance Brokers): Don Achtemichuk, ATS Healthcare Solutions
AMTA Historical Award (sponsored by American Truck Historical Society): Tom Fredericks, ECL Group
While Card speculated that the AMTA will probably return to Lake Louise for its 2016 Management Conference, the decision may hinge partly on the results of a survey the AMTA plans to send to everyone who was on hand. But if this year’s event and its initial feedback is any indication, a return to the Chateau would be popular. “It was just a tremendous weekend from all accounts,” said Card, “and we certainly thank all our members for coming out.”