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Alberta trucking leaders gather for annual AMTA convention

AMTA Management Conference features transmission talk, western wearables…snow


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.

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.

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.”


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5 Comments » for Alberta trucking leaders gather for annual AMTA convention
  1. Professiona Driver says:

    Here we go again, just a lot of fluff put on by the AMTA again. Firstly there is no driver shortage in Canada but most importantly here in Alberta where I live. I have 25 years of top notch, collision free and accident free driving in Canada and the United States and cant find a job as I have too much of the wrong experience. But that I mean is this: I know too much any trucking companies don’t want to pay for anything like that as they would have to pay me too much by their standards. Why hire someone that can be of a substantial benefit to the trucking industry when you can hire someone with no experience and pay them little. Here these trucking companies wine and dine at the finest events in the Rockies all the while truck drivers are starving and the good ones sit at home because they don’t work for free and don’t put up with all the BS that is dished out. The trucking industry was in its glory days back in the 80’s when drivers were treated like drivers and they actually paid you what you worth. Yes it was based on experience. They say that now but you get paid the same as someone with lots of experience versus not. It seems that the trucking industry entities are the same from coast to coast in Canada as they have no answers to the fix of the so call driver shortage, which there is none. Just face it the wages suck for truck drivers with any type of good driving experience and with the influx of Temporary Foreign Workers coming in to get drivers jobs and then pay them CRAP wages is typical of the industry. Now that I have been unemployed as a 25 year professional driver for some 2 – 1/2 months have had the opportunity to see what kind of messed up system we really have in the trucking industry and makes me want out altogether. Time for a career change to non trucking employment. Now I can say here is why the trucking industry is having a driver shortage and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

  2. Professional Driver says:

    Obviously I have stuck a sour note in reference to the shenanigans of the AMTA and its cheap trucking companies owners live life large in the Rockies at some Management Conference in Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. My comments which I thought were the truth of what was happening in the trucking industry were deleted. When you speak the truth they delete your comment. I guess I shouldn’t complain as I at least have the opportunity to be oppressed and not heard like many others in the industry.

  3. Hello “Professional Driver.” You are welcome to be a guest on our Canadian Trucker Radio Show. Your opinion is obviously quite different than that of leaders in the industry. If you are nervous about being on the radio and online, you can be anonymous and we can ever change your voice. Send an e-mail to contact@truckerradio.com.

    This applies to anyone else with a opposing opinion. We will protect your identity if wish.
    ALL OPINIONS ARE WELCOME

  4. Brent Kipps says:

    Hrs of service

  5. Brent Kipps says:

    How come if everyone is so “safety conscious” Alberta only trucks can still work 15 hrs every day?

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