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A look forward and back

MT: You are getting ready to celebrate PMTC's 25th anniversary this year. How has the private fleet changed over this time?Richards: Twenty-five years ago there was zero representation for private fle...


MT: You are getting ready to celebrate PMTC’s 25th anniversary this year. How has the private fleet changed over this time?

Richards: Twenty-five years ago there was zero representation for private fleets. All their lobbying was done by for-hire carriers. It was awkward to have a supplier doing the lobbying for you. Since that time we’ve developed representation in every province – it’s fair to say we’ve become good advocates for the private fleet. The number of private fleets is also growing, and we’ve found that the fleets that are well managed are growing and doing very well.

MT: How has the fleet manager’s role evolved during this time?

Richards: I’ve seen the fleet manager’s role change to the extent that the term ‘fleet manager’ is almost a misnomer now. Today’s fleet manager has much more involvement in full service logistics, in the planning and consultation process. The fleet manager today is much more attuned to considering other options besides the fleet. There’s rarely a case where the fleet can be all things to all people, and today there is more opportunity for private carriers to integrate for-hire carriers into their supply chain. I’ve seen so much more of a leaning towards this. The whole function of fleet manager is growing legs, towards more effective management.

MT: Since September 11, security has been near the top of the agenda for the transportation industry. In your view, how have such initiatives as the Commercial Driver Registration program, and the Customs Self Assessment program been progressing in the wake of increased security, since risk management has become of paramount importance as an initial step?

Richards: The whole security issue has spawned about a million different programs. In our view, programs such as as the Commercial Driver Registration program and Customs Self Assessment, are the perfect vehicle for allowing known carriers, importers and exporters to transit the border more freely. Some may think we’re reducing security, but we’re enhancing it, focusing on people we need to examine more closely.

We have also met with Elinor Caplan. We wanted to give her an overview of where we think the programs should go. We’ve established Customs Self-Assessment (CSA) as a high priority. As soon as we can get more companies involved the better. So far, we’ve identified a limited number of companies that want to be under CSA. I’m hoping that it’s just lack of knowledge about the program. In some respects, we can point at government but on the other hand we’ve got just a couple of companies who have expressed interest in getting involved. In my view, it just couldn’t be easier for companies to get into CSA. Canada Customs will come in and look at your controls, make sure they are adequate. But you don’t have to change a thing you’re doing.

Commercial Driver Registration is going a bit slower. I think at this point, companies may think that driver registration is tied to self-assessment, and it’s not.

We also had a meeting here with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, and some eight to ten of our fleet people, to review AMPS, CSA and CDR. It was a great opportunity for our fleets to ask questions. I’m encouraged that it’s moving, but I’m not so enamoured of how slowly.

MT: Where do you think things will move from here on security?

Richards: It’s been an interesting dialogue. Not everyone is quite as receptive to these ideas. We’re looking at a one-card option for drivers that would satisfy the Canadian and U.S. requirements. In many instances, reciprocity works great if you trust your neighbour, and if they accept what we’ve done. Unless we get flexibility on these issues we can’t make it work. You don’t hear anyone saying ‘I hear what you’re doing, I’m okay with that.’ It’s time to get some of the rhetoric behind us. We need to relax a bit more on some issues and think of the greater good.

MT: The PMTC celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with planned festivities June 20 and 21 in Kitchener, Waterloo. What is on the agenda for the celebration?

Richards: We will have a workshop on labour law, and a tour of Home Hardware’s central distribution centre. Walter Hackborn, Home Hardware’s president and founder, will speak at the breakfast on the second day. We will also have a roundtable with private and for-hire fleets, at which a major theme will be talking about cost control and the integration of suppliers into the private fleet system.

MT:What’s on the agenda for the next few years?

Richards: Certainly, here in Ontario, we’re going through a revamp of how commercial drivers will be accredited and trained. The Ministry of Transport is on a fairly fast track, and I am hopeful to see many of the changes come about. I think we’ll gradually see an upgrading of the industry and the driver as a result.


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