AMTA names new president

by Derek Clouthier

EDMONTON, Alta. — Chris Nash will take over the role of president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) March 5, replacing outgoing president Lorraine Card.

Chris Nash

Having started his career in 1987 with Byers Transport, Nash enters the position with more than 30 years of experience in the transportation industry. He joined the AMTA board of directors in 2016 as the Edmonton regional director and was nominated and elected vice-chairman of the board April 2017.

Nash also co-chairs and is a member of the AMTA Compliance and Regulatory Affairs Advisory Council, and has served as chairman of the Cargo Securement and Out-of-Service working groups, and sits on the board of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).

Following his 13-year career with Byers, Nash was employed by Rainbow Transport, where he gained experience in terminal operations and management. He then moved to Jones Transportation, starting as manager of safety and maintenance and ultimately president.

Announcing Nash as the new AMTA president, association board chairman Grant Mitchell wrote: “We feel confident in Chris’ leadership skills and vast experience will continue the AMTA’s momentum in shaping vital legislation, while raising standards of safety and excellence in commercial transportation.”

Card, who announced her retirement last December, is confident Nash is the right choice to lead the AMTA into the future.

“As a member of our board executive, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Chris over the past year,” Card said. “As chairman of the Compliance and Regulatory Affairs committee he is fully engaged with our industry issues, and I feel he will continue to move these positions forward.

“I am pleased that Chris has been selected as president and feel confident, with him at the helm, the AMTA is well-positioned for future growth as a leader in education and safety to reduce workplace injuries and on-road collisions.”

Nash recently had the opportunity to answer some questions for Truck West, addressing his top priorities, women in trucking, and the hurdles he will face moving forward.

TW: Start by telling us why you feel you are the right person to lead the AMTA.

Nash: I am honored and excited for the opportunity the AMTA board has given me to do my part to make our industry better. The part that drove me to apply to become president of the AMTA is my passion for the industry. I have experienced this industry from the ground up, the good and the bad. I believe my industry experience, including being a Class 1 driver, along with my role as vice-chairman of the AMTA board of directors gives me a solid perspective to collaborate with the board, staff, government agencies, and industry stakeholders so we can set the direction the industry needs to be safe, respected, and successful.

TW: What are the Top 3 initiatives facing Alberta’s trucking industry right now and how do you plan to address each?

Nash: Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT), driver recruiting, and electronic logging devices (ELDs).

MELT is an important initiative right now. If we as an industry set standards for qualified and accredited driver training, it will not only make our industry and roads safer, it will also reduce carriers’ onboarding costs, increase productivity, draw new people to the industry, and create consistency with our drivers. The AMTA is leading the development of a Class 1 driver training program through an industry led committee. Once our Edmonton facility is completed, the AMTA can offer full-service training and simulator programs. This is a very exciting time to lead the industry.

It is well recognized there is a driver shortage for quality Class 1 operators within the province. On a national level, statistics show there is potential for a driver shortage of 33,000 by 2020. The target is to bring younger people to the workforce, as the average age of a driver is currently 47. New Class 1 drivers at the age of 18 can be limited in opportunities for employment. Some carriers have accepted these younger drivers and they start as a dock worker, moving on to shuttle to city driving before they upgrade to operating a commercial tractor trailer. Through a well-planned recruitment strategy, including MELT, drivers will be provided with the tools to be a professional in our industry. If successful, not only will the young demographic be a target, people not already in a transportation career who are looking to change, can seek a driving profession.

ELDs are a hot topic among drivers right now. This will be a game-changer not only for drivers, but for our entire industry. Drivers, carriers, third party logistics, shippers, and government will all experience changes in their operations with the mandated ELDs. The most important achievement with mandatory ELDs will be safer roads and will level the playing field in the industry. The AMTA supports having ELDs mandated as soon as possible. We’d like to see the adoption of the federal ELD mandate in Alberta by the fourth quarter of 2019. With the implementation of ELDs it is imperative drivers have a safe and secure location to pull off the road. We are currently in discussions with the Alberta government to address the need for full service driver rest stops.

TW: We’re going to give you three popular industry keywords that have been much discussed of late. Please explain what comes to mind when you hear these keywords: technology, millennials, driver shortage.

Nash: I am fully behind technology, but I am cautious to use the word “autonomous.” The technology being used today to enhance safety is proving to assist drivers in their day-to-day operations. For example cameras, collision avoidance, lane departure warning, blind spot indicators. etc. Even with this driver assisting technology we will still need drivers to operate commercial vehicles. The AMTA welcomes new technology to enhance driver safety, however, technology will not replace the drivers – drivers remain the heart of it all.

Depending on where you look for a definition, millennials were born between the early ‘80s to the early ‘90s. This is the demographic we are currently not attracting to our industry. The average driver age as of 2014 is approximately 47 years old, and rises every year. It is expected – based on a 2016 CTA study (Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap) – that in 2024 we expect the average driver age to be 49. In order to tap into the millennial market, we, as an industry, need to make it a career of choice and demonstrate that we have a professional training program in place and advanced technology in our industry.

With the downturn in the economy, the workforce has been affected. Many highway and oil and gas sector drivers have left their jobs with no plans to return, and that has added to employment shortages. I believe our problem attracting people into our industry is the gap between getting your Class 1 licence, and being qualified and fully trained to drive professionally. Experienced and well-trained are what most carriers are looking for making it difficult for new Class 1 drivers to obtain employment. How do you get experience if you cannot get hired? We need to address this as an industry, and that is the need for the MELT program.

TW: The lack of women in trucking has been talked about a lot over the past few years, and on top of that, you will be replacing a prominent female voice in the industry. Is encouraging more women to enter trucking as a career important?

Nash: I strongly encourage women to enter the industry. There is a wide variety of roles for women in transportation, which includes driving, dispatch, human resources, and management to name a few. Lorraine is a great example, she is someone I look up to for her distinguished career and accomplishments and hope to carry on in her footsteps to continue shaping our industry to make it a better place for all.

We have a partnership with Trucking HR Canada to share the message that women represent only 3% of the workforce in transportation. There is an increased opportunity to focus energies on this demographic. Also, the AMTA will be having their second Western Women With Drive Leadership Conference in May, which sold out last year. We’re also partnering with Trucking HR Canada and the Alberta Ministry of Labour for the Bridging the Gap Program to address workforce gaps by supporting employers in better reaching out to underrepresented groups.

And lastly, over the past year, the AMTA and Women Building Futures (WBF) have established a solid partnership. In 2017, WBF had a successful professional Class 1 driver program with 12 graduates, and we’ll be looking to increase those numbers in the coming years.

TW: Is there a particular issue you feel will be your biggest challenge as president of the AMTA, and how will you overcome that challenge?

Nash: I think the biggest challenge is carriers and drivers in our industry who believe the AMTA cannot make a difference – that could not be further from the truth. There are a number of key issues that we are working on with government to promote our industry. We are in an exciting time where things are changing for the betterment of the industry as a whole. We are much stronger as a group than we are as individuals. Education and involvement is the key.

TW: In what ways has Lorraine Card helped during your transition to AMTA president?

Nash: Lorraine has been very supportive with my new role. We are working well together through open communication of the past, present, and future of the AMTA as well as introductions to government and industry stakeholders. I have also served as vice-chairman of the board this past year where Lorraine and I have worked on a number of initiatives together, and we both sit on the Compliance and Regulatory Affairs Committee. Lorraine will be staying on to ensure my transition to president goes smoothly and I am very grateful she has chosen to do so.

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