AMTA shuffles deck

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CALGARY, Alta. — A bombshell personnel change at the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has installed a new face in the organization’s centre seat and kicked off some serious soul searching about the group’s direction going forward.

The move, which came at the end of February, saw the association part ways with executive director Don Wilson, replacing him – at least temporarily – with trucking industry veteran Richard Warnock. Warnock told Truck News about a week after assuming his new duties that he’s planning to occupy the corner office for a short time only and that, in the meantime, the status quo reigns supreme.

“Business as usual, and that’s the truth,” Warnock said, “and I’m not just saying that to make everyone happy. The AMTA is strong, the AMTA plans on getting even better and the AMTA will be looking for new leadership in the future.”

Warnock said it was the AMTA’s board that decided to make the change at the top and the reason he was brought in was to ensure the group’s profiles and programs continue as usual while he evaluates the situation, meets and consults with the staff and then “makes an alignment to move the association forward.”

In other words, he’s tasked with reviewing the status quo and deciding what, if anything, needs fixing and where, if anywhere, the board should change direction. The move means Warnock had to take a leave of absence from his position on the AMTA board and, while he said he has a timeline in mind for easing himself out again, he’s keeping it close to his chest for now.

“Technically, I’m the acting executive director until the position is filled,” he said. Warnock said he doesn’t intend to throw his own hat into the ring, but admitted that anything is possible.

In Warnock, the board chose a person with wide-ranging experience in many – if not all – aspects of the trucking industry in Alberta, including many years with the association itself.

The hunt for a new head – which may or may not include the use of professional head hunters – will look both inside and outside the AMTA, but Warnock said that whoever the board chooses, it wants someone who can guide the AMTA on a “different path, a stronger path. Responsibility to the board is important in the AMTA because (it’s) our members who drive this organization. Members want to be heard and timely action taken on their concerns,” he said.

Warnock noted that a lot has changed in the industry, and people involved in the trucking world today look at it differently than folks did 30 years ago. He also noted that “because of my expertise and my knowledge and my past positions…I’m hoping to drive the AMTA profile and set up a path so that the new executive director can come in and go to work and not have to build an organization or a management team.”

Warnock said he’s already received calls from people prepared to pursue the position, but advises them to hold off a bit.

“I’m not going to stop anyone from sending a resume or a letter to the AMTA, but because what’s on your resume today may not be what’s on it four months from now – you’re early,” he said. The position will be posted internally first, so current AMTA employees have a chance to apply.

Outgoing executive director Wilson, who was in the position for about three years, drew praise from Warnock for the great things he did for the association. “I’m sure he’ll be recognized for that,” he said, adding “we’re not badmouthing Don at all. We’re just going in a different direction and therefore (the change) was necessary.”

Warnock is a native Calgarian, who has been involved in the industry for the better part of 50 years. “I started very young,” he joked, noting that “I only worked for two employers before technically being (in the current job).”

He spent about 25 years with the original Orlick Transport before the company was closed and “everyone was looking for a job,” and then he went over to WestFreight – which he said was very small at the time – and spent 22 years building it into “a fairly good company.”

After WestFreight’s owner retired and sold the business in 2007, Warnock was named president and “stayed there till I technically retired,” he said.

When his current gig runs its course, Warnock would like to continue as a spokesman for the industry – something he said he was planning to do anyway before the AMTA board came calling.

“I have done a lot in 48 years,” he said. “When I was a young man, I was in dispatch and back in that time frame, a 50-year-old truck driver would not take any orders or direction from a 21-year-old kid.”

The situation made him decide that, if he was going to earn their respect, he had to be their peer – so he went on the road and drove a truck. And his strategy seemed to work.

“When I went back into the office I was much more versed and of course it was a lot easier to get their respect because I stayed with the same company, worked with those same people, and never looked back after that.”

As for his new focus of looking forward on behalf of the AMTA, Warnock said “technically, if there’s a focus, it’s to look at the operations of the AMTA and give guidance to the board if change is necessary. It may not be. I may get in and say we’re good to go, let’s just build and move on.”

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