SAINT JOHN, N.B. - While the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association's (APTA) annual convention is a time for carriers, suppliers and all the various members to come together to socialize and network,...
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – While the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s (APTA) annual convention is a time for carriers, suppliers and all the various members to come together to socialize and network, they’ll also be looking to tackle the hot issues of today, according to APTA president Ralph Boyd.
Boyd said that the rhetoric at the 55th annual convention, to be held Oct. 27-29 at the Delta Brunswick in Saint John, N.B., will differ from other years.
The rising cost of fuel, labour shortages, Hours of Service (HoS) and Labour Canada’s review of Part Three of the Labour Code are some of the many topics that will be the most widely discussed.
“Whether it’s a small group of half a dozen people sitting down for coffee one afternoon or if it’s a large audience sitting down at our annual general meeting, these topics come to the forefront,” Boyd said.
With the devastation that Hurricane Katrina left in its wake and the enormous jump in gas prices that followed, fuel prices will most likely rank highest on the list.
“The high cost of fuel today is caused by the whole gamut of issues that affect not only the ability of the carrier to operate its business, but it’s a major cost factor as well,” he said.
Boyd notes that if carriers are not able to recoup those expenses from its customers, then they won’t be able to buy things from the goods and services people, as well as parts and maintenance. The end result, according to Boyd, is a terrible hit to the economy.
“We’re very much tied to the well-being of the economy,” he said. “If the economy is robust and it’s performing and the consumer is in demand, then there’s more demand for our services, there’s more demand for fuel (and) it begins the endless cycle.”
If fuel rationing should come into play, Boyd warned that the ability of the industry to perform would be greatly affected.
“The man on the street needs to better understand the impact of fuel,” he said. “If conservation measures are put into place that will reduce the available fuel for our industry, that is going to have an impact on how we serve our customers. Without fuel we simply can’t operate. But at what cost of fuel do our services begin not to be required because people can’t pay the rate?”
Educating both carriers and their customers on the value of fuel and the volatile nature of the commodity is key.
“From a cost standpoint, we have no choice but to pass (additional costs) on to our services. Carriers have to become more fuel-conscious,” he said. “Given the fact that fuel prices are escalating so fast, can you get those costs recovered from them on the same basis by which it’s escalating? I can tell you it’s very impractical for the industry.
“From a service provider standpoint, I wish our freight rates responded as quickly as fuel prices because carriers would be enjoying a far better bottom line than they’re enjoying today. That’s if they’re enjoying a bottom line at all.”
The ongoing issue of Hours-of-Service is a topic which Boyd said will be discussed at one of the convention’s more formal business meetings.
“With the recent announcement of the U.S. HoS, we can see what impact it will have on Canadian trucks which operate into the U.S. But our own country is still struggling with what we’re going to do with our hours of service,” Boyd said. “Our environment is much different from the U.S. environment, so how restrictive are governments going to become for the future of HoS? We would hope that they wouldn’t depart from where we had left off discussions earlier this spring.”
Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) president David Bradley will be in attendance at the event to discuss HoS and the many other issues facing the industry.
“In the past, we’ve always had (Bradley) come down and go face to face in a hot stove environment to answer questions of the members and give his insight into the future of the industry and the various issues that we’re facing.”
At present, the APTA is still looking to fill out their guest speaker list for the event.
One possibility is bringing a legal advisor from the U.S. to talk about a variety of issues, including Canadian movements into the U.S.
“What will the future bring for us as border security becomes more and more an issue that we face on a daily basis,” Boyd said. “There’s a variety of programs that we’ve encouraged our drivers and our carriers to become involved in, but now we need our customers to become involved in those programs.”
With a newer, greener engine on its way for 2007, talks about the benefits of moving to a more environmentally-friendly fleet is another possibility for a guest speaker.
In addition to the discussing of major issues for the industry at the event’s usual seminars and meetings, the convention also promises to be a great opportunity for networking and fun, including the annual lobster evening.
For more information on how to register for the event, visit www.apta.ca.