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Chatting with the BCTA’s Paul Landry at Truxpo ’04

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) is one of the few remaining provincial associations to still host a trade show. The fact this year's Truxpo was a success despite dwindling promotional budgets for many industry suppliers is...


ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) is one of the few remaining provincial associations to still host a trade show. The fact this year’s Truxpo was a success despite dwindling promotional budgets for many industry suppliers is a testament to the organization.

Representing carriers located on the coast provides a whole new set of challenges as well, such as backups at the bustling Port of Vancouver.

BCTA president Paul Landry has been as busy as ever lately, balancing the many concerns brought forth by the association’s members. He’s also had to do battle with the mainstream media, which has been taking some unfair jabs at the trucking industry. Truck West caught up with Landry at Truxpo 2004 and had a candid discussion about some of these issues.

TW: After years under the NDP in which B.C. was deemed a ‘have-not’ province, the provincial Liberals seem to have turned the ship around to some extent. How is your relationship with the provincial government and what are your thoughts on their rule so far?

Landry: We’ve got a good relationship with the provincial Liberals, I think generally speaking our members are quite happy with the efforts the provincial government has made in terms of reduction of red tape, in terms of a reduction in income tax and that sort of thing.

I think the provincial government has done a good job in terms of turning the economy around.

We had an economy that lagged the rest of the country for 10 years, but we’re beginning to see some changes and we’re beginning to see significant growth.

I think the people in the province are feeling very confident about their future and I think there’s a real buzz in our industry over the next several years. I think they’ve done a good job and we’re pleased with them.

TW: There have been increased concerns about the Port of Vancouver and the delays trucking companies are facing there. Is this a serious issue?

Landry: Delays at the port are a huge concern, particularly this fall.

We are looking at substantial volumes of freight coming in, but due to labour problems, slowdowns and concerns with the scheduling systems employed by various terminals as we speak today there are trucking companies facing three and four hour waits to pick up or drop off a container.

Hopefully those issues will be resolved but in the longer term when you look at the growth the port is anticipating, we need to work with the port and we need to work with shippers to define a better way to move freight in and out of the port because we’re looking at gridlock in the future unless some changes are made.

TW: Several industry trade shows have been cancelled due to lack of interest, yet the BCTA’s Truxpo appears to be alive and well judging by today’s turnout. What’s the status of Truxpo? Is it here to stay?

Landry: I think this year we’re having a great show. Again, we’re sold out. The traffic and volume of people attending the show seems to be higher than last year although we won’t have the numbers for a while.

The exhibitors seem to be very, very happy with respect to the response they’re getting from the public, so all in all I would say so far it’s been a very, very good show.

I am convinced we’re going to be able to deliver good shows well into the future.

TW: Alberta and B.C. are opening a joint inspection station in Golden, B.C. Is this sort of co-operation between the two provinces something you’d like to see more of?

Landry: Absolutely. I don’t think it’s going to make a huge difference to the province but I think joint inspection stations are a good idea.

In a practical sense, trucks should only be stopping at one weigh scale at the border rather than going through one on each side as they exit one province and enter another province.

TN: Paul, you’ve had to engage in several battles with the mainstream media over inaccurate or unfair reports that have surfaced in B.C. What is causing these media outlets to attack our industry and what can you do about it?

Landry: I don’t know what is causing this to happen except what I would describe as a drop in the quality of mainstream journalism. We’ve been very surprised and disapointed by some of the reporting that’s been going on by our local newspaper the Vancouver Sun which carried some very sensationalist allegations regarding the involvement of the trucking industry in cross-border smuggling.

Most recently I’ve had to deal with a TV station that broadcast a completely unfounded allegation by an anonymous truck driver saying a significant portion of our truck drivers are using crystal meth and cocaine.

The willingness of the mainstream media to rely on unimformed people who have no knowledge or expertise in any of these areas is really appalling.

I guess the term is yellow journalism and it’s worse than tabloid-style journalism.

But we’re fighting back and we’re going to continue fighting back and defending our industry in every single instance where we see this sort of thing happen.

TW: A new Fraser River crossing will undoubtedly benefit the trucking industry, but all indications are that it will be a user-pay system. What are the BCTA’s thoughts on bridge or road tolls?

Landry: As an association we have always said tolling is acceptable under certain circumstances, primarily where tolling provides the funding for infrastructure that would not otherwise be created.

We know that governments don’t have buckets of money around to invest in the kind of infrastructure we’d like to see so we accept tolling provided there are free alternatives and provided the toll that is paid is far less than the benefit that is realized.

In the case of the Golden Ears Bridge, the time savings associated with the use of that bridge will be substantial compared to the toll assessed.

TW: What else is the BCTA currently working on? Are there any exciting projects underway?

Landry: Something I’m really excited about is over the course of the next several months I’ll be working with our Board of Directors and other people in the association to define a role for our association in terms of dealing with the looming shortage of professional people including drivers, dispatchers and mechanics in our industry.

We think that as an association we’re going to have to work hard to put our best foot forward as an industry to present our industry as a place to seek a rewarding career in literally dozens of different occupations.

I think the public needs to understand us better and they need to have a good sense of our contribution to the economy and they need to know our track record in terms of safety and the environment and they need to understand the opportunities in terms of employment.

These are things the association is going to need to make a high priority and we’re going to be working on them.

We’re also going to be enhancing our career site which allows prospective employees and employers to get together.

***

GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

LANGLEY, B.C. – The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) has been very active lately and has accomplished many of its goals to better the province’s trucking industry. Here, BCTA president Paul Landry lays out some of the association’s recent victories: “BCTA was either solely responsible for, or played a key role in, bringing about the following public policy changes (in no particular order):

BCTA played a key role in defeating the Coquihalla Highway privatization proposal, which would have led to steadily increasing tolls. Unlike a true privatization scenario in which a private contractor assumes some risk for potential reward, it appeared that the proposal simply provided an immediate cash benefit to the province that would be paid for through increased tolls over the next 50 years.

BCTA arranged to have a confusing and controversial brake inspection standard notice suspended pending discussions with industry. Discussions with government resulted in the development of multiple options that can be followed by those conducting inspections. Strict compliance with this notice would have increased inspection costs in B.C. by millions of dollars annually.

BCTA successfully negotiated an extension to the term of port passes or photo identification for drivers from two years to five years with the Vancouver Port Authority, thus reducing the cost and inconvenience to drivers of having to frequently renew port passes.

BCTA developed a well-researched and comprehensive response to TransLink’s 10-year Outlook and three-year financial plan. BCTA will continue to work to improve TransLink’s record with respect to road investments in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Part of BCTA’s policy position involved recommending against the Rapid-Airport-Vancouver transit line because of concerns related to potential cost-overruns, inflated ridership projections and inflexible, expensive transit solutions. While it is difficult to assess BCTA’s role in the defeat of the RAV line, public comments by the TransLink board suggest that those who voted against the RAV line had many of the same concerns outlined in BCTA’s submission.

BCTA was among a coalition of groups that successfully convinced the provincial government to not introduce tolls on inland ferries.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board granted BCTA’s request that trucks be given priority boarding during B.C. Ferries’ labour disruption in December 2003.


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