WINNIPEG, Man. – There’s a new person at the helm of the Manitoba Trucking Association. Terry Shaw, who spent three years as the association’s general manager, moved into the executive director’s office after the retirement of the much respected Bob Dolyniuk (who spent 43 years in the industry, 17 of them as head of the MTA). Truck West publisher and editorial director Lou Smyrlis travelled to Winnipeg to get to know Shaw, and understand how he will shape the association in the years to come.
TW: Bob Dolyniuk was the head of the Manitoba Trucking Association for a long time and was one of the best known and respected people in the industry.
Now that he has retired, you are stepping in to run the association. How will your background before joining the MTA affect the kind of leader you will be?
Shaw: I’m one of the guys in the industry who doesn’t have a family history in trucking but I have been in the industry since 1996. One of the gentlemen I went to school with had a friend working at TransX at the time, and I ended up working at TransX for about five years in a variety of roles. One of my first roles was as a log audit clerk. From there I worked through planning, dispatch, customer service and other positions.
When I left TransX, I went to work for the Workers Compensation Board here in Manitoba for about a year and then went to Big Freight Systems – working out of their Steinbach office initially and over the years out of both their Steinbach and Winnipeg offices for just under a decade. So in terms of leadership, I’ve had the opportunity to work for a large company and a smaller company to work with an LTL focus and a project-related open deck focus. It was excellent working and learning with the executives running these companies and capturing the elements that would work for me in terms of my own professional development.
TW: It’s interesting that you do not have a family background in the industry. As you know, this is an industry where family ties are common. Yet, in keeping the industry vibrant you do need new blood, new people coming in from the outside with different ideas.
Shaw: There are two ways into the industry – through family connection and simply finding your way into it. We are trying to make it a bit more of a career path and expose children and young adults to the industry and what a career in it entails. There are three distinct employment categories: truck driver, maintenance, and everything else, such as accounting, marketing, operations, pricing, IT and a whole host of other areas about which we are trying to create awareness and open people up to so that if you are going to go to Red River College and become an accountant, why not consider the trucking industry?
Understand how big it is, how diverse it is and what kind of opportunities it holds for young people.
TW: I’m sure if your career with MTA is going to be as long as Bob’s, at some point you are going to run into some tough issues. Is there a political or business leader who has inspired you and whose actions you try to emulate, particularly during tough times?
Shaw: I’ve had the real pleasure of getting to know Bob over the past three years and watching him interact with people on multiple levels from the premier to a whole host of other stakeholders, and that has been a fantastic education. Over the past three years, Bob and I worked very closely and he has been very generous in affording me opportunities to learn.
I’ve recognized his success and worked very hard to capture those elements which I identified in him and thought would work with me. Outside of Bob, getting to work with our board and our executive and watching these people in action, seeing how they approach situations, the questions they ask, how they reflect on situations before they take action, has been invaluable. I’ve learned more in the past three years probably than in the previous 16 years of my career, which is saying a lot because I did learn a lot in those initial 16 years.
TW: In your previous role with the MTA as general manager, you managed the association’s efforts on several industry issues and developed position papers. What would be the most important issues you’ve worked on?
Shaw: The biggest issue recently was the T-plate issue. We’ve got different ways of licensing trucks in Manitoba, one of which is a T-plate. It’s a bit of a unique animal in that it’s a limited cost licence for a limited operating area. Just recently, I was up in The Pas and the nature of the work the gentlemen I was visiting do was such that they had registered for T-plates.
For many years the Ministry of Transportation had been advocating that T-plates should be preserved but also should be subject to the National Safety Code, which they previously weren’t.
The province had indicated they were willing to make that change, which was fantastic but as things went through the machine of government it came out the other end with the suggestion not to amend the Highway Traffic Act but rather to remove T-plates as a licensing option, which would have seemed a simple solution bureaucratically but it would have meant people in the industry would have had to register their trucks facing 300% licensing fee increases, costing them thousands of dollars per year and our industry millions of dollars per year. We fought long and hard, and successfully on that issue.
TW: When you look at the next few years, are there any legislative issues percolating right now that you think will be grabbing your attention in the future?
Shaw: We have a whole host of infrastructure and transportation issues. We have been advocating for years for a wide-base tire study and we finally have some traction on that. The Periodic Mandatory Vehicle Inspection is on a six-month schedule in Manitoba. We, along with B.C. and the Yukon, are the only jurisdictions in Canada that operate on a six-month schedule as opposed to a 12-month schedule. We’ve asked for a review. Manitoba regulators are regulating Manitoba companies to a different standard and it is creating a competitive disadvantage for our members. We believe we will be successful on that front and that will be very meaningful to our members because it will bring them on par with their counterparts in other jurisdictions and be a significant cost savings and create efficiencies with equipment by not having it tied up in the shop twice a year.
TW: What challenges do you see your membership facing in the years ahead and how do you see the MTA evolving to help them address those challenges?
Shaw: We are seeing constant challenges in attracting workers, which is by no means a challenge that is unique to Manitoba carriers. Besides drivers, there is a shortage of skilled technicians. In my years here I’ve seen growing recognition that we need to do a better job of promoting who we are and what we do and the value we create to the economy.
There has also been a greater push and interest in education, such as mandatory minimum driver training. We are involved in some projects that move beyond the pure regulatory training, such as hours of service, and try to create tools and draw connections between essential skills and safety in trucking. We have an English-at-work program we are working with the province to create because of the demographics of some our driver pools in Manitoba. So we are seeing a whole host of educational opportunities and we are trying to package those for our members in ways that work for them.
The traditional method of bringing employees to a classroom still works and it is something we offer but education needs to be quicker and more accessible. People in The Pas have the same educational needs and wants as people in Winnipeg but the reality is they are not likely going to come to Winnipeg to get that education. So we are working on remote options and Web-based options. We are also seeing in Manitoba some Workers Compensation Board education concerns. We are working on creating tools through the creation of an industry specific safety association, to leverage best practices to raise the level of safety and also, for those employing best practices, to receive some recognition for doing so.
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis