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On the brink

RED DEER, Alta. - The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is considering pulling out of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) over a dispute about the current funding formula.The ongoing dispute...

RED DEER, Alta. – The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is considering pulling out of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) over a dispute about the current funding formula.

The ongoing dispute reached a boiling point recently at the CTA’s annual board meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., and it was still a hot topic of conversation at the AMTA’s annual general meeting a week later.

After the Alberta fleet group’s repeated requests for a change to the funding formula were once again shot down, the AMTA has decided to seriously reconsider whether it will stay on-board. AMTA president, John Finn, says there are a number of issues needing to be resolved, the biggest one being the high cost of CTA membership.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the funding formula, and most people don’t have a clue what it is,” Finn said at the AMTA’s annual meeting. “Our frustration is that CTA refuses to negotiate, they stick to this formula that was based on 1993 numbers.”

Under the current system, the AMTA shells out about $87,000 in dues, which represents about 14.5 per cent of the entire CTA budget.

“Where does that $87,000 come from?” asks Finn. “It comes from a very small pool that we have available.”

Ironically, it’s the AMTA’s own funding formula at the root of the problem. Considering every Alberta owner/operator and fleet is a member of the AMTA, thanks to the lobby group’s deal with the provincial Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), the idea of funds being tight sounds like a joke.

However, as a result of this arrangement, the WCB has the final say on how the money is spent and it’s of the mind that every penny must go towards safety initiatives. So far, the AMTA has been unable to convince the WCB that CTA dues are going to enhance highway safety.

While everyone at the AMTA’s meeting insisted they would like to remain a part of the CTA, Finn says pulling out may be the only option if Alberta’s share of the cost isn’t revisited.

“They’ve effectively told us ‘leave if you want’ (by refusing to negotiate),” says Finn. “If we leave, and if they want us back, then we’ll have to negotiate.”

Although the CTA wants the AMTA to remain a part of the alliance, the national group’s leader, David Bradley, says it isn’t in a position to offer any cut-rate dues.

“This is an issue that’s been lurking around for a couple of years and has been discussed by the provincial associations, by the CTA executive committee and by the CTA board on numerous occasions now,” says Bradley. “The formula which brought to life the new CTA … was a long, consultative process that all of the associations signed onto. There’s really no justification to change the formula.”

Bradley goes on to say the CTA wants to put the issue behind it and continue focusing on the future – with or without the AMTA.

“We’re certainly hopeful that they will remain in the fold, but the CTA will remain a national organization and there will always be a place for a voice for Alberta carriers one way or another,” he says.

While some industry observers wondered if the AMTA’s withdrawal could spark a mass exodus from the alliance, other associations have been quick to put those fears to rest.

“From our perspective, and from what I see across the country, that’s not going to happen,” assures Paul Landry, B.C. Trucking Association president. “We see a strong need for a national voice and a voice that speaks with confidence and professionalism and we see all of that in the CTA. Our association is 100 per cent behind the CTA.”

At the other end of the country, Ralph Boyd of the Atlantic Province’s Trucking Association (APTA) echoed Landry’s sentiments.

“You can choose a variety of funding formulas, the end result is the present funding formula is about as reasonable as any other formula that I’ve seen or have been presented,” says Boyd. “We are a relatively small association in Canada … Although it is a significant dollar that we have to pay, we find the resources and we pay those dollars.”

While the AMTA may not get much sympathy from the other provincial associations, they all agree an AMTA withdrawal would be a big loss.

“The possible loss of the AMTA would hurt the CTA, and hurt us all,” says Landry. “We need all the provincial and regional associations at the table so I would be concerned about the AMTA’s departure. The AMTA is a critical link in the chain and it would be a sad day for the trucking industry if the AMTA were to leave.”

“My members need representation on a national level as well as a provincial level,” says Boyd. “With the limited resources that we have in our association, we feel we get excellent value for the money.”

He remains hopeful the AMTA will look at the big picture and recognize the clout the alliance has built over the last number of years and move beyond the funding issue.

Even though several key AMTA representatives have insisted on playing hardball, many of the members at the general meeting were exasperated by the entire issue.

“We’ve got to get closure to this,” says Tom Kenny, the AMTA’s president-elect. “We are somewhat bound to those numbers at this point. If Alberta does not sit there, I think that’s a travesty, but I believe we need to take it back to the membership.”

The association is mulling putting the question along with both sides of the argument to its general membership.

Either way, there is concern the damage caused by this long-running dispute may be irreparable.

“As an association, we have lost a lot of respect with the CTA and we’re the laughing stock of Canada right now because we could not take defeat lightly,” says one frustrated member. “I want to make sure Alberta is represented with a certain level of respect.”

He blasted certain members of the board for not attending the CTA’s most recent meetings, opting instead to send only executive director, Kim Royal, who is still getting acclimatized to his new role.

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