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Opinion: The AMTA needs to get its house in order

You may not be aware of it, but if you're an Alberta-based truck driver, you're a member of the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA). Based on discussions I've had with Alberta truckers, this pr...


You may not be aware of it, but if you’re an Alberta-based truck driver, you’re a member of the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA). Based on discussions I’ve had with Alberta truckers, this probably comes as news to a lot of you.

But due to a quirky deal with the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) of Alberta, your membership dues are collected automatically as part of your WCB premiums, and forwarded to the AMTA.

On the surface, this seems to be a fair deal. Every trucker in the province enjoys the fruits of the AMTA’s labors, so why shouldn’t each driver be expected to contribute?

This system, however, is not without its flaws.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that as part of the arrangement, the WCB is able to dictate exactly how the levy is spent. So, you have an outside agency, operating at a mere arm’s length from the government, telling the AMTA how to spend its money.

This is a dangerous situation, especially considering the WCB has been adamant 100 per cent of the levy is spent on safety. Don’t get me wrong, it’s comforting to know the AMTA’s safety programs will not be short for cash. However, what’s disconcerting is not a single dime raised through the WCB can be earmarked for lobbying or communications.

Wait a second, isn’t the AMTA a lobby group, first and foremost? Its mandate says so. In fact, the AMTA Web site says one responsibility of the association is “Lobbying government on matters concerning the highway transportation industry.”

Maybe I’m being cynical, but with a quasi-government agency such as the WCB controlling the AMTA’s purse strings, how does the association expect to challenge the government over controversial policies and regulations? Not only that, but with the WCB exercising so much control over the AMTA, what would happen if it suddenly decided to withdraw its funding?

Sure, it must look great on the ledger sheet to have every trucker in the province listed as a paying member, but at what cost? It’s hard to spend the extra money when your hands are tied behind your back.

As an outsider looking in, it’s becoming increasingly clear the AMTA is in disarray. I haven’t yet been to the AMTA’s new head office, but I hope it has a revolving door. It’ll need one if the past year is any indication.

More evidence of the AMTA’s troubles came during the association’s annual general meeting.

When the Alberta Trucking Association amalgamated with the Alberta Trucking Industry Safety Association a year ago, the membership suddenly surged to include about 13,000 members. So why is it that one year later, attendance at the annual meeting remained static?

As one of the AMTA’s more active members so aptly put it, “They’re not really members, they’re members by default.”

Apathy has long been the scourge of the trucking industry, and the AMTA’s inability to advocate using WCB funds certainly isn’t helping matters.

Sadly, the real losers in this deal are the truckers. Under the current arrangement with the WCB, the AMTA can barely afford to pay its Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) dues.

The CTA is recognized by the government it lobbies, as one of the most effective lobby groups in existence, yet the AMTA is seriously considering withdrawing from the fold. Where does that leave the Alberta trucker?

Somehow, I don’t think this is what the guys behind the amalgamation had in mind when it was first proposed. It was my understanding there would originally be a two-tiered membership – the first being made up of each provincial carrier with funds collected through WCB as they are today, the second tier offering increased involvement to the more proactive carriers wishing to further their participation.

That second tier of membership would allow the AMTA to collect additional revenue, creating a pool it could use to lobby government and pay CTA dues. While the AMTA seems to be in a state of turmoil, all is not lost.

There are some brilliant business people involved, who are genuinely passionate about the trucking industry and the AMTA. But they have the unenviable task of confronting some pretty monumental challenges over the coming months and years.

What’s needed is more participation by the guys in the trenches who run the roads – after all, it’s your association. Give Peter Vaudry, the AMTA’s director of member services, a call at 403-214-3438 to get involved.

James Menzies heads our western news bureau and he can be reached at 403-275-3160.

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