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Partners in Compliance program gaining steam

CALGARY, Alta. -It started once and failed, but the second coming of Alberta's Partners in Compliance program appears to be off to a flying start.

CALGARY, Alta. -It started once and failed, but the second coming of Alberta’s Partners in Compliance program appears to be off to a flying start.

So says program director Lane Kranenburg who notes that, after a year-and-a-bit of existence, the program has now grown to include some 30 companies, including two that run school buses, consisting of over 7,000 vehicles province-wide.

A big part of the growth, Kranenburg says, is because of the benefits the program offers, chief among them being the “excellent” rating on the carrier’s profile. Sweetening the deal is the ability of PIC carriers to access their Alberta Transportation carrier profiles at no charge, even should they want to do so daily.

The third major benefit is the waiving of the $11 fee for driver’s abstracts. “We’ve made an arrangement with a registry office in Airdrie to put a maximum of five bucks on it,” Kranenburg says, noting that private registries have the right to charge a fee.

Then there’s the elimination of the $250 per year fee for each CVIP-licensed shop. Kranenburg says the fee is not only waived, but “I think there’s also an easier access to permits for PIC members.” That particular feature isn’t written in stone, he says, but rather is assumed because of a PIC carrier’s reputation. “If a company is asking for a permit and they identify themselves as a PIC carrier,” he says, “a lot of the homework that’s usually done goes away.”

The other major benefit is a 98% scale bypass for PIC carriers with transponder-equipped vehicles, a major time-saver for trucks that ply the major highways of Alberta.

“When a PIC truck goes by the scale,” Kranenburg says, “the officer has a picture of that truck, its unit number and company on his screen -and also a green bar. If the 2% call-in is due, the green bar turns red and the driver’s transponder fails to give the green bypass signal, informing the driver that the unit is subject to a Level 1 CVSA inspection.”

Kranenburg says even that doesn’t necessarily mean the driver will be called in, though. The officer has the power to wave the driver through or to do a Level 3 or 4 inspection, which he says amounts to “a check of papers -driver’s licence, truck looks good, thanks a million see you later I’m busy right now-type of thing.”

The transponders aren’t mandatory for a carrier to participate in the program. Kranenburg notes that some companies, for example those whose vehicles spend the bulk of their time servicing oil rigs and don’t go on the highway much, may not need the expense of a transponder.

“But the daily truckers up and down the highway, 98% of the time, they get a green light and a beep and they stay on the highway,” he says.

There also appear to be some more intangible benefits to PIC membership.

According to PIC administrator Lorri Christensen, “Drivers appreciate knowing that the company works with them on safety and compliance and companies tell us about a shift in driver attitude, where the drivers feel like part of a team.” Christensen recounts a story she heard where a driver said that being part of PIC means “I’m better than somebody else and I’m part of something that’s bigger than just me and just this company.” Being a PIC carrier, she says, is another whole culture inside the driving system.

“What we’re hoping,” Christensen says, “is that at some point in time, a driver will look at two different companies and choose the PIC carrier to work for as opposed to the other carrier.” Christensen also says they’re now starting to get the same type of questions from shippers curious about the program and what it could mean to them.

“They want to know why they should choose a PIC carrier to haul their load,” she says. “We tell them PIC carriers are going to get their load from A to B in a safer manner because they’ve already implemented a lot of training and safety programs with their drivers.”

With the PIC program up and running, Kranenburg and his team’s efforts can turn more toward marketing it. This can be a challenge, especially since there appears to be a bit of a bad taste out there from the earlier, failed version.

“The first PIC program was designed badly, but the intent was really good,” Kranenburg says. “There was really cumbersome monthly reporting and no follow-up from the administrator.”

He says when it came time to begin marketing PIC, the sequel, he sought the advice of a former director of the program, who told him to “Just look at the list (of PIC carriers); they’re the most profitable companies in the industry and they’re profitable because they invest in safety and they invest in compliance.” That gives them a powerful marketing tool, Kranenburg says. “It’s simple math.”

It’s also a mindset, thinking of PIC compliance as other than just another cost of doing business. “It’s never classified in my mind as an expense,” Kranenburg says. “You’re investing in your company.”

Kranenburg says before a carrier is given membership, the company goes through a COR (Certificate of Recognition) audit, and a National Safety Code audit, both of which must have been done externally within the 24 months previous.

“We have a fairly strict criteria and ‘R’ factor,” he says, explaining an ‘R’ factor as a rating on the carrier profile that’s a combination of collisions, convictions and out-of-service rate.

“The R factor -and this is fairly new with the province -is also categorized by the size of the company and has to be below .33 for trucking and .30 for buses.”

A carrier is also required to send an electronic report to the PIC office every 90 days and must supply PIC with a full-year, previous year carrier profile.

“We monitor that,” Kranenburg says, “and if there are issues, we go and meet with the people and outline the problem, be it convictions or out-of- service (violations), and if it’s severe, we say we need an action plan -what are you doing about this?”

Kranenburg says a mechanism is in place for PIC to turn off the transponders and take the carrier out of the program if necessary, which suspends their PIC privileges immediately.

Such suspensions can be done for a period of up to 150 days, though Kranenburg says such drastic action hasn’t been necessary yet. It wasn’t always the case, though.

“When we had the old program,” he says, “we were about 23 carriers in and I took some of them off.” He says he paid each of the offending carriers a visit, met with their people and, together, they decided whether or not they wanted to stay with the program. “Some of them said no,” he says, “but others wanted to see what we were going to do with PIC.” He says that some decided to return, but others didn’t. “I’m not comfortable with that, but that was their choice.”

Fortunately, the sailing is a lot smoother now, at least so far. “Being able to be reactive for a change is nice,” Kranenburg admits. The PIC boss says it has reached the point now where they have some companies, even some who don’t bypass scales at all and didn’t become PIC participants before for that reason, who are now looking at the other benefits and rethinking their position. “We’ve had companies phoning and e-mailing us and asking how they can get involved,” he says.

And if they do decide to get involved, “We make sure the audits are in place and that they get an 85% score or better,” says Kranenburg. “And we make sure that we visit the site and meet with executives, maintenance, safety.” It’s not only to ensure PIC’s high standards, he says, but because “we don’t want to have a company join and then fail, because if that happens then s fail.”

To date, Kranenburg says, PIC hasn’t had to remove a company because it didn’t remain in compliance. “We’re very proud of that,” he says. “In fact in one quarter earlier this year we didn’t have any out-of-services among our members. I think that’s a pretty good indicator.”

Despite the increasing interest being shown by carriers, Kranenburg says some companies simply don’t want to put that much care and attention into their operations.

“There are companies out there that just don’t qualify and aren’t going to go to the trouble,” he admits. “All we can do is outline to them what the program is and show them that they’ll benefit like crazy, but you still have companies who think they can save money by cutting corners.”

Now that PIC is known, Kranenburg is expanding his horizons, hoping to either take the program beyond Alberta’s borders or to help other jurisdictions set up similar programs of their own. “Right now, it’s limited to Alberta and I don’t want that,” Kranenburg says. “I would like other provinces to pick up on it. They can call it anything they want.”

British Columbia has already premiered its “Weigh2GoBC” program (see story pg. 11), though Kranenburg doesn’t think its standards go far enough.

“I think they’re setting up for failure,” he says, “because they’re giving transponders away and I’ve always maintained that if something’s free it’s usually worthless.”

Another possible snag he can see is that B.C. is allowing 95% scale bypass. “The volume they’re going to get for mandatory inspections is going to far exceed the capacity of their officers to maintain,” he claims.

Kranenburg says the differences between the two programs could stand in the way of Alberta offering reciprocity to B.C. carriers, even though B.C. currently offers such a privilege for Alberta’s PIC carriers. That could change, however.

“I told the B.C. Minster all about our program,” he says, “and she’s all excited about it -so now I’m dealing with her bureaucrats and explaining to them that to get reciprocity they have to meet our standards. I will not allow a B.C. truck bypass privileges otherwise.”

As for Saskatchewan, “Saskatchewan’s a little different,” he says, noting that the insurance industry there is involved as well. But he’s hoping to set up a meeting with the various parties involved to talk about the program.

“I think it would be an excellent thing for both the Saskatchewan Trucking Association and B.C. Trucking Association to implement,” he says, “but somehow, provincial idiosyncrasies are such that they want to do their own thing.”

PIC administrator Christensen says the concept and its supporting information has also been given to Manitoba’s trucking association to look over, with the hope that they’ll also adopt something like it. She acknowledges, however, that those “provincial idiosyncrasies” are a bit of a speed bump on the road to reciprocity.

“Part of the problem in talking to other provinces,” she says, “is that some of them may already have in place some of the benefits Alberta didn’t have.” Examples Christensen cites include B.C.’s current policy of letting driver’s abstracts be pulled for next to nothing, while Ontario and Manitoba pull their carrier profiles for free.

The recognition factor, the “excellent” rating PIC carriers earn, can be used as a legitimate marketing tool they can use to drum up business from shippers. “In my opinion, it’s the biggest bonus of the program,” Kranenburg says. “You take that rating to a customer, and it speaks volumes. The PIC program is the only one we know of in Canada that offers an excellent rating, let alone the other tangible benefits.”

That “excellent” rating, Kranenburg says, is leading some companies that are already doing the things required by the program but haven’t come on-board to look at PIC as a way to show off their stuff. “They’re saying ‘Maybe we want that recognition, maybe we want to put that yellow plate on the front of the truck’,” Kranenburg says.

Such recognition can go beyond being a showcase used for marketing a carrier’s services, too, helping lead to efficiencies in operation.

“What’s happening at scales,” Kranenburg says, “is that when they see that yellow plate, if it’s a non-transponder-equipped truck, they’ll usually just wave them through anyway. They know that company is in compliance so why waste time on them?”

Kranenburg’s sights aren’t set merely on expanding the program -or at least its standards and the “excellent” rating -to other Canadian jurisdictions. He also envisions a day when programs like NORPASS (North American Pre-clearance and Safety System, which has 11 states and provinces involved currently) can increase their standards to PIC’s level to help create a much larger “free trucking zone.”

In the meantime, PIC continues to expand across Alberta. “Our aim is to identify more carriers,” Kranenburg says -and he’s getting marketing assistance beyond the staff with whom he works. “What’s happening now is our members are our best salesmen,” he says, “Because they talk to the other companies about the program and the benefits.”

And that’s letting Kranenburg and his associates breathe a bit easier than they could this time last year.

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