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Senkow takes MTA reins

WINNIPEG, Man. - The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) has a new president after Bob Senkow has grasped the baton from past president, Redline Transport chief Alvin Lepp.Joined by first vice-preside...


WINNIPEG, Man. – The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) has a new president after Bob Senkow has grasped the baton from past president, Redline Transport chief Alvin Lepp.

Joined by first vice-president Ross Arnold, the two form the fleet group’s executive committee together with Gardewine North’s Dennis Clarke, Big Freight Systems’ Earl Coleman, Portage Cartage and Storage’s Vic Switzer, Custom Transport’s Kirk Warren and general manager Bob Dolyniuk.

“We’re going to continue to push ahead on issues like shipper liability, Hours-of-Service and the National Safety Code,” says Senkow. “We’re hearing very encouraging sounds coming out of the government and we’ll continue to promote the accomplishments of this very proud industry.”

The rumbling out of Manitoba’s Legislature Senkow alludes to is the fact Premier Gary Doer has publicly committed to increasing infrastructure funding for the first time in more than a decade.

The government’s top priorities were health care, education and infrastructure, the politician told Dolyniuk at a breakfast event a couple of weeks earlier. He concluded that it’s now infrastructure’s turn to see increased provincial spending.

“What I suspect will happen now is municipalities will start jockeying for funding of their individual projects,” says Dolyniuk. He went on to add that, in addition to making sure the bulk of highway investment goes to strategic projects benefiting the entire trucking community, the fleet group must ensure smaller municipal “pet projects” aren’t allowed to eat up the money before larger provincial needs are properly addressed.

From his perspective, Lepp feels the MTA is well positioned to continue to make lobbying inroads on the provincial scene.

“It really comes down to the people you’re surrounded by,” says the group’s past president. “As a leader, you’re only as good as the people around you and this is just a great team to work with.”

It is actually a much more diverse group gathered around the MTA’s meeting table for the next two years with the addition of the board of directors’ first two female members.

Susan Snyder, of Searcy Trucking, and Helene Nadeau, of La Broquerie Transfer, have been added to the team of top fleet executives committed to raising the profile of the industry and furthering trucking’s many causes.

“It’s an honor to be a part of such a prestigious group,” says Nadeau.

Lots to do

As usual, there is no shortage of projects for MTA board members to sink their teeth into over the coming months. And near the top of the list is working out a deal for a lifetime trailer plate regime with the province.

More than 18 months of back-and-forth negotiating has brought the fleet group very close to a deal and its next move is to send a new proposal to deputy transport chief Andy Horosko. It’s likely the latest suggestion will resemble a flat-rate fee for a trailer licence plate coupled with a mandatory, but free renewal every two years. If adopted it would include a penalty for fleets lax in their updating duties.

The province, however, seems to favor a lower initial fee combined with additional charges at renewal time. This idea has been rejected by the board with the position summed up by one member who complains, “I’d be paying a clerk to in effect update the province’s database.”

Currently Ontario and Alberta are the only Canadian jurisdictions with lifetime trailer plates. The Ontario system, which involves a $25 flat fee and no renewal cost, offers no reason for carriers to update the province on trailers no longer in service. The result has been an embarrassment for the province, with thousands of “ghosts” now occupying its equipment registration rolls.

“With no incentive to delete a trailer,” explains Dolyniuk, “you’ve got no way to cleanse your database.”

While Manitoba fleets are reluctant to pay a bi-annual fee enabling the government to avoid similar pitfalls, they can’t overlook the obvious benefit of a lifetime plate.

“It’s not the cost of the renewal, it’s the hassle of getting all of your trailers through your yard and matching up and replacing plates,” says another board member. “The operational savings of not having to do that anymore would be tremendous.”

Carriers in Saskatchewan and B.C. are anxiously watching the Manitoba experience as both provinces’ trucking associations are also starting to make inroads on negotiating similar systems.

Individual efforts

While industry-wide projects, like the trailer plate issue, dominate the minds of board members at convention time, each individual obviously has the interests of their own operation to consider, too. In the case of Gardewine North’s Dennis Engel, the idea of opening up Hwy. 6 between Winnipeg and Thompson to Rocky Mountain Doubles leads his thoughts.

“We’re projecting that it would mean a four to 20 per cent savings in our linehaul operation,” he explains, stressing the province would also reap the benefits of reduced commercial traffic, lower engine emissions and diminished transport related costs on goods destined for isolated Northern Manitoba communities.

The province’s Minister of Transportation and Government Services, Steve Ashton, a long-time Thompson resident, has expressed an interest in the project, but is far from rubber-stamping any form of enabling legislation.

Engel’s efforts are tied to Gardewine’s continuing enterprise with the Hudson Bay Railway to boost freight throughput at the Port of Churchill.

In competition with Hay River, Alta. and Montreal to service Canada’s arctic – and more specifically the Kivilaq region of Nunavut – Churchill has seen a lot more grain of late and is now looking to boost operational efficiency on often cubed-out cargo, such as clothing and consumables, as well as essential deliveries of equipment like boats and all-terrain vehicles.

Ashton also suggests another northern alternative for the province to accomplish the same end goal.

“It would cost about $1.8 billion to build an all-weather road to Nunavut,” says the minister. “For about $20 million – and another $7 million in annual maintenance costs – we could probably extend a winter road to the territory.”


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