Speakers share their expertise at AMTA management conference

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BANFF, Alta. – With the recent departure of Dr. Lyle Oberg from his legislative post, Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation sent a substitute speaker to the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) management conference on Apr. 21.

Kim Durdle, director of carrier services for the ministry, spoke to conference delegates about a number of programs and issues the province and the AMTA have jointly been working on.

“We’re proud of the relationship with the AMTA,” said Durdle. “This relationship and good communication works to improve safety on our highways.”

A new collision evaluation process is being examined to evaluate the preventability of collisions, because the government does not assess fault. A proposal was completed in April 2004, which was responded to with 306 recommendations from the AMTA.

“The AMTA received a recognization award for their work,” noted Durdle. “Implementation of the process was on July 1, 2005 and we’re still working hard to bring this process up to speed.”

Four carriers participated in a pilot test of a Fatigue Management Program during the past year. The program is now set to enter its third phase, which will include a further 18 months of study.

“It brings together everyone from dispatchers, family, drivers and management,” explained Durdle. “In order for a good program to be successful it needs to be accepted at the corporate level.”

A new capital plan spanning 2006 to 2009 will see continuing funding of $1.9 billion for the Edmonton and Calgary ring roads. The projects are aimed to be completed by 2015, but Durdle noted the ministry is hoping to complete the road projects sooner.

To aid in achieving the timely completion of the road systems, the province will continue to utilize public-private partnerships (P3s)

“The P3 program was very successful in Edmonton and we want to use it to do the northeast ring road in Calgary,” said Durdle. “Ring roads in both cities will improve traffic flows across the province.”

The province is also committing more than $3.6 billion over a three-year period for twinning highways leading to both Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

“Improving our road infrastructure and education are important in maintaining traffic safety,” she concluded.

Labour code issues

Garland Chow, associate professor at the University of British Columbia, recently undertook a study of Canada Labour Code issues in trucking and shared his findings with attendees at the AMTA management conference.

The driver survey was conducted at 15 truck stops across seven provinces and documented the responses of 449 drivers, with 77 respondents surveyed in Alberta. Most labour code complaints were a result of termination and the most frequent complaints included payment and wages, vacation pay, unjust dismissal, unauthorized deductions and severance pay. But two-thirds of all complaints never reach the Canada Labour Code complaint process.

“More complaints would be filed if there wasn’t a driver shortage,” said Chow. “They say, hey I can just go somewhere else where I think the grass is greener.”

Chow believes it’s important to inform drivers about the Canada Labour Code and provide access to early resolution officers.

“Carriers have problems with how the code is applied and the research supports workable rules to address industry-specific practices,” noted Chow. “You need to educate drivers and let them know what they are getting into when they sign.”

The study covered a wide scope of driver issues from hours of work to time spent away from home. Chow pointed out the study is still unofficial and the findings are selective, but he says it still has merit.

“There are already rules and regulations which are specific to trucking,” he said. “There’s merit to having a special section of the Canada Labour Code specific to the trucking industry.”

Chow concluded his presentation by leaving the attendees with an inspirational anagram of the word ‘team’ – together everyone achieves more.

Developing a safety culture

Last year at the AMTA management conference John Sengl was the recipient of the Safety Person of the Year Award. He returned to the conference in 2006 not to accept an award, but rather to deliver an important safety message during the Saturday morning business session.

Sengl has been with Canadian Freightways for more than 30 years and throughout his career safety has been his passion.

In North America there are 47,562 fatalities recorded per year. With 2,895,000 injuries recorded, victims could stand shoulder to shoulder for the entire 2,993 miles between Calgary and Halifax.

“The annual injuries represent 90% of Alberta’s population. If that doesn’t scare you I don’t know,” said Sengl.

To eliminate safety hazards an entire organization has to be on-board. Developing a culture of safety within a company has to go beyond government regulations, which are set as a minimum standard.

“Safety programs designed to save money don’t work, they won’t hold safety in as high a regard,” explained Sengl. “If you design anything you must have the person as the highest priority.”

One way to increase the effectiveness of safety training is to eliminate lectures and implement a hands-on training structure. Sengl cited a study which puts student retention of lectures at only 20% after two days have elapsed.

“Fire, police and the military have known this for years and we need to catch on,” noted Sengl.

Safety is not an illusion and a good safety mentality goes beyond training programs by developing an entire safety culture. Sengl outlined eight principles essential for developing a safety culture:

* safety is an ethical responsibility;

* safety is a culture not a program;

* management is responsible;

* employees must be trained to work safely;

* safety is a condition of employment;

* all injuries are preventable;

* safety must be site specific with recurring audits;

* safety is good business.

Protecting carrier interests

in the US

David Parker, senior legal council for Great West Casualty, attempted to shed some light on important contract issues for carriers hauling in the U.S.

“Words on a piece of paper can cost you more than a dangerous driver,” explained Parker.

Parker has been involved in the trucking industry for more than 40 years and has witnessed a number of regulatory changes over the years. With the events of 9/11, the Canada/US border has changed forever, he pointed out.

“When you have contractual issues or lost or damaged cargo, you may find yourself in the US class action system,” noted Parker.

Most cases in the US are settled before going to trial, but if the lawsuit is proceeding to trial it could be advantageous to have the trial moved from State Court to Federal Court. Parker explained the jury pool will be larger and the judges are less likely to be swayed by prosecutors and will be more up to date on federal laws which may apply.

“If you have a lawyer who says your case is unique and he wants to change the law, that gets expensive,” said Parker. “If you’re at fault, settle as quickly as you can. Often times it’s an economic decision, discovery is the most expensive part of the process.”

When an incident occurs, Parker warns against spoilation. The term means you hid or destroyed evidence, and even if it’s company policy to erase certain records after a few weeks it could come back to effect your defense. The term can be applied against insurance companies and defense attorneys as well.

“You don’t want parties and juries thinking you’re an ogre just for destroying stuff,” added Parker.

Today, trial lawyers in the US are on the lookout for deeper pockets and as many as they can get into, explained Parker.

“Negligent entrustment is a big issue right now,” he said. “Today they try and make the driver look like a victim. Whether it’s drinking or speeding they will say it’s the company behind him that drove him to those measures because the company has all the money. They will contend you picked a poor candidate to drive, who never should have been in that position.”

Parker also warned attendees at the business session to keep a close eye on conditions laid out by shippers.

“A lot of shippers are using language from pro-shipper lawyers, passing costs on to the carriers,” explained Parker. “Be careful when you look over those contracts and don’t assume your insurance will cover everything.”

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