The Alberta Construction Trucking Association (ACTA) is currently conducting meetings around the province of Alberta, asking our members and the construction industry to complete our annual survey.
This survey is intended to document your concerns and gather input regarding rates, working conditions, equipment you own and operate, and to prioritize the most important issues you face.
The preliminary results have revealed the following, as it relates to the Alberta construction trucking industry specifically:
The number one issue with respondents is the decline in market rates. There has been a reduction in rates across the province from 10-30%, depending on the region.
Alberta is the leader in Canada for the free market enterprise system. This means truckers anywhere in Canada or the US can come to work in Alberta with limited restrictions, whether there is a need for them or not.
This creates a unique problem for Alberta truckers when there is an economic downturn or an oversupply of trucks and lack of work, as there has been since 2008.
Part of our annual survey asks them to document what rates they charge for all the configurations of trucks and equipment they operate. We then tally the results across the province and publish the results. We then make the results available to truckers, contractors and producers so they have a good understanding of the true market rate per configuration across Alberta. The survey includes surcharges and other appropriate charges.
We can’t fix the rates -that’s illegal. But we can work together to develop strategies to stabilize the declining rates across the province.
When the ACTA holds a meeting in your town or city, please come and fill out our annual survey and tell us about your concerns and ideas.
Another major concern in the industry is the erosion of working conditions. This factor has significantly increased in the past year, mainly as a result of the oversupply of trucks and equipment.
Contracts used to be awarded based on a company’s level of experience, professionalism and ability to get the job done properly. Now, the jobs are awarded based on how low will you go?
We are meeting around the province to get our industry to understand how important it is for us to work together to solve this problem. Training and education and working together will be the strategies to resolve this problem.
Erosion of rights and freedoms
Over the past few years, we have seen a steady erosion of our rights and freedoms. Non-trucking special interest groups have lobbied government on issues without understanding the impact of their recommendations. Where the tires meet the road, they often have a negative effect on safety.
Some examples of this include legislation on speed limiters, EOBRs, Hours-of-Service, just to name a few. We now have a speed limiter law in Ontario and Quebec with a strong lobby to have it legislated North Americawide.
Living in a democracy, you would think you live in a free country where you are not forced to do things against your will. Not the case in Ontario or Quebec. If you operate in these provinces, you are forced to have a speed limiter.
We know speed limiters are not about controlling speed, but rather controlling the truck owner and driver and forcing them to comply regardless of their level of experience, competency or safety.
The use of speed limiters causes frustration, road rage, traffic congestion, impedes the flow of traffic and just one more reason for DoT officers to hold up the professional owner and driver.
If you have spec’d your truck to operate in the fuel sweet zone prior to the speed limiter legislation to achieve maximum fuel economy, now your truck will operate outside the fuel sweet zone. How’s that for the fuel economy and environment footprint?
OOIDA and OBAC say it best: “My speed limiter sits in the driver’s seat!” There is increasing pressure to have speed limiter legislation in western Canada and the US. I am proud to report that we in Alberta have a Transportation Minister who understands this situation and doesn’t support speed limiter legislation in this province.
There is also increasing pressure North America-wide to have electronic on-board recorders made mandatory. I have yet to find one person in our industry that supports the mandatory use of these devices. Most professional owners and drivers don’t feel they should be legislated, especially if they have a clean driving CVOR, no logbook violations and a good safety record.
In fact, most professional owners and drivers resent the fact that they feel their trust has been violated if they are forced to have EOBRs in their trucks.
They feel they are unnecessary and an intrusion of their rights and freedoms.
Hours-of-Service legislation is an ongoing issue in Canada and the US. There is no uniformity of the legislation in Canada and the courts in the US have had a field day with this legislation because of the non-trucking lobbyists.
They say these legislative changes are for our own good and will make the roads safer. In fact, the contrary is true -they have made the roads less safe by driving many professional owners and drivers out of the industry North America-wide.
Lack of ethics and standards
Over the past 10 years or so, there has been a significant lack of ethics and standards in our industry. The lack of training, education and decline in the market rates and the loss of professional owners and drivers in our industry has been the major cause for the lack of ethics and standards in our industry.
ACTA has developed a code of ethics and standards for our members to follow. We hope to convince the majority of our industry to adopt these ethics and standards.
If we are successful, this will raise the market rate, improve safety, improve working conditions, and enhance the training and education of our industry.
We have been fortunate that fuel prices have stabilized over the past year, but there are signs that fuel prices are starting to rise. We know how volatile fuel prices can be and you know prices will rise.
There are other factors looming that will increase the volatility of fuel prices, such as refinery upgrades, hurricanes in the southern US, carbon cap-and-trade, and supply and demand, to name a few.
The Alberta construction trucking industry does not utilize fuel surcharges well. We have been lucky we have not been bit as a result. This is dangerous, to say the least.
This industry has traditionally absorbed increases in fuel prices through annual rate increases, but this won’t work much longer because it is increasingly difficult to get rate increases and they surely won’t cover the fuel increases in the future. Therefore, fuel surcharges will be a fact of life.
ACTA has developed an acceptable fuel surcharge formula we are hoping our industry will work with to ensure there is no competitive disadvantage and we are protected from future fuel price spikes.
Lack of training and education
There has been a serious lack of training and education in our industry over the last 10 years or so. Most of the training and education of our industry was done by industry veterans, but over the past 10 years, the majority of those professionals have left the industry.
Unfortunately, many driving schools haven’t a clue as to what makes a professional construction owner or driver and the skills and training he needs to do the job professionally.
Some driving schools are now turning out drivers to drive Super-Bs across the Rocky Mountains in a week or less. ACTA has developed training models to educate and train our new drivers so they can learn what it takes to be a professional owner and driver.
Our members are concerned about construction zone speed limits being
left in effect when there is no one working in the construction zone. They don’t feel the reduced speed limits or lane closures should apply when there is no one working in the construction zone.
Restricted truck routes and parking
There is a significant increase in the lobby of non-trucking interests to restrict truck routes and truck parking. Carpool lanes and other pending anti-truck legislation is increasing at an alarming rate. ACTA is actively opposing this legislation.
These are some of the many issues we will be working on in 2010. When you see a truck displaying a licence plate with the ACTA logo, you will know that it’s driven by a professional owner or driver. If you own or operate a truck, you should belong to at least one of the reputable trucking associations. If you own or operate a truck or trucks and you don’t belong to any one of the reputable associations, then you are part of the problem -not the solution.
-Ron Singer is owner of Ron Singer Truck Lines and president of the Alberta Construction Trucking Association. He can be reached at 403-244-4487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.ACTA’s Web site is www.myacta.ca.