CALGARY, Alta. - It could be called the relentless pursuit of perfection, except for possible legal ramifications from a certain car company. But Alberta's Partners in Compliance (PIC) program does, i...
CALGARY, Alta. –It could be called the relentless pursuit of perfection, except for possible legal ramifications from a certain car company. But Alberta’s Partners in Compliance (PIC) program does, indeed, pursue perfection – or at least as close to it as mere human beings and their machines can come.
It appears to be paying off, though it wasn’t always this way. PIC started originally in the early 1990s, but its initial “pursuit” wasn’t as successful as had been hoped, partly because of a perceived lack of benefit for carriers.
“The concept was sound,” says Lane Kranenburg, manager of the program, “But there wasn’t enough to entice companies to join.” This led, in 2002, to the program being put back onto the desk of the Minister of Transportation, where it sat until 2007.Then, after meetings between the Ministry and the industry, it was agreed to re-engineer the program and sweeten the deal with added incentive for carriers.
And sweeten it they did, upping the ante in several ways.
One of the major benefits the new PIC initiative offers is 98% scale bypass for members, thanks to reader poles near highway monitoring stations that interact with a transponder mounted wirelessly inside the PIC members’ truck cabs. This not only saves time but, since time is money, helps with their bottom lines.
“When our members approach the scale, they get a green light that tells them they can continue on,” says Kranenburg, “and I figure the savings from not having to slow down, stop, get weighed, and get back up to speed again is worth about $5 per stop.”
He says that, even if you’re just going from Calgary to Edmonton and back you’ve saved two stops per trip. This adds up: Kranenburg estimates savings of up to $500,000 a year depending on the fleet’s size, adding that the $70 per year transponder rental pays for itself very quickly.
Scale bypass was a good start, but Kranenburg (who was asked to run PIC when it was “re-intrucknated”) wanted more. “I was always disturbed when a profile says Satisfactory. Satisfactory is just a marginal passing grade, not the excellence we’re trying to focus on.”
And in return for reaching PIC’s standard of excellence, other perks were introduced -such as eliminating the charge for driver’s abstracts. These printouts are an annoying expense, and in Alberta the cost can reach more than $20 each, $11 of which goes to the province with the rest tacked on by the private registry office.
“I wanted to see it brought down, with the government part of the charge eliminated,” Kranenburg said. He also got a registry in Airdrie to only charge $5 per abstract, a savings that also adds up.
Kranenburg mentions two other incentives he says are even more important to a carrier, not necessarily in dollar savings -though he says PIC companies are the most profitable because they know a dollar invested into safety and compliance pays back 10 times -but because they reward an attitude and a commitment that pays dividends every day in more efficient and happier operations.
One is the quarterly operational review. “It forces you to look at your operation and see what’s happening so far as overweights, convictions, and those things that keep your carrier profile clean. It saves you a lot of work in the long run,” Kranenburg says.
Second is the ‘Excellent’ rating on their profile. “Shippers are starting to realize that their responsibility (liability) is maintained after the product is on the truck,” says Kranenburg. “Shippers must deal with responsible companies, carriers that have done their homework. Society is becoming litigious, and you can use the Excellent rating to show customers they have less to worry about when dealing with you.”
There’s more. PIC carriers have the $500 permit fee for CVIP inspection shops waived, access to lower insurance rates and potential recognition by B. C. Transportation with a 95% scale bypass there.
Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette says the program works well. “We’re very happy with it. It’s making our roads safer because to be a PIC carrier you have to be audited as up to compliance, so it’s made for some of the safest trucks on the road.”
Kranenburg says that now some drivers are putting pressure on company owners to meet PIC standards.
“It’s better for them as well as for the company,” he says, adding that to him, the best benefit is the online reporting every three months. “I send them out electronic forms, they fill them out and send them back -it eliminates about 90% of the useless paperwork and deals only with topics specific to their industry niche, which gives a lot of comfort to members.”
Currently, there are yellow PIC plates ($7 per year) on approximately 5,000 vehicles in Alberta, including many motor coaches and school buses.
Kranenburg would like to see the program grow into a continent-wide compliance zone.
“I’d like to see it bring together all the programs (in North America) including existing ones. I don’t care what it’s called as long as the standards are maintained.”
The idea, he says, is to allow the various officers the luxury of being able to concentrate on the carriers that aren’t complying. “Why waste time with guys who are compliant, who are meeting or exceeding the standards?”
How close is that North American standard? “We’re talking to Manitoba and Saskatchewan and Washington State,” says Kranenburg. He also thinks Ontario’s system can be adapted to the concept.
Minister Ouellette has talked with his former counterpart in Saskatchewan and says they expressed interest. “We’re working very hard to harmonize all our highway regulations with all western provinces,” he says.
Beyond the efficiencies, and the carrots offered, PIC is also about good old fashioned recognition for a job well done. “I wanted to see PIC as recognizing the good guys, the ones who aren’t a problem on the road and who do the work required to ensure they meet the highest standards,” says Kranenburg.
The challenge is to get companies to come up to the standards, but Kranenburg says he’s seen company execs remark that the whole culture of the company seems to have changed. “They have pride.”
It’s that “pursuing excellence” thing, but that in itself indicates that this is an eternally evolving process. Kranenburg wants to see PIC go further, with standardized audits that are acceptable across a wider range of organizations.
He also wants to talk to the shipping community, through their associations, “and show them what we’re doing to protect them.” He’s passionate about the fatigue issue, which he says is the contributing factor in many incidents involving commercial trucks. “I’d like to offer a fatigue management program to our members.”
Kranenburg also wants to see the focus not only on hardware but on people as well. “I have a huge respect for drivers but the system is letting them down.” He cites a lack of proper education through driving schools that offer sub-standard training.
The response so far has been good. “We’ve just finished our first year using the transponders and not one carrier has dropped out.” There are 20 companies in the program currently, representing about 5,000 vehicles.
“The system is working. I did have one driver who was pulled over three times close together, but it was just one of those random things that happens. By the third time they were laughing about it, and the driver was great.” •
‘Shippers are starting to realize that their responsibility (liability) is maintained after the product is on the truck.’