BANFF, Alta. — Alberta’s Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Dr. Lyle Oberg committed to supporting the province’s revised Partners in Compliance (PIC) program at the AMTA’s management conference this weekend.
It was also formally announced that the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) confirmed it would once again support the program. Truck West reported in its March issue that the PIC program had been re-engineered and that the AMTA was considering once again administering the program. All the pieces to the puzzle fell together on the weekend when Oberg sat down with officials from the AMTA and his own department and officially threw his support behind the program.
"We have a very busy Minister," Roger Clarke, executive director of vehicle safety and carrier services with Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation admitted at the AMTA’s annual management conference in Banff on Saturday. However, key AMTA and government officials had the chance to pin down Oberg at the conference and sold him on the concept of renewing the program.
"The Minister said ‘Yes, let’s do it, let’s get it going and make it work,’" confirmed Clarke, cautioning the T’s still have to be crossed and the I’s must still be dotted.
Nonetheless, an enthusiastic Clarke announced: "We’re open for business again."
PIC was a unique self-assessment program that rewarded Alberta carriers for maintaining a high standard of excellence. It was established in 1995 as a joint-venture between Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Trucking Association (now the AMTA). The AMTA, however, turned its back on the program in 2003 citing there wasn’t a big enough carrot for participating carriers.
A key development over the weekend was the confirmation the AMTA would once again endorse the program. In the March issue of Truck West, Clarke announced the program was moving ahead – with or without the AMTA. He also said he was encouraged the association had expressed interest in once again administering the program.
Now the question remains: How will the program avoid its previous pitfalls and be embraced by carriers the second time around?
Clarke announced there are several key improvements to the revised PIC program. As reported in the March issue of Truck West, the new program will be easier to enter and will feature a far less onerous reporting system. It will also be somewhat self-sustainable, with industry itself paying about 50 per cent of the program.
The key to the program’s success, however, will be increased benefits to carriers, Clarke said. He added Alberta trucking companies voiced their support for a full scale bypass and the new PIC program has been tailored to meet that demand. Transponders will be used to allow participating carriers to bypass weigh scales, which could provide the sought after carrot that carriers said was missing from the previous version of PIC.
"I’m told (by carriers) that that’s what would make the deal," Clarke told delegates at the AMTA convention.
Although the Transport Minister’s support of the program is a huge step forward, there are still some details to be ironed out. The biggest one is the funding breakdown. Previously the provincial government was on the hook for a large part of the cost of PIC. The re-engineered program would see carriers forking out about 50 per cent of the cost, largely through the rental of transponders which would allow them to bypass weigh scales.
Clarke suggested the average cost to equip a truck with a transponder is about $30 and that participating carriers would be asked to pay double that to allow their trucks to bypass provincial weigh scales. The additional fee would go towards administering the program under the new model, which would likely be overseen by an independent executive director. In turn, the province would shell out about $1.2 million to equip each scale with the AVI technology required to recognize the transponders.
The use of transponders could spell the end of the recognizable PIC licence plates that adorned the front bumpers of previous participants, since they will no longer be required to identify participating carriers.
Clarke said they will probably still be available so fleets can proudly display their status as an exceptional carrier. Some fleets, however, have learned from experience that a golden PIC licence plate can mean "PIC on Me" in neighbouring provinces. Previous participants have complained that enforcement agencies in neighbouring jurisdictions (such as B.C.) have resulted in ‘special attention’ being given to PIC carriers.
Tom Kenny of Westcan Bulk Transport admitted at the meeting that there will be no PIC licence plates on his company’s highway units.
"There’ll be no reason for it," he said. "You’ll be identified within Alberta by the transponder."
Clarke credited a handful of Alberta carriers for keeping the program alive after the AMTA withdrew from its administrative role and vowed that it will be stronger than ever under the new guidelines.
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