APTA chairman sees new approach to HR challenge

MOUNT PEARL, Nfld. — The trucking industry should be looking further afield for answers to its human resources issues, says Gord Peddle, incoming chairman of the Atlantic
Provinces Trucking Association (APTA).

“I think we have to look at other industries, not at ourselves, to do the benchmarking we talk about,” he told Todaystrucking.com in a private interview. “What is the oil and gas industry doing for its people? What are other industries doing?

“We forget that we have to compete with them for our people,” he said. “Are we paying too little? Or too much? I don’t know. But maybe it’s time for us to think outside the box.”

Admitting that this approach is “not getting much buy-in from other carriers” yet, he said it interests him greatly and he’ll pursue it as APTA chairman.

Peddle, who is president of family-owned D.D. Transport in Mount Pearl, Nfld., says his other ‘pet’ project as APTA leader will be to continue the work ably started by
past-chairman Vaughn Sturgeon on revising the association’s governance, its rules and its structure. He calls it “more a freshening up than anything.”

As to business conditions for the Atlantic trucking industry, Peddle acknowledges that things are tough and getting tougher.

“Most of us are of the opinion that hauls out of Newfoundland and out of Atlantic Canada have diminished a lot. We’ve always struggled in Newfoundland but now it’s the entire region. Things are becoming very competitive,” Peddle told us.

A good part of that competition is coming from large carriers in Quebec and Ontario, he said, especially from companies more used to plying north-south routes that have had to spread east to keep trailers filled and drivers busy. Unfortunately, that’s hit Atlantic carriers at a time when they’re in an economic trough of a local sort, especially in

Newfoundland. Peddle says they’re on “the tail end” of a housing boom and activity surrounding the Hibernia oil field. At this point, they’re waiting for other projects to come on stream.

“We’re all optimistic, and there are some exciting things happening if they all get announced,” he said. Among those anxiously anticipated developments are an Inco nickel smelter in Long Harbour, Nfld. to process the concentrate coming out of the company’s mine in Voisey’s Bay, Labrador. There is also hope that Newfoundland’s fourth major offshore oil field – Hebron – will come on stream soon.

The Atlantic Gateway project is rather less a sure thing, but Peddle is hopeful that it will be a positive step for the region – “if and when it happens.”

The four Atlantic provinces recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government on the development of Canada’s Atlantic Gateway, a collaborative effort to develop the region’s trade gateways and corridors and thus attract more international traffic to the Port of Halifax, mainly. The common vision is to establish an integrated and globally competitive transportation system on North America’s east coast.

On a much smaller scale, Peddle is encouraged to see that many small carriers are joining or at least expressing interest in joining the APTA. “Many of them are having
trouble,” he said, so the association represents a helping hand. At the same time, he allowed that maintaining membership is an on-going task.

And the effort to get Atlantic approval for long-combination vehicles is an on-going effort for the association as well. “We’re churning ahead on that one,” says Peddle. “We have
another trial starting in April in Nova Scotia.” He figures we’ll see LCVs across the country eventually, where they don’t already exist, because the lure of environmental gains will be too attractive for governments to ignore.

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