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Claude Robert named new CTA chair; lobbying for speed limiters a priority

OTTAWA -- Quebec's biggest trucker has been chosen by the Canadian Trucking Alliance to succeed John Cyopeck, who lost his hard-fought battle with cancer late last month.

Moving into the chair of the CTA for the 2006-08 term will be Claude Robert, CEO of Group Robert of Boucherville, Que.

Robert -- who's never been shy about getting behind the wheel of his own trucks -- is considered one of the most innovative, energetic, outspoken leaders in the industry. He says he intends to build on the momentum started by previous chairmen John Cyopeck of Canpar, Evan MacKinnon of MacKinnon Transport, and Reimer Express' Allan Robison. Robert says his goal is to continue to "to build a new culture of competition based on compliance" in the trucking industry.

Robert’s main goal is to encourage provincial governments to adopt the CTA's latest pet lobbying project -- mandatory activation of speed limiters on all trucks in Canada. Each provincial trucking association in the country has already endorsed the proposal under the CTA banner.

New CTA Chairman Claude Robert wants to build a
new culture of competition based on compliance

"With the price of crude oil likely to be in the range of US$75-100 per barrel over the next few years, everyone in the industry has got to get serious about eliminating excessive speed," Robert says. "With a slower economy in many regions of the country, shippers will push back harder on fuel surcharges and the industry will also have to improve fuel efficiency."

CTA wants all trucks to be regulated at 105 km/h via electronic speed governors on diesel engines. In Ontario, where the plan was first proposed by the Ontario Trucking Association, provincial government officials are sitting on comments by proponents and critics and have yet to make a decision.

"OTA has got the ball rolling and has been taking most of the heat from those who haven’t supported speed limiters up until now. I want to work with all the provincial associations under the CTA banner to make speed limiters a reality across the country," says Robert.

The always outspoken Robert added he little patience for those who oppose the mandatory speed limiters. "Their arguments make so sense," he said in a statement.

The Owner-Operator's Business Association of Canada, the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and thousands of other independent truckers would likely disagree. Both OBAC and OOIDA are opposed to mandatory sped limiters and have submitted technical and academic evidence to MTO that the speed differential between cars and trucks caused limiters increase the rate of accidents.

Anti-idling is a topic that's far less controversial, and Robert will make it another major priority. "We can’t do much about the cost of a barrel of crude, but we can manage our consumption," he says.

Industry compliance with hours of service rules is an issue that will be getting a lot of attention over the next year. Robert plans on carrying forward the CTA's policy of supporting mandatory electronic on-board recorders to monitor and improve compliance.

"Paper log books are a joke," says Robert. "You can have all the internal audit protocols you want and you won’t eliminate illegal operations. Again, the industry has got get serious about hours of service compliance. If we don’t, and some carriers and drivers continue to operate illegally, we will never get the rates we need, our drivers will never be paid what they are worth and we will not attract the quality people to the industry that we are going to need in the future."

As for shippers, they can expect CTA to continue to promote shipper responsibility for safety, as well as rates and surcharges that reflect the cost of service.

"It is not right, for example, that the onus for the new cargo securement rules rests entirely with carriers even when we don’t load the trailers," says Robert. "With all the new U.S. Customs rules, carriers are providing more and more services to shippers that really should be the shippers’ job. If the carriers are going to continue to act more and more like customs brokers, the shippers should be prepared to pay more."

Robert also plans to seek opportunities for harmonization of provincial rules, such as the allowable weights for wide-based single tires, which Quebec has recently allowed to be spec'ed on 53-ft trailers with no weight penalty.

"Maybe we can reunify Canada through trucking," he says.

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