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ELDs, environmental focus among industry ‘game changers’

Posted: May 2, 2016 by John G. Smith

BANFF, AB – Mandated technologies like Electronic Logging Devices and an increasing focus on environmental standards will be among “game changers” for Canada’s trucking industry, Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley said in what will likely be his final address to the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

Bradley, who has announced he is leaving the job at the end of 2017, said he always felt the environment would replace safety as the “major preoccupation” for regulators. But he also believes that Canadian regulators are beginning to see the challenges that would be introduced by simply adopting the next round of greenhouse-gas-reducing standards established in the U.S. (There have been questions on whether some of the related equipment would stand up to Canada’s heavier weights and harsher operating environments.)

The increasing environmental focus could even help to open new opportunities for wide-base single tires, he added, referring to the association’s push to have related weight penalties removed. “All of a sudden GHG arguments count more than they did before.”

Of course, emerging technology is not limited to environmental gains alone. Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau committed in a meeting with CTA Chair Gene Orlick that the Government of Canada is moving to mandate Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). That will improve productivity, Bradley said, recommending that fleets begin adopting the technology before it is mandated. “At the end of the day, drivers really like the technology … if it goes down for a day, you really see how much they appreciate it.”

 “We know certain types of equipment, certain types of technology are inevitably going to be mandated.”

The economic struggles in Alberta did not escape him, either. “Last year I said we needed a strong Alberta in Canada,” Bradley said. “We need Alberta back, and I’m sure it will come back at some point.” But he also said that a “cleansing” is not necessarily a bad thing. “Those that come out of this will be stronger for it and may even find things will be better than they were before.”

But he cautioned the trucking industry against becoming complacent about the threat of a driver shortage. “The white heat of the driver shortage is not what it was in Alberta,” he admitted. “In Central Canada, guys are coming home from the Oil Patch.” The relief, though, is temporary. “Eventually economies come back and exceed their previous growth,” he said.

Bradley also made the case for Mandatory Entry Level Training for new drivers. “It’s hard to make the case it’s a professional skill or trade if you can just walk off the street (and get a job),” he said, adding that Ontario and Alberta are taking lead roles on the issue, using the foundation of National Occupational Standards developed by Trucking HR Canada. A recent move by the U.S. to establish mandatory driver training is not as “strong” as emerging Canadian programs, but they will have to be heeded to ensure licences are recognized on both sides of the border, he said.

Bradley predicted other mandates are coming, too. Speed limiters, now in place in Ontario and Quebec, are among them. “It’s an unstoppable force and it makes sense to do it,” he said of the engine programming that sets top vehicle speeds.

Looking further into the future, Bradley also reflected on roles for autonomous vehicles. Syncrude is already using fully autonomous trucks in northern Alberta operations, he said. When it comes to highways, though, he expects there will always be a pilot or driver on board.

“There’s an opportunity to improve safety and productivity,” he said. “Crashes are caused by human error. If we can take that equation out of it, or supplement the skills of the driver … I think that’s a good thing.”

A recently announced pilot project will review in-transit moves in the U.S., he also reminded the crowd. Nine carriers are involved in that. But U.S. regulations are slow to change, he said. “We don’t know that the ‘pilot’ will ever end … I don’t care as long as we’re able to conduct those movements.”

Still, Bradley said the federal government has not flexed its “constitutional muscle” over extra-provincial trucking that could help harmonize other standards. The recently reviewed Canada Transportation Act has little effect on the trucking industry, even with some rules around mergers and acquisitions, he said. How could that change? Maybe by linking goals to infrastructure funding, although that would likely be fought by provincial governments.

There were also moments of reflection during the address, when he also spoke about the voice of provincial associations within the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “Nobody does a better job of managing those issues, of being innovative, of focusing on safety and fuel economy, than the Canadian trucking industry,” he said.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance’s record compares well with any trade association, he added, referring to gains made on behalf of the 4,500 members. “There hasn’t been an issue since deregulation that the entire industry has been behind.” But wins for different segments add up over time, he said.

Bradley likened the industry to a bike gang — but the best parts of one. While fleets are “cutthroat competitors” there is still a sense of fraternity, he said. “I love the industry and I love all you folks and I couldn’t have had a better career.”

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