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Laskowski Charts Trucking’s Path Toward Change

The trucking industry is facing a time of significant change and the Canadian Trucking Alliance is in the midst of it all, the Alliance’s newly named president told member carriers of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

From Today’s Trucking magazine:

“Is this our future?” president Stephen Laskowski asked, pointing to the image of an Amazon drone during a wide-ranging address to the Alberta Motor Transport Association. If nothing else, he referred to it as a wake-up call about how quickly things can change.

But with change comes opportunity. U.S. President Donald Trump has raised questions about the North American Free Trade Agreement and softwood lumber, but this might offer an opportunity to find ways to make the border more efficient or address the moves of empty trailers, he said.

Laskowski also suggested part of the alliance’s role will be to help educate the industry’s customers about challenges such as the rising cost of equipment and a low Canadian dollar.

Laskowski also stressed that a mandate for Electronic Logging Devices will help to clean up the industry, and help to ensure drivers don’t simply jump to carriers that are willing to be creative with logbook entries. He believes they will be mandated and enforced in Canada by late 2019 or early 2020.

Then there’s the question of where future drivers will come from. The echo generation aged 25 to 34 represents the largest share of Canada’s workforce, but just 15% of drivers, he said. Immigrants only make up 20%. And in each case, trucking faces increasing competition for labor, as other sectors look to address challenges of their own.

Laskowski stressed the need for Mandatory Entry Level Training, which is being introduced in Ontario this July, to help raise the industry’s image of professionalism. So too does the National Occupational Classification need to change to reflect the skills of being a driver, he said, adding that such a change could promote the immigration of future drivers. The existing classifications will be revisited in three years.

In a separate discussion, on autonomous vehicles, Laskowski agreed with other panelists that although advances in autonomous vehicles are coming fast and furious, truly highly automated trucks on our highways are at least a  decade away in typical applications – and longer still in most markets.

Laskowski added the trucking industry has to fight misconceptions that driving jobs are going to be replaced by machines, and offer a clear message to future drivers: “We are here. Our industry is here to stay. And if you’re a truck driver, you’re going to have a job for 30 years.”

Instead, he is focused on the underlying systems that make autonomous trucks possible. “What technologies can we put in the truck that makes drivers better?”

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, which represents every jurisdiction in Canada, now has an autonomous vehicle working group asking if provinces have legislation that allows for platooning in the first place. So far, Ontario is the only province that has legislation to allow testing of autonomous vehicles.

Cars being developed with Level 3 automation will warn when drivers are expected to re-take a wheel in about 30 seconds, Laskowski added. Trusting the system is one thing, but can we expect drivers will be ready to take the wheel at that time?

“Once these technologies are more proven in the marketplace, I’m going to make the assumption the insurance industry is going to start discounting,” he suggested.

Some options may not even be a choice. Instead of offering grants to early adopters, a government finance minister could find it cheaper to mandate different aspects of the technology, Laskowski said. “Create the framework to allow the OEMs to thrive and the carriers to be creative on their own accord.”

Read the full Today’s Trucking articles here and here.

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