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By Sandy Arndt


ou know them by many names: semis, tractor-trailer units, 18-wheelers, halftons, one-tons and big rigs. They are the trucks and drivers hauling the goods that keep the wheels of Alberta’s economy rolling. Your breakfast cereal, the clothes on your back, your smartphone, your vehicle and even the building materials in your dwelling place; all of these and more were delivered at least partially by truck. “If you can touch it, a truck had to bring it,” said Carl Rosenau, president of Rosenau Transport Ltd. and past president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA). “Trucking has its hands on everything you touch, feel or smell in the course of a day.” Carl Rosenau is president of Rosenau Transport Ltd., and the pastpresident of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

While trucking has always been an essential player in the economy, experts say the industry has come a long way through the years. The vehicles are safer and run cleaner than ever before. Driver training is more

stringent, and mandatory courses keep them on the leading edge. The AMTA’s working relationships with national and provincial governments are helping to move the industry steadily forward through safety initiatives and environmental awareness, paving the way toward a better future on Alberta’s roadways.

transportation industry has come,” said Dan Duckering, third generation owner of Duckering’s Transport and president of the AMTA. “Safety is such a huge part of what we have to do. Historically, people have looked at truck drivers as an unruly bunch, and we’re working to change that stigma.”

The AMTA, formerly known as the Alberta Trucking Association, is the not-for-profit organization that represents the highway transportation industry. Its membership includes trucking companies and their suppliers, and its key role is to help members succeed through training programs and safety initiatives. Online courses, workshops and seminars are offered as ongoing educational tools for drivers at all levels. At the same time, the association deals with regulatory issues at the provincial and national levels, including areas such as border crossings, taxation, safety, hours of service, the environment and the future of the industry.

The AMTA is developing an initiative that would improve the level of training required to make commercial driving a trade occupation, complete with training, testing and ongoing education. Alberta’s Minister of Transport Rick McIver has requested further meetings to develop standards for the Professional Driver designation. “The minister is committed to this effort, and we have put together a committee to complete the proposal. We’re working hard to set the standard of training for commercial drivers.”

H6;:IN8DB:H;>GHI “We are working hard to help people recognize how far the

“There was a time,” said Rosenau, “if you quit school, you could be a trucker or a farmer. That was the mentality back then. If you could drive a truck, away you went. But today, the courses are mind-boggling. There’s defensive driving, criminal

checks, drug and alcohol tests, WHMIS and more. Everything has changed today, and for the better.” But it is still a work in progress. “Truck drivers deserve to be recognized for the professionals they are,” he said. Increased training and a trade designation would go a long way toward that recognition.

9G>K>C<8=6C<:H Online driver training courses, onboard computers and more efficient communications are only a few of the ways technology has improved the trucking industry. “Even the trucks themselves have changed today,” said Rosenau, who has witnessed the industry’s evolution during his 45 years in the business. “The air that comes out of the stacks today is cleaner than the air that went in. The stainless steel stacks look like they just came out of the factory; they are so clean. NOx emissions have reduced 96 per cent on newer trucks. They also don’t smoke anymore, unless they’re older trucks.” Engine life is longer, reaching

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upwards of a million kilometres, and onboard computers monitor the whole operation just as they do in new passenger vehicles. Prices have gone up accordingly, with new rigs going for as much as $150,000. “We’re always striving to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Rosenau. “For instance, super single tires, using one wider tire instead of two, reduce rolling resistance, reducing fuel consumption. And there’s lots of technology in the tractor and the trailer that cuts down emissions and increases fuel economy.” The association is currently working with the ministry of transport to regulate the use of super-single tires according to weight limits and road restrictions. Highways are also made safer by technology that helps identify problem vehicles before accidents can happen. “We have worked in partnership with the government to find poor performers on the highway,” said Duckering. “As you pass the sign for the scale (on Alberta’s highways), you’ll see all kinds of cameras and sensors. Now they can tell by radar before the truck even comes up to the scale if it is likely to have a safety issue. Two sets of light standards with cameras all the way down monitor the truck from top to bottom as it approaches the scale. The inspectors’ job is to find the unsafe ones, and now they can find them easier. It’s our own commitment to safety.” Continued on E6...





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EDMON TON JOU R NA L edmontonjournal .com


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By Shari Narine lthough less than one per cent of the heavy trucks on the road run on natural gas, that number is growing by about 40 per cent annually.

“It’s very much an emerging market,” said Jonathan Burke, vice-president of global marketing for Westport Innovations, out of British Columbia, which provides natural gas fuel systems for trucks. There are good reasons why fleet operators are starting to make the jump to liquefied natural gas to operate their long-haul trucks. “They’re a significantly lower carbon footprint because natural gas is a significantly lower carbon fuel,” Burke said. In Canada, three per cent of the vehicles on the roadway are heavy trucks, but they consume about 20 per cent of the energy and are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas-fuelled heavy trucks cut those gas emissions by 25 per cent. And not only does natural gas make sense environmentally, it makes sense economically. “In the province of Alberta and throughout North America right now, natural gas prices are at an all-time low and it’s thanks to the abundance created by a lot of the unconventional resources that have been discovered and that are being exploited which has created basically an oversupply situation,” said Burke. Energy for energy, natural gas can be 30 to 40 per cent less expensive than diesel and petroleum. As well, natural gas prices don’t fluctuate with whatever is happening in the Middle East and other oil-producing areas. Technology has also lent to the increased use of natural gas. Existing engines may be converted to run on natural gas. As well, new engines are being designed from the ground up and are now available in trucks from all the major manufacturers in Canada and the United States. In North America right now, about 25 per cent of all transit buses are running on natural gas and this year, about half of all new garbage trucks are natural gas, says Burke. While existing vehicles can be retrofitted to use natural gas, Burke says that isn’t necessarily the way most fleets will choose to go. For one, it can be expensive with a retrofitted Class 8 transport truck hauling trailers between Calgary and Edmonton costing between $70,000 to $80,000 more than a diesel truck.

Some Canadian provinces and U.S. states are offering incentives for companies to switch their trucks to natural gas.

“In many cases to get the return in investment …you’re better off buying a new vehicle in which you can predict the life of it and by buying a new vehicle you get a complete warranty,” Burke said. While Alberta doesn’t have any incentives in place to hurry along the process of the switch over, both Quebec and B.C. do. In 2010, Quebec introduced accelerated capital cost allowance for liquefied natural gas trucks, while in B.C. there


are weight concessions (1,500 kilogram weight exemption) allowing trucks to be heavier if they run on liquefied natural gas. Many U.S. states offer incentives for the purchase of natural gas. There are two options for natural gas: liquefied and compressed. Liquefied natural gas or LNG is cooled to the point that it turns into a liquid while compressed natural gas (CNG) is gas compressed to a high pressure and squeezed into a bottle. It takes less space to store the same amount of energy if it’s LNG than if it’s CNG. Because of the storage issue, heavy haul trucks will be predominantly LNG, while local delivery vehicles will most likely use CNG. Westport Innovations began working with the University of B.C. in 1995 to develop unique technologies to allow big diesel engines to run on natural gas. Westport provides the fuel systems to companies so they can convert and manufacture trucks from new to run on natural gas. Westport also provides the fuel storage systems.

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nvironmental conservation for the trucking industry begins, quite literally, when the rubber hits the road. And it involves getting more out of less.

Michelin says since the X-1 was introduced in North America, 63 million gallons of gas have been saved, which represents 639,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

In 2001, Michelin introduced what the “new generation wide-base single truck tire,” which has since been produced by other tire manufacturers. The traditional dual tires, designed to take a heavier load than a single tire, was introduced in 1908. Today, thanks to advances in tire technology, a new generation wide-based tire does the same thing, but with a single tire, according to Francois Beauchamp, fuel engineering support manager for Michelin Tires.

So with all the benefits, why aren’t wide-base tires flying off the tire store shelves?

“It’s like converting your 18-wheeler to a 10wheeler,” Beauchamp explains. “On the one axle, instead of four tires, now you have two tires on your drive and your trailer.” How does cutting your number of tires in half have any impact on the environment? It begins with something called rolling resistance. Beauchamp says one-third of the fuel used in a truck is just to get your tires to roll. Studies show the wide-base tire — brand named the X-1 by Michelin — reduces rolling resistance by at least 12 per cent, which converts to about a four per cent fuel economy and a consequent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting the number of tires on a truck also results in a typical weight saving of about 700 pounds, says Beauchamp. That means the truck can now carry more weight, which ultimately results in the same amount of freight being transported by fewer trucks, again resulting in reductions in greenhouse gases. A report prepared in 2008 for the Ontario government concluded wide-base tires could result in savings of $85 million a year to the Ontario trucking industry, based on 50 per cent of trucks converting to wide-base tires.

It comes down to differences between the provinces. Only Quebec and Ontario allow trucks with wide-base tires to carry loads of 9,000 kilograms. But all other provinces legislate that wide-base tires can only carry lesser loads. That means truckers in Ontario and Quebec who travel across the country are staying with duals.

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“It’s just a matter of legislation,” Beauchamp explains. “Our new generation tire can carry the same load as a dual, but the laws of all the other provinces don’t allow parity with duals. It’s not because technically the tire can’t do it.” That means Michelin and trucking organizations are going province-to-province trying to get the bureaucracy to budge — and that could be the longest haul of all.

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By Alex Frazer-Harrison

usinesses may come and go and companies may downsize, but one thing remains constant – people will always need stuff transported from place to place. That’s why transportation continues to be one of the biggest employers in North America. “I’ve driven a million and a half miles. I don’t have a BlackBerry and I don’t have a suit – I’m a basic trucker,” says Bob Hill of Calgary-based Hill Bros. Expressways Ltd., and a director with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA). “My father owned a trucking company…at 10 years old, I started working on the dock and, at 12, started driving in the yard.” Hill says there’s a misconception that the transportation industry begins and ends with drivers. In fact, it is a very complex sector – not only do you need people (men and women) behind the wheel, but also, he says, “that goes along with dispatching and co-ordinating of people and equipment .… You’ve got pieces of equipment and persons driving it and a client and a destination, and you have to puzzle that together. “A business wants to move something, so they call a company like mine. There is a dispatcher and the dispatcher gets hold of the foreman or driver, a dock person unloads and reloads (the cargo), and, if the truck breaks down, you have to have mechanics. And then there’s purchasing – it is a diverse industry.” A 2009 report from Alberta Employment and Immigration predicted there will be 106,800 jobs in the transportation and warehousing industry by 2013, and the industry was forecast to provide two per cent of new jobs in Alberta between 2010 and 2013. The AMTA provides training opportunities, particularly in the area of enhancing driver and workplace safety, and provides on-site safety auditing for companies like Hill’s while “fostering a healthy, vibrant industry.” Hill says what’s kept his interest as a 33-year journeyman is that there’s always something new to learn. “The technology has changed over the last 30 years, and I have worked on these things my whole life,” he says. “But, believe it or not, 30 years ago, when I was driving and picking up freight in the city, I didn’t have a cellphone but still got as much done as we do today.” Hill says a challenge faced by his industry is the fact that trucking is not always recognized as a skilled profession; in fact, he says, he even started a petition to “try and convince the (federal) government to

recognize trucking as a skilled workforce.” Hill says AMTA’s biggest role is “is to encourage safety in the industry. You go there to get the training to be safer.” Courses offered cover topics from cargo securement to professional driver-improvement courses. The AMTA also works to promote transportation as a career choice through its Road Knights program, a team of experienced drivers that visits schools and job fairs to discuss life on the road and in the loading docks. “It’s a team of professional transport drivers with first-class driver’s licences and a truckload of information about the trucking industry and safety,” says program co-ordinator Rebecka Torn. “The AMTA assembles this team every two years and the drivers are nominated by the companies they work for. They are sent out to make presentations on how to safely share the road with trucks and careers in the industry, and how dependant we are on truck transportation.” Most people don’t realize there are many careers beyond truck driving, Torn says. “They see the truck and driver and assume that’s all there is … but there are many positions behind the scenes required to put a truck on the road: maintenance, IT, sales and marketing, a lot of high-tech with satellite tracking and GPS,” she says. “The Road Knights try to make people aware of the positions available.” Torn says there is a “severe shortage” of truck drivers right now, so the Road Knights visit schools and career-awareness events for adults, often with a tractor-trailer on hand to give kids and adults a firsthand look at the equipment and, hopefully, inspire future career choices along the way. “Road transportation competes with other industries, especially in Alberta with the oil and gas … the industry is looking for drivers, in particular, but other positions as well,” says Torn, adding the grey wave of retiring baby boomers is going to put pressure on the industry in the near future. “To keep the wheels moving in the next 10 years, we need to replace the men and women behind the wheel.” This also includes encouraging more women to enter the industry, not just as drivers, but also in the many other positions available, she says. For more information about the AMTA, including booking a Road Knights presentation, visit or call 1-800-267-1003.

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2011-2012 AMTA Road Knights Team (from left to right): Darwin Clark, Trimac Transportation (Edmonton); Rob Wells, Bison Transport (Calgary); Craig Gavel, Bison Transport (Edmonton) and Dennis Hokanson, Trimac Transportation (Edmonton).


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EDMON TON JOU R NA L edmontonjournal .com




T road.

By Shari Narine echnological advances over the last few decades have made the trucking industry safer and cleaner on the

“We have an industry full of innovators and they are constantly seeking more and better ways to do things for their companies and for their employees. They drive more efficiencies into their systems, I think is really what it boils down to and partnering with their industry suppliers,” said Geoff Wood, vice-president, operations and safety, for the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Technology has changed the way trucking companies carry out their business and those changes go all the way from the cab, with ergonomic seating and mini-refrigerators to electronic log books and fleet management stations to aerodynamics of the trucks and trailers. “Technical standards in Canada very closely mirror technical standards in the U.S. because a truck leaving Edmonton, and he’s going to Billings, Montana, or Los Angeles, the device in that truck needs to function in both Canada and the U.S,” Wood said. Like most businesses, the trucking industry is moving toward paperless record keeping and has introduced electronic logging devices for truckers. ELDs would take the place of paper logbooks that drivers are required by law to keep and in which

they record their hours of driving. Provincial guidelines specify the number of straight hours a driver can work and how much rest time is required within a specific time frame. ELDs account for every minute of a driver’s day.

Provinces, including Alberta, award companies that have good safety records by sending an electronic signal to a transponder on the truck which in turn triggers the green light at the weigh scale station, allowing the truck to proceed.

“The ultimate goal both in Canada and the United States is to move to an electronic world, where everybody who requires a log book now would be required to show compliance through electronic means going forward,” Wood said. He expects the government will have a technical standard in place for the ELD by mid-2013.

“It’s sort of Smart scale technology which allows government to focus their limited resources on the guys they really want to be talking to, and the guys they know are good … their business isn’t interrupted,” Wood said.

Studies indicate that ELDs reduce driver fatigue, allow drivers to focus on the road more fully, reduce driving violations, and increase drivingtime productivity.

New technology has also been applied to the design of trucks and trailers as well as to on-board safety.

“It’s all voluntary and people are putting them in their vehicles because they see a benefit,” Wood said. However, he does note that the roll stability system will probably become mandatory in 2016 in both Canada and the U.S. Aerodynamic technology on both the tractor and the trailer provides both fuel efficiency and environmental relief. Boat tails on the back of a trailer and side skirts below the trailer smooth the air flow out and improve gas consumption. Technological advances in tires, in particular low resistance, which comes in both wide single tires and the dual tire format, also improve fuel consumption.

There is a wide array of electronic devices available to record driving time, ranging from $300 for basic all the way up to $3,000. The higher-end cost, says Wood, would be an ELD application as part of a full fleet management system, and many companies in the long haul sector already operate an electronic fleet management system.

Technological advances in engines have also provided benefits for the trucking industry.

“(An ELD) clearly sets the ground rules for the shipping industry in terms of what they can ask their carriers to do,” Wood said. Another electronic advance is the truck inspection bypass program, which means not all trucks have to stop at weigh scale stations.

On-board electronics provide roll stability, collision avoidance, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. If a high rollover risk threshold is detected, sensors automatically activate the system to slow the vehicle down. A return to normal conditions means normal vehicle operation resumes. With collision prevention, forward-looking radar activates the system to apply the brakes.

Technology and higher standards are helping the trucking industry be more environmentally friendly, and healthier for the employees as well.

“Where we were and where we are now, essentially the trucks don’t produce any smog-causing pollutants. Very clean and it’s something the truck industry has been a leader in, certainly partnering with … some of the engine manufacturers, it’s been a process, but it’s really been a benefit

from an environmental perspective,” said Wood. Federal government regulations require engines manufactured as of January 2014 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks by up to 20 per cent and be three per cent more fuel efficient. “We’re doing our part for the environment. Because we’re more fuel efficient we’re producing less CO2 into the atmosphere a year sooner than regulation is requiring,” said Dale McDonald of Daimler, which operates Detroit (formerly Detroit Diesel Corp) and also owns Freightliner and Western Star trucking companies. McDonald says most engine and chassis manufacturers will be 2014 compliant by Jan. 1, 2013. Reducing GHG emissions is just one in a series of steps that government has legislated engine manufacturers to take. In 2007, all diesel engines in Canada and the United States had to reduce their particulate matter emissions, which meant after that date there was no more black soot coming from the exhaust stack. In 2010, it was the last level of carbon monoxide emissions. McDonald notes that every engine manufacturer is policed by the Environmental Protection Agency. “When they introduce a new engine with a new emissions level, the EPA actually sends their own people out to the engine plants and they verify that you’re certifying an engine to their regulations,” he said.


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When you’re hauling huge loads, you have to be aware of a long list of rules and requirements along your route, such as areas that don’t allow certain loads on the road during peak traffic times.

By Shari Narine ichard Warnock has no trouble giving credit where credit is due when it comes to extraordinary hauls. “I have to give credit from the industry standpoint that the driver plays a major part in the movement of these goods,” said Warnock, director with the Alberta Motor Transport Association. “The office can do the bridge surveys, your load supervisors can run the routes. We can do those kinds of things and we manage it as an industry, but the drivers, the workers out there, should get the credit for making it happen.” It’s no small feat moving an extraordinary load – anything over 100,000 pounds - whether it’s across the province, across the country, or into the United States. “It takes months of planning,” Warnock said, and involves getting permits. In Alberta, most extraordinary loads involve the oil and gas industry. The most common consist of pipe modules, which range in length from 80 feet to 100 feet, are 24 feet wide and 24 feet high. They can weigh anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 pounds. Many of these loads make the trek to Fort McMurray and the tarsands, and now some are heading to Cold Lake and northwestern Saskatchewan, where more oilsands development is occurring. High load corridors in Alberta, from Edmonton, Calgary, and Coutts (on the Canada/U.S. border) make movement easier. There are also high-load corridors in parts of British Columbia, but those don’t





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cater to as heavy loads as in Alberta. Power lines are buried all the way through the high-load corridor, which means easy passage for heavy loads. But these special corridors come at a fee, which transport companies pay to the Alberta government and then charge back to their clients. There are also heavy haul companies in the province that move 300,000- to 500,000-pound pieces to the Fort McMurray area. These hauls aren’t everyday occurrences and take months of planning, Warnock says. Oil companies own the trailers that transport these pieces of equipment. “Alberta is very superload friendly because of the tarsands,” he said. Warnock notes that 20 years ago, seeing oilsands equipment transported on the highway turned heads. Now, even the plant smoke stacks that look like rocket ships are a common sight. But moving extraordinary loads around other parts of country and into the US is not as easy. “In the U.S., the planning is astronomical,” Warnock said. The first step is a route survey, which involves driving the route with someone who knows the equipment and the constraints the driver will be facing. Transport companies usually hire professionals, who have either hauled similar loads before or who are well-trained, to drive and determine the route. There are route survey companies that provide this service as well. Special attention is paid to hills, sharp turns, and on and off highway ramps. When the route is determined, that route plan is submitted to every jurisdiction the truck will be hauling through, which means counties, municipalities and states. Every jurisdiction sends the route off for bridge study to ensure the bridge can handle the load weight and that the load can pass under the bridge girders. “If the route isn’t approved, you have to start again,” Warnock said. Usually 25 per cent of the initially surveyed routes need some portion of the route re-done. Complications may arise if road construction is planned for a route or if it’s parade day in the town or if the Christmas lights have already been strung from lamp post to lamp post. Often times highway signs need to be removed and traffic lights turned. To get that work done, the transport company may need to hire power crews, electric companies, telephone companies and cable TV companies to do work along the route. Another complication for moving an extraordinary load (and even some smaller-sized loads) is curfews imposed by municipalities, including cities in Alberta, which won’t allow transport through the city at peak traffic hours. What that means for a truck driver is rolling through one city at three or four in the morning and then waiting out at a parking area along the outskirts of the city with the pilot truck until he can pass through another city at off-traffic hours. A truck driver with the expertise to handle extraordinary loads, which also includes safety factors such as escort vehicles and load supervisors, is a valued asset to any heavy trucking company. “Companies grab (those drivers) up and keep them. We do our best to never let them leave. It takes a lot of years of experience to get to the level that these guys are,” Warnock said.

Ow ner Operators Drivers M echanics W elders W ash Rack Technicians


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6?D7A>@:CDDI=:G With highway safety on the rise and a growing standard of training for drivers, Duckering says itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important for the public to feel safe on the road. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As a commercial driver, you have a responsibility to the public when it comes to safety, fatigue, behaviour. Truckers need to treat themselves as professionals.â&#x20AC;? Alberta is the hub of the Canadian economy, he said, and that has increased the number of jobs in the industry. In the past, a company would put freight on a truck and then had to call the dispatcher to see where it was. Now thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s accomplished with a few clicks on a keyboard. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The technological infrastructure means an increased scope of jobs. Drivers make up about half of the overall staff in the industry, and that is significant when you look at the job pool and the opportunities in trucking.â&#x20AC;? Some industries are suffering because of technology, he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re starting to recognize that a lot of these people are wondering what they can do. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re opening our arms and saying â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;come on over.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; You can come to work clean, and go home clean at the end of the day.â&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a misconception that all truckers spend weeks on the road away from home. In fact, said Duckering, most of the people who do that are the ones that choose to do it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d say most of the people in this industry go home every night.â&#x20AC;? Many opportunities exist for employment in transportation, and not just for good drivers. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We need people who are committed to being professional at what they do,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A lot of training needs to happen. You need to start and work your way to the position you want. This year, in my company, we gave four awards for 25 years of service. Those guys have earned their wings.â&#x20AC;? Rosenau encourages people to look beyond the stereotypes. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to see more women in the industry, and he employs one couple that has a long-haul route to the U.S. and back. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They have no house payments, no car payments, and they make a lot of money. They said theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d give me five years, and then theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d fully retire. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been doing it for about a year now, and they love it.â&#x20AC;?

DCI=:GD69L>I=NDJ Like any other industry, trucking can be affected by a slow-down in the economy. Looking back now, Duckering recalls 2008 was a flagship year for his company. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We were busy, and then the economy crashed and it affected everybody. But the freight weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re moving now is more than 2008 by a long shot. There are positive things going on, but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m cautiously optimistic. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve heard other senior executives in this business say the same thing; weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re concerned, but weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re moving more freight than ever.â&#x20AC;? The AMTA motto is â&#x20AC;&#x153;On the Road With Youâ&#x20AC;? and the message is clear. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We want the roads to be safer for you,â&#x20AC;? said Duckering, â&#x20AC;&#x153;and you need to share them with us.â&#x20AC;? Everything moves by truck. Goods that travel by air or rail make it only as far as the terminal. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think of anything you have that didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come by truck. Your cellphone can go wireless, but the tangible things still have to be delivered. You order online, but it gets to your door by truck.â&#x20AC;?


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9g^k^c\VigjX`]VhcZkZg WZZcbdgZhV[Zdg Xdb[dgiVWaZ Hokanson spent a chilly day in Claresholm, Alta., speaking to high school students about career opportunities in the trucking industry.

By Rebecca Dika

Photos courtesy Dennis Hokanson


raction control. Advanced braking systems. Sensors that alert the driver of imminent icy conditions, following too close or objects in their way of a turn. Theses are some of the amenities offered in the semi trucks rolling off the assembly line these days. In fact, 32 of todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s trucks produce less negative emissions than one 1979 Western Star, says senior driver Dennis Hokanson. Dennis wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always a professional driver. He started working in various jobs, and he and his wife owned a small business before deciding they wanted to try something else. Around 1994, he began to explore transport driving as a new career path. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My dad had been in the industry for many years, so I took a good look and saw that ultimately it was a career for which there would always be a need and would pay well,â&#x20AC;? remembers Hokanson.

After completing a Cameron Driving Education course in Edmonton, he secured his Class 1 licence with an Airbrake Endorsement and he was off, pardon the pun. He took his first gig in 1995 with a company out of Winnipeg, hauling refrigerated vans across the continent. It was about eight months later that an opportunity came up that allowed him to be home more. He started working for a company that had a branch in Edmonton and was thus home almost every night. A year and a half later, he and his wife Debbie decided to go into business for themselves and bought their first truck, a 1979 Western Star. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was a struggle at first, but definitely an experience a lot of people would enjoy,â&#x20AC;? says Hokanson. The couple hired on with Points North Transportation, making runs from Edmonton to Vancouver to Whitehorse, Edmonton to Whitehorse and back. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The outstanding scenery was the biggest perk,â&#x20AC;? recalls Hokanson. Two years into their business, the

Hokansons bought a newer truck and went to work for Penn Pacific, an Idaho company, hauling produce for Safeway in weekly trips from California to Edmonton. Around that time Debbie decided to hang up her Class 1 career and devote her time to grandchildren and rehabilitating racetrack horses for new careers. The couple presently have six horses of their own on about 40 acres. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My wife likes to say weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re semiretired. I drive the semi and sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s retired,â&#x20AC;? says Hokanson with a laugh. After 10 years, Hokanson decided to make another change, one that has him closer to home again. He left the self-employment field and accepted a position as a company driver for Trimac. Though his employers have changed faces over the years, one thing that has grown and deepened through Hokansonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 17-year career is his belief in the industry. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The evolution of improvements in technology and safety have been huge,â&#x20AC;? he says. When he started as a driver, the industry mindset was very much, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the load, get it there as soon as you can get there.â&#x20AC;? Now the industry has realized itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interest to put safety first. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so much more care for the driver, hours of service and maintenance of equipment, says Hokanson.

Hokanson gives a presentation at the Lions Club in Chestermere, Alta.

Take the electronic onboard recorders todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s semis are outfitted with. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a combination of an electric logbook that records hours of service directly as they

happen, explains Hokanson. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As I pull into this rest stop and set the brakes, the recorder puts me on â&#x20AC;&#x153;on dutyâ&#x20AC;? status not â&#x20AC;&#x153;drivingâ&#x20AC;? status. As soon as I release the brakes, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m back on â&#x20AC;&#x153;drivingâ&#x20AC;? status. You canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t change it. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no cause for a driver to be pushing himself and become overtired. The recorder also sends information to dispatch on speed, if a truck is cornering or breaking too quickly, or decelerating too fast.â&#x20AC;? The long-haul isolation factor has been significantly reduced too. Hokanson says trucks are equipped with Internet access and sleepers offer builtin TVs with satellite reception. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It used to be you might talk with your wife and family a couple times a week if you were on long haul,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Now with social media sites like Facebook, you can keep in touch.â&#x20AC;? Still, like a farmer, you just need to get a trucker to talk about the good old days and heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in his element. Hokansonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no different â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our first truck, a 1979 Western Star, didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have air-conditioning,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My wife and I were running to Vancouver from Whitehorse and it was 35 to 40 degrees out. She was sitting there pouring water over herself to cool down through the pass.â&#x20AC;? A fellow trucker was leading the way and he decided to stop to get something to eat. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When we pulled into the parking lot, there he was, running across the lot with three ice-cream cones.â&#x20AC;? Lots of memories have been made along the way. He recalls hearing

another trucker friend tell the story about parking on Summit Mountain on his way to Whitehorse. Overcome with the majestic scenery before him, he decided to pull over and get a picture. While he was doing that, behind his back, his truck â&#x20AC;&#x201C; safely parked and braked â&#x20AC;&#x201C; was slowly sliding over the hill on the freezing rain that had accumulated. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was pretty funny to everyone else but not so much for him, as it cost $8,000 for a tow.â&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the people you meet along the way that are part of the most fond memories and stories. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One trucker I met was a microbiologist,â&#x20AC;? Hokanson recalls. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He had his degree, worked in the field for awhile, decided it was driving truck that he enjoyed.â&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lifestyle, he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not for everybody, but the wages are phenomenal and its never been safer or more comfortable to be driving.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The AMTA Road Knights, an organization I was selected for is a group of â&#x20AC;&#x153;professionalâ&#x20AC;? drivers who like to shed light on the industry as a whole,â&#x20AC;? says Hokanson. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are going into elementary and high schools, rotary clubs, career fairs ad such talking about the importance of sharing the road and career opportunities. Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s trucking industry offers a wide scope of careers, including dispatch, accounting, mechanics and so much more. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not just the truck and driver,â&#x20AC;? says Hokanson. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a team of dedicated personnel who work together to move goods around, in and out of our province.




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