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Transborder Trends

The security and the flow of goods across the border, talent management, and the impact that transportation companies have on the environment, are issues that affect all companies in the transportation industry. Some of these issues extend beyond transportation and courier companies - they're affecting companies in all sectors across Canada and the U.S.

by Robert C. Johnson

Trade and Border Security

Trade and border security are important issues for every cross-border transportation company, as they are for their customers.

Imperative to the growth in our cross-border business, and for all industries interested in securing U.S. business, are secure borders that enable cross-border shipments without delay. This means key contacts in governmental departments and partnerships in programs such as Partners in Protection (P.I.P), Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Free and Secure Trade (F.A.S.T), to improve the security for commercial cargo transportation.

The goal is to have harmonized regulations between the two countries, which are clearly enunciated, responsive to the efficient flow of goods and with a sufficient lead time to make the appropriate adjustments.

Facilitating and advocating for the efficient flow of goods across the border is valued by industry partners and customers. While it's important to recognize that it is a key part of where the transportation business is going, it's also essential to understand the role that employees play in making it happen.

Talent Management

If employment trends continue, Canada will face a labour shortage of about one million workers by the year 2020. This smaller labour pool will lead to increased competition for talent. This will impact all sectors, and the transportation industry is no exception. it will become increasingly difficult for companies in Canada to attract and retain top talent.

Although the projected labour shortage is not expected for another 15 years, companies are already finding it difficult to attract and retain labour in certain parts of the country. Western Canada, particularly British Columbia and Alberta, have an extremely competitive labour market and some companies can't keep enough employees to run their businesses.

We are working with provincial governments in western Canada to determine what can be done to ease this critical labour shortage, and we have developed a plan to address future labour shortages and competition for talent so that we can maintain our long-term competitiveness. This includes a sharp focus on talent management.

We have identified the segments of our workforce that drive current and future growth and from there, have been focusing on the things that employees care about the most, developing employees in ways that stretch their capabilities, and making sure they're working in areas that engage their heads and hearts while also keeping them within the organization. By focusing on these things, we are making sure we have the right people in the right jobs to fulfill their business potential.

Strong leadership is also critical in order to continue developing employees to ensure that business challenges can be met. To make sure this happens, we have created a three-pronged approach to management and leadership development.

The first part of our program is Front Runner, which is targeted at professional-level employees who are interested in developing the skills required to move into a management role. What makes Front Runner exceptional is its direct link to our business. Management skills are taught in the context of our business realities. This allows graduates to make an immediate contribution to the company based on what they have learned.

The second component of our development program is Top Gun, which is designed to further enhance the management and leadership skills of our District Managers. This program uses distance-based learning and with an electronic delivery model.

The third piece is the Leadership Development program, which has been built in partnership with the Toronto-based Schulich School of Business. One of the key priorities of this program is to accelerate the development of members of our leadership team and high-performing managers. The Leadership Development program is the first program of its kind in the courier industry in Canada.

Environmental Commitment

One of the most exciting areas where we are having an impact on the transportation industry is in the area of the environment.

After analyzing the environmental impacts of its operations and services, we identified fleet fuel usage and vehicle air emissions as the best way to reduce its environmental footprint and to realize its vision to lead the industry to a future standard of zero emissions.

In keeping with a commitment to the environment, we introduced 10 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) in May 2005. We are proud to be the first Canadian courier company to begin the transition to hybrid electric vehicles in its fleet and excited to deploy an additional 20 HEVs to other metropolitan areas throughout Canada.

This past spring, we also introduced a fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle (FC-HEV), as well as one of the first complete hydrogen fuel cell applications in a Canadian fleet environment. This includes everything from hydrogen generation and refuelling to the power module.

Since deploying the HEVs we have already accumulated more than 30,000 kilometres of in-service mileage with the curb-side delivery vans. The HEVs have proven capable of eliminating up to 50 per cent of greenhouse gasses currently emitted by conventional gasoline/diesel delivery vehicles, and significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Reduction of fossil fuel use is averaging about 50 per cent and, as the latest fuel prices have shown, the volatility of future fuel prices make this more and more attractive.

We also recently announced our commitment to order an additional 115 HEVs from Azure Dynamics Corporation, the largest order of its kind in the delivery industry. These are being integrated into our fleet in major urban centres in Canada, and deliveries of the first vehicles began in 2006.

Introducing HEVs to this fleet of curb-side vehicles is a monumental step in our environmental vision to operate an entire fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles.

Given the millions of kilometers our vehicles cover each year filling customer orders, this bold and industry-leading initiative will cut dependency on fossil fuel, reduce pollutants and make a significant difference to urban areas where air pollution is a serious issue.

We encourage all companies in the transportation industry to introduce the same or similar initiatives to their own organizations. The vehicles today have a greater capital cost than conventional gas-powered vehicles. However, the greater the demand, the lower the unit costs will become as production achieves economies of scale.