Vern Janz

May 2015

Q&A with the CCMTA Chairman

Vern Janz is the director of transport services for the Yukon Territory Department of Highways and Public Works, and since May of 2014 he also serves as Chairman of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA). MOVE spoke with Janz about how he got his start in transportation, his position as CCMTA Chairman and more.

How did you get started in the transportation industry?

I came out of the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Commerce and a major in transportation and logistics. My first job out of school was in middle management as a cost analyst for a line-haul trucking company that at the time, in 1990, hauled for the largest lead-zinc mine in the world.

So what drew you to transportation?

It’s tangible, it affects everyone and the public can easily see the worth of the work. It’s all contributing to social welfare, and the public benefits through good work in transportation.

From starting out as a cost analyst, how did you end up where you are now?

I worked for 2½ years in the private sector, and after that I transitioned into government as a transportation analyst. The work I did in that role was functional planning for transportation improvement projects, asset management and a bit of geometrics. I did that for five years.

I then relocated to Alberta where I worked for the government in developing highway policy. My major responsibility there was improving transportation efficiencies along the CANAMEX corridor [trade route of highways linking Canada and Mexico]. After that, we came back to Whitehorse [in Yukon, Canada], and I was a transportation analyst again for another five years before I transitioned into this job as director, about nine years ago. With this job came the responsibility of being a board member on CCMTA.

What are some of the activities you’re involved in as the director of transport services?

Obviously, we do motor vehicles administration, licensing and registration.

In addition, I have all of the responsibility for commerce vehicle enforcement for the territory. For road safety, we do social marketing to try and improve the driving behavior of the general public.

Are there any important trends or issues you’re seeing in your jurisdiction right now?

As a border jurisdiction, we have a strong relationship with Alaska, particularly on the commercial vehicle front. Improving our transportation efficiencies through there is important, and border issues always play a part in keeping the goods moving.

We have a large proportion of U.S. travelers on a good part of our network. Upwards of three-quarters of our traffic on some sections of our highways are actually Americans. Most are on their way to mainland Alaska, toward Anchorage and Fairbanks. So we recognize the importance of that relationship in improving the travel experience for everyone—commercial vehicles as well as tourist traffic.

What were some of your goals coming in as Chairman of the CCMTA in May 2014?

We want to continue to build a strong relationship with AAMVA. Anne Ferro has been a friend of mine for many years, and I was really pleased that the board selected her [as president and CEO last July]. As well, we want to continue to build on our relationship with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and improve the safety and security of the goods crossing between the countries.

What do you see as the future of transport, in particular as it relates to the Yukon Territory and the U.S. and Canada border?

As a border jurisdiction, pre-clearance and increasing the clearance zones between Canada and the U.S. will probably affect us. There’s also a lot of talk going on about autonomous vehicles, and AAMVA’s working group will definitely help guide us on how to address those going forward.

Driver fitness will be an increasing issue, particularly around an aging population and with medical interactions. We have to ask: How do we fully assess a driver for fitness to drive while keeping in mind his or her personal mobility and freedoms, and balancing those with safety concerns?

What do you like to do for fun?

I like to golf, play baseball, hunt and work on cars. I’ve said a few times, if I couldn’t get paid for playing golf, I’d love to get paid for playing ball. I play softball now, but I’ve been playing [baseball or softball] since I was 6 years old. I like that it’s a collective effort, but the difficulty is what I really enjoy about it: trying to hit that small of a ball moving that fast. The coordination and strength ballplayers show nowadays is incredible.