Know Your Associations
Voices for land, sea, and sky transportation
By Alexandra Kay
ClaudineVM | iStock

n the roads, over the water, and in the air, businesses compete to provide the best transportation services to customers across Alaska. Where these rivals have common interests, though, they can set aside competition and unite for the improvement of all. The Alaska Trucking Association, the Alaska Air Carriers Association, and the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators represent members who move products where they need to be.

Alaska Trucking Association
“Even when fuel comes in by barge and it’s got to get to remote villages, a truck still has to get it to the airport,” says Joe Michel, executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association (ATA). “If you got it, a truck brought it. That’s important for Alaskans to know.”

The ATA has been working “to foster and promote the interests of the trucking industry in Alaska” for more than sixty years, according to its mission statement. The association carries out that mission in five key ways.

“In Alaska, it’s the ATA’s stance that money for a bike path gets bikes where they need to go and not in the roads. We encourage bike and walking paths for safety.”
Joe Michel
Executive Director, Alaska Trucking Association
Positively influencing government and regulatory agencies. “We work hard with state and federal regulators to educate them on the logistics of trucking in Alaska,” says Michel. “We maintain cordial relationships with our regulators. They know exactly who to call to make sure everyone is being a good steward of our transportation infrastructure.”

One of the association’s current goals is the addition of multicolored delineators (reflective strips) on the Dalton Highway. “Truckers could stay within those colors and stay safe while they’re driving up north,” says Michel. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is overseeing the testing and installation, based on feedback from the trucking community.

Another issue the association has worked on involved an exemption to a February 2022 set of criteria for licensing commercial drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented a requirement for merging onto a highway at 60 miles per hour that doesn’t apply to rural drivers in Alaska, so the ATA worked to get those drivers a two-year exemption while it continues to look further into how to get rid of the requirement for drivers to whom it does not apply.

Promoting highway and driver safety. What’s good for truckers is often good for everyone else sharing the road. Thus, the ATA advocated that state funds be used for the creation of bike and walking paths. “In Alaska, it’s the ATA’s stance that money for a bike path gets bikes where they need to go and not in the roads. We encourage bike and walking paths for safety,” says Michel.

The association is also advocating for infrastructure and speaking to legislators about the need for road maintenance funds. “Without good road maintenance, it becomes a hazard for the women and men who are trying to get stuff to the people who need it,” says Michel.

Assisting member companies in managing change. When regulations are updated, the ATA works with its members to institute changes with as little disruption to companies and drivers as possible. Additionally, the association maintains a member page that offers resources and links on a number of topics, including US Department of Transportation registration numbers, obtaining permits, weight restrictions, help with Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) tasks, and more.

Positively promoting the industry image. Each year the association promotes the trucking industry by holding a truck championship where 100 drivers compete in different types of trucks and run a course. “It’s always fun to celebrate truck drivers,” says Michel. “And we have a safety fair at the championship as well.”

Providing education through seminars and conferences. The association is dedicated to getting the word out about careers in trucking and to providing general education about the industry itself. The ATA visits elementary schools and hands out Safety Bears while educating young children about trucks and trucking. It also has a Teens and Trucks program, which teaches young drivers how to be safe with trucks on the roads. This includes educating them on trucker blind spots and stopping times.

“We take anyone involved in commercial aviation and we bring them to a consensus; we say this change would have this impact on our community and it would have this impact on the people we serve, and this is what we would like to request.”
Will Day
Executive Director
Alaska Air Carriers Association
Alaska Air Carriers Association
Where trucks can’t roll, much of Alaska’s needs are met by aviation. The Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA) represents that sector in matters of advocacy, cooperation, and education.

“We just experienced a leadership change,” says Executive Director Will Day. “Our prior executive director retired last fall, and I stepped into that role.”

At the same time, the association has been recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and recently had its convention in person again for the first time since 2019. “We were really excited to bring a large number of stakeholders into Anchorage,” Day says. “That’s the activity we are most proud of because it indicates the industry’s commitment to growing in the wake of the pandemic.”

The annual trade show and convention was held in March. AACA also advances its mission year-round.

Advocacy. AACA works to promote the passage of good federal and state regulations that affect the association’s membership. At the same time, it challenges any regulations that it determines would hurt its members’ business or threaten safe operations.

One recent issue that would affect Alaska air carriers is the push to remove lead from aviation fuel. Day would, for example, work with the Federal Aviation Administration to inform the agency how Alaska operations are different from those in the rest of the country. “So many of our aircraft in Alaska run on piston-driven engines which require [leaded] fuel,” he says. “That’s not something people in other states really have to deal with, so I work with them to explain what type of impact that would have on our operations which drive so much of the Alaskan air business.”

Cooperation and education. As an advocacy organization, the AACA’s membership comprises operators and other aviation stakeholders. “Our role is to provide a unified voice,” says Day, who says his job is to notify the association’s membership of any statewide or regulatory issues he comes across.

The association then conducts surveys and lets its membership know how any upcoming changes might affect them. “Then we take their comments and unify them and present them to whichever body is proposing the change,” says Day. “We take anyone involved in commercial aviation and we bring them to a consensus; we say this change would have this impact on our community and it would have this impact on the people we serve, and this is what we would like to request. We do our best to work with the involved stakeholders.”

Growth. The industry took a bit of a hit in terms of membership during the pandemic and is actively working on regrowing its membership. “So many of our operators were negatively impacted and had to disconnect from our association, whether it was financially or simply not being available to answer us,” says Day. “So we are rebuilding our membership and talking to carriers and exposing them to what we do.”

According to Day, the AACA is involved in a one-to-three-year period of growth. “Currently much of our trajectory is based upon building a strong foundation we can leverage to have a stronger voice in those decision-making moments,” he says.

“We saw [the Alaska Clean Harbors program] as a grassroots effort towards improving environmental stewardship for the water and the harbors, and if it’s consistent statewide, they know what to expect.”
Bryan Hawkins
Alaska Association of Harbormasters
and Port Administrators
Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators
With marine transportation, the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators (AAHPA) plays a vital role. Recently AAHPA advocated for House Bill 19, which is an exemption for commercial fishing vessels from needing to register with the state DMV if they are already registered with the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. It had not completed committee hearings, as the legislative session was winding down.

Some of the areas in which the association works include environmental stewardship, ports and harbors stewardship, and education.

Environmental stewardship. AAHPA is the sponsor/host organization for the Alaska Clean Harbors program, which it’s been promoting for more than a decade. The program facilitates best practices for harbors, such as how to handle used batteries, waste oil, garbage, and other waste that comes off vessels. It also advocates for how harbors are used. “Bringing that into focus has been a priority for us,” says Bryan Hawkins, AAHPA president and harbormaster and port director for the City of Homer. “We saw it as a grassroots effort towards improving environmental stewardship for the water and the harbors, and if it’s consistent statewide, they know what to expect.”

The program was adopted from the Clean Marinas program in the Lower 48, which started on the East Coast before moving to the West Coast. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and US Coast Guard wanted to implement it in Alaska, says Hawkins. Homer was the test inlet and therefore the first clean harbor in the state.

Ports and harbors stewardship. In the late ‘90s, Alaska’s ports and harbors were in relatively bad shape, according to Hawkins. At that time, the state deeded them to the various cities based on location, and those cities became responsible for upkeep. For instance, Homer Port & Harbor was deeded to the City of Homer for $1, and similar sales happened across the state.

Because of the tremendous amount of maintenance needed, AAHPA worked with DOT&PF to develop a grant program that provides a 50/50 match. To apply for a grant, communities put up 50 percent of the total amount, and there is a $5 million maximum payout. Applying communities also need complete plans for construction, as well as a maintenance program with long-term funding, “recognizing that these facilities have to be managed in a way that has to be sustainable,” says Hawkins. “So what is your plan for when that float system wears out in thirty or forty years? The state won’t be there for you, then, is basically the message.” Hawkins points out that AAHPA has helped recognize these management challenges, and the association advocates for funding every year.

Education. The association has a scholarship program that it funds through several avenues, including a raffle at its annual conference in the fall, as well as direct contributions from more than sixty member organizations. This year AAHPA has three $2,500 scholarships for students pursuing any maritime-related degree and one $5,000 award for a student pursuing a science, technology, engineering, and math-related degree.

“We’ve been doing this for about eight years now,” says Hawkins. “It’s been really rewarding to be involved with that and get applications from the Alaska students and realize there’s an awesome generation applying.”