I think it’s a darn shame that MacKinnon is going through financial straits and has let go the van division. The flag hasn’t fallen since it’s regrouping and concentrating on its speciality flat deck operations, but the shock still reverberates. This company is an industry stalwart with tremendous loyalty among its employees and partners.
I struck out to find some former drivers and ask them how they felt about the change. My first target was a veteran trucker, a walrus-like fellow, dropping a trailer in the Puro yard in Rexdale. He explained he was working for a broker and had a steady Quebec run. He was succinct enough about the takeover by Contrans. “It doesn’t matter to me. As long as I can keep working until I retire. I’m sixty-two and I’ve only got a few years left. The only difference is I’ve now got an on-board computers now and the yard is just up the road from the old one.” (I didn’t have the heart to mention that the Harper government is looking at making us work until we’re 67–it would destroy him).
I next pulled up beside a newly-minted Laidlaw broker at the dock waiting for a Montreal load. I didn’t get his name but he was friendly enough, and told me he’d been with MacKinnon for 19 years. “We’re all just waiting to see what’s going to happen. So far it’s been OK. Actually the pay is a little better by two cents a mile. And the fuel surcharge is a little better too.” Was he surprised by the NOI? “Completely, had no idea this was going to happen. But I’m happy as long as I can keep doing my run.”
But not everybody stuck around. Joe Tavares took his seven trucks and went over to Scott Lynn Transport out of Simcoe, Ont. I talked to him on cellphone while he was loading in Quebec. “The first couple of weeks were a little rough. But everybody’s working now. I’m not interested in that short stuff, most of my guys want to run long. My guys are happy, they’re busy now running California and Vancouver.”
Did he have any idea this was going to happen? “I’ll tell you, two weeks before we had a safety meeting and there was no mention of anything. We got the message over the satellite. But this didn’t happen overnight.”
What about the hold backs on the seven trucks, any hope of recuperating that money? “Evan (MacKinnon) told me that he might be able to give me something in March. I don’t know what it will be, 10 maybe 12 cents on the dollar.” There’s also money Joe put into a maintenance fund, about $9,000, he says. “That money is gone, too.”
But is he daunted by this set back? “No way. I’m a fighter,” he says. “I’m back in business.”
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs