Rolling protests are not the answer

As I write this, hundreds of dump truck operators are planning rolling protests throughout the GTA. They plan to slow down traffic on well-travelled routes to bring attention to their concerns: stagnant rates; dangerous working conditions; and escalating costs.
While I can certainly empathize with their plight, members of the Ontario Dump Truck Association are making a terrible mistake.
According to the drivers, they are routinely overloaded and given no opportunity to resist, as they are not allowed to exit their cab while being loaded. Those who do protest are banned from the work site, dump truck operators say. They are worked long hours at rates that haven’t changed in five years, despite surging fuel costs. They say they’re subjected to “inhumane” working conditions, according to an article in the Toronto Star. However, all these issues are business issues, which need to be resolved with their employers.
They will not find the motoring public to be very sympathetic if they choose to cause major traffic disruptions. These drivers are already walking a very fine line with the public, which has villainized them in recent months following some high-profile accidents involving unsafe dump trucks.
If you really want to get the public’s support, don’t cause them to be late for work, or their doctor’s appointment, or getting home to their family. What does this accomplish? If you really want to get them on-board, then it’s important to educate them through other means. Let them know that the practices of the companies you’re working for are putting them and their families at risk. There are ways to raise awareness without inconveniencing thousands of people who aren’t to blame for your problems.
And in the meantime, take these issues up with your employers. I would suspect there have been attempts to do this already, but I find it unlikely that all avenues have been pursued. There’s strength in numbers, and this group seems to have some pretty impressive numbers. The Star reported more than 400 trucks congregated in a Mississauga parking lot on Wednesday to talk strategy. If all of those trucks remained parked for a day, or a week, or a month, how long would it take before the companies that rely on their services have to revisit some of their policies? (And think of the fuel you’d save, not having to motor slowly along the 400-series highways).
I’m very hopeful this planned protest is called off. Not because I fear being inconvenienced myself, but because I think dump truck operators will do their cause irreparable harm if they follow through with it. It is a cause worth fighting for, but the battle plan is flawed.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • You are absolutly correct about this being a bad idea. That last sentance in the star article says ” If the public is with us it makes all the difference”.
    Why would I give a dam about a private contract arrangement ?? Why can’t these people fight thier own battles without messing up the roads of the GTA ?? What right do they have to protest over a private contract arrangement ?? Does this mean ( as an example) if some auto workers feel hard done by with their current contract that they should be able to disrupt the transportation corridors of the GTA ??
    Same old B.S., everyone wants someone else to fight their battles. Hint ,,,, if these people want to get better conditions then they should withhold their services from all sites where their trucks are needed. Trouble is that I am sure most of these people would not participate. After all the Star article says that of the 400 trucks in the lot on Dixie Rd. only 150 would participate in the protest. This does not sound like solidarity to me.
    On the other hand if all the truckers in Ontario decided to block the major routes to protest fuel prices I would be the first one to support them. Here in Canada we have no energy security policy which means big US oil can run all over us. This is because NAFTA specifically states that the Government cannot implement policies that interfere with the normal functioning of energy markets in North America. So how about a protest to renegotiate NAFTA to get OUR oil prices down? After all we Canadians own the stuff so why should we pay world price for it ??

  • It seems to me that the aggregate hauling business runs about as smart as the rest of the trucking industry these days. Hauling gravel is all about big motors and even bigger fuel bills as running at a common sense speed would mean losing that extra paying load in a day…which was blown up the stack anyways. We are all feeling the pain of high fuel costs but for some reason gravel haulers are smarter than the rest of the industry and decide to “protest”. To who would listen to their painfull plight I do not know as fuel prices are determined abroad and removing fuel taxes would be just stupid. Fact is dump truck operators are responsible for their lack of profitability as they will undercut a competitor quicker than a starving freight hauler begging for a decent rate from a “load pimp”.
    High fuel costs are here to stay folks. The public will pay more for their products whether the trucking companies run themselves into the ground or not. Anybody who starts up a truck that is worth tens of thousands of dollars and drinks up to $600 a day in fuel plus wear and tear costs and isn’t sure they are making money is an absolute fool. There are lots of fools it appears. Too many trucks and not enough loads….or brains.