Truck drivers lack a united voice for lobbying

Drivers are a little hard to understand in one key respect, and I say that after having spent more than 40 fulfilling years in their company: they won’t organize themselves into an effective lobbying group. Or is it that they simply can’t?

Maybe it’s just an impossible dream.

There are most certainly reasons why they should exhibit solidarity in an effort to improve their lot in life, especially the over-the-road contingent. The issue that springs first to my mind is the lack of truck parking facilities almost everywhere you look. What a drain on efficiency that represents. What an awful source of frustration.

tired truck driver
(Photo: istock)

That’s bad enough on its own, but now combine it with idiotic Hours-of-Service rules and the straitjacket of electronic logging devices. I don’t mean, by the way, that HOS measures are inherently stupid, rather that the ones we have effectively exclude those that don’t live with ordinary sleep patterns and deny them adequate rest. They also don’t fit some types of trucking. Trucking, after all, is not a precise art. ELDs just make things worse, and penalize drivers who need to waste an hour trying to find a safe place to park. Or shut down early when they’re lucky enough to find one.

It’s an utterly ridiculous situation. What did regulators think when they tightened the HOS screws, that they could just leave drivers out in the wind – or more literally on the side of the road — while things sorted themselves out? I think that’s exactly what happened.

The problem is simply stated: take an inability to park the truck and mix it with an unforgiving electronic cop and what do you get? High blood pressure and wasted time. That said, lots of folks do like ELDs because they can take dispatch out of the mix – if you also take parking out of the equation.

If ever there was an issue that demanded solidarity amongst drivers, you’d think the parking schmozzle would be it. We hear the moaning and groaning, for sure, but the reaction overall seems to be simple resignation.

But this isn’t about specific issues. I’m writing about the driver’s apparent unwillingness to organize so as to influence government policy.

Over the years there have been quite a few efforts to build driver and/or owner-operator associations but none of them has truly worked. Some of them aimed for quasi-union status but mostly they just aimed at gaining a seat at the decision-making table. Without a lot of success, even though regulators actively want input from the steering-wheel crowd. Or at least they say as much.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, an 80-year-old body made up mostly of provincial and territorial government officials, along with federal representation, is one venue where individual truckers and small fleets could theoretically be heard. The CCMTA does not involve politicians, I hasten to add, nor does the organization include trucking associations – contrary to what many people seem to think. It is not an offshoot of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Anyone can attend their meetings. Its broad responsibility is to engineer the control of motor vehicle transportation and highway safety.

I know drivers, owner-operators, and small-fleet owners who have invested time in the CCMTA’s HOS and then ELD deliberations. By and large, with jobs to do and mouths to feed, they couldn’t sustain their presence at such meetings. And others who did make their voices heard seem to have been dismissed. Just the other day I read comments from a western cattle-hauler who couldn’t convince CCMTA delegates that HOS rules as presently constructed don’t offer anything like the flexibility he needed. He quit the business as a result and is now pulling tanks.

The only thing that might conceivably change that kind of response is a strong and unified voice – and crucially, a charismatic leader. We don’t have either on a national or provincial scale and probably never will.

A week before I wrote this, I asked an old-school driver friend of mine why that’s the case.

“We’re not looking at the bigger picture of the power we have as an industry,” he said. “We as an essential industry need to influence any type of government decisions and or plans. The parking situation is ridiculous.

“Everyone is scared to lose their job… No one is going to take the first move and organize. Unfortunately it’s an all-about-me attitude today. Back in the day we helped each other, but with today’s drivers they aren’t interested in the industry, it’s become just a job, and not a lifestyle.”

It may be a little more complex than that, but I believe my friend is on the money. At the heart of it all, I fear, is something I’ll call the ‘little guy complex’. Drivers see themselves in a poor light, at the bottom of the ladder and powerless to change anything. They’re also inherently independent. Altering those mindsets wouldn’t be easy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this.

 

 

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.


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  • Government “reregulation” killed this industry. Back in the late 80′ s when they allowed licensing and rating systems to change it was the beginning of the end. Look at how many carriers just quit. GTL was the biggest. Up and closed their doors. How many carriers are left from 1988.
    The CTA, OTA, provincial and federal governments have always wanted a unified industry.
    But at who’s cost? Those doing the work have paid a heavy price. A few bureaucrats and company owners keep pushing their agendas in the name of safety, without any input or care about the drivers perspective.
    Top that off with brokerage firms who have zero stake other than profits and the price of a phone line invested selling freight 3 and 4 or more times online for the same load just to move it.
    Mechanically, truck design is the worst it’s ever been. Absolute garbage
    Everybody has a vested interest except the drivers who do the work. Everybody gets paid before the driver and it is scraps at best.
    Even the publishers only publish based on sell ability.
    Nobody asks drivers because nobody cares.

  • Organizing drivers is like herding cats. There is no other professional group in this country that means more to the economy. Properly organized people have a voice. A few thousand individuals don’t get a say. There are many issues to deal with. All of them are important.

  • I had a lot of support when I was camped out at Queen’s park from Jan 24 to March 17 of 2020. The Ford gov and the previous lib gov in Ontario did not stand up for truck drivers. Large players spend a lot of money to make sure that truck drivers do not organize and bring in large numbers of foreign workers. The Federal gov in 2006 said what makes trucking safe for the truck drivers and the public
    The numbers of truck drivers sick and injured in Ontario is very large and a result of lack of medical care and proper places to soak feet with E- logs. If truck drivers were paid a good wage plus overtime and had safe parking with able to soak feet and proper food . We would not need to bring in foreign people to drive trucks.

  • Rolf, I have taken the time to speak up. 2 years ago I raised my voice when Saskatchewan was closing rest areas. I sat on an advisor panel along with MLA David Buckingham (David drove truck for 37 years), Susan Ewart from Saskatchewan Trucking Association and Doug Siemens from Siemens Transportation Group. We managed to get a promise from the highway ministry to build 3 new large scale truck rest area’s at Cummings (on the #1 just over the border from Walsh Alberta), one at Moosimin and one at Alsask. They also committed to include the building of pullouts and sways across the province. We all left feeling really good but 2 years later nothing has happened. Call me and I’ll give you more detail

    • I know what you say is right. Small trucking companies and drivers have some real concerns. We all need to put pressure on the government and the bad players. Many gov people do not care about trucking or truck drivers in Ontario, the rest of Canada.

  • I agree with everything you wrote. Us drivers are scared of the repercussions. Or just don’t care. I’m tired of big companies and government shoving safety down our throats. Elds are not making this industry safe. Having to leave hours available to get parked. Or run out looking for a safe place to park. We need to stand together and stand up to big companies that are in a sense hurting the industry

  • The inability to organize is nothing compared to the crazy conspiracy laden diatribes some truckers spout. The hateful language they use towards inspectors, Police officers and others is so disrespectful as well. When the drivers who call themselves professional truck drivers finally realize that the world does not revolve around their disdain for anything legal , then and only then will people listen. Otherwise, they act like another fringe group.

  • I drove for about 25 30yrs and you could never get 20 drivers to agree on anything so I think most drivers would welcome a group of retired drivers the job of going to bat for some of these things like the parking or lack of it the hours because I know when I was driving some days I could not sleep after my hours were up so you would sit around watching movies in the truck stop then go to bed the next thing you know your alarm would go off saying it was time to go to work. But then the next day or later on in the week you needed a nap in the middle of your 10 hrs so just like other people you need to just do what you have to do but I always wondered why a doctor did not have the same rules as drivers after all they could work a 16 hr day go home and sleep for 2hrs get a phone call and come and operate on some one and that was ok butt a driver had to have 10hrs off whether he needed it or not but I am getting off track but anyway I think it would be great to have a committee to talk for the drivers you could set something up that you talk to different drivers and get there opinion and bring it to the committee and talk about it then have someone go in front of all the higher ups and present it.

  • Hi Rolf.

    Actually, we are in the process of starting a coooperative/association for Western Canadian small transports and O/O. The problem finding a ‘voice’ for transports is because it is such a gigantic undertaking. Reps from our transport and two others have taken first steps. AMTA/CMTA is more interested in increasing their membership than representing the small players in the industry. Interestingly, most of the bigger transports are running their business by hiring O/Os rather than managing and maintaining a fleet. It will take time to establish respect and become known in the industry. Along with representation, we are hoping to offer educational tools, and maybe group benefits. You are welcome to reach out to find out how our progress is coming along. We are currently setting up our initial group meeting to determine next steps.

  • Hi Rolf – Thanks for the opportunity to reply . . . Corporate Influence on Politics … & money, is the root of all evil … In my humble opinion, trucking was the ‘last bastion of freedom’; until ‘Corporatocracy & Technocracy’ arrived on the scene & took over… I believe truckers were & still are, some of the most intuitive, astute & spiritual souls I’ve encountered, in my many years of trucking on ‘Beloved Mother Earth’; but they’re being manipulated & routed-out by the Corporatocracy & Technocracy movement I.E. the controllers of this convoluted reality – who believe they are smarter (& know) what’s best, for the rest of us. A quote of mine I’d like to share, explains where we’re at in 2021 & beyond … “Our ‘co-created’, convoluted reality on ‘Beloved Mother Earth’, runs on the principle, that the one(s) that exert the most evil on other creatures, run the show.” – 1 Eye (aka, David Byers) . . . Maybe WE (Humanity), need to wake-up & change our reality . . . Thank You . . .

  • Rolf, you nailed it. If we could get together and stick together we could really improve the industry. One thing we need is a face and voice for the industry. We need someone who is a polished and professional speaker to help get our message where it needs to be. I have lots of ideas but I couldn’t get in front of a government panel and constructively express those ideas… I’d be a mess! I think most drivers are the same. We also need someone who can keep the group motivated and focused on the goals, someone who can pull members of the group back in line when a members ideas start to wander back into the “all about me” attitude. Rolf, maybe you could be our guy??

  • I know what you are saying. Unfortunately we no longer have an association to speak for us like Com-Car used to be. Art Joose seemed to find the answer. As far as I am concerned the OTA looks after the big Companies there does not seem to be an Owner Operator association out there now. I was a member of Com-Car for quite a few years until the passing of Art. Such a nice guy who seemed to care.

  • I am the spouse of a driver and he expresses these same. What about a wife’s union for truckers? Would be interested if there is or would be supported.