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who will speak for truck drivers?

Who will speak for truck drivers?
Working truck drivers are not well-represented and have few champions. It’s ironic considering the sheer numbers of people involved in the trade. Up until the last census, truck driving was the largest occupation for males in Canada. We’ve lost first place to retail workers, but there are still well over 200,000 of us.
Now this may seem like a large interest group that should attract some notice from politicians, but this is sadly not the case. Legislators (and industry lobbyists) really don’t care what truckers think. Don’t like speed limiters? Too bad, they’re here to stay. Don’t like the Ontario government’s discriminatory protocols licensing Class A drivers over 65? Too bad again–this is now policy with the MTO and no amount of bitching is going to alter that.
While researching the Ontario government’s sorry record on the padlocked 400 series service centres, I contacted the provincial NDP for a statement via Peter Kormos’ office, an upstanding guy himself, but nothing was forthcoming from the kNeeDeePs front office on the issue—imagine that, a party for workers that isn’t interested in workers. The only opposition MPP to run with this story was former conservative house leader Bob Runciman who got some mileage out of it, seeing as how the two derelict Mallorytown service parks are in his riding. To his credit, Runciman called me from his Toronto office one Friday afternoon just as my deadline was descending. But it’s unlikely that you’ll be hearing any more on this issue from this freshly-appointed Harper sycophant to the senate.
So which political party will speak for truckers? Christian Heritage Party? Greens? Marxist-Leninists? I’m afraid the choices aren’t much better federally. Remember the term silent majority? Truck drivers are more like the invisible majority; other than a few squawks you don’t hear much out of them.
If we only had someone with the mellifluous tones of a David Bradley, grand Pooh-Bah of the OTA and CTA, whose lobbyist-invocations always seem to find the ears of provincial transport ministers. But the OTA does impact truck drivers and their working conditions with its consultations and interventions. I.e., trucking CEOs go on a mission to Europe to “investigate” speed limiters. Not so many years later, almost all of Canada is looking through the sights of 105 kph speed-restricted trucking; Industry wants LCVs in Ontario, industry gets LCVs, etc.
So who’s left to speak for us? I don’t think I’ve ever heard Teamsters Canada president Bob Bouvier speak on anything. With all the challenges of dwindling membership, recent attempts to organize casino and McDonald’s workers have failed. And the drive to sign disgruntled Challenger drivers might have already stalled out–haven’t heard much about it.
And don’t expect relief from south of the border. As one old-timer from a Hamilton local once told me, James Hoffa Jr. still has a long way to go to fit into his father’s shoes and probably never come up to the task. Moreover, the IBT has focused on a new constituency now that includes cops, security guards, teachers, armoured truck personnel and Disneyland workers. Teamsters officials just don’t see trucking as a growth area. One website states that only 16% of IBT membership is involved in trucking.
Like buying a Sham-Wow
What about OBAC? Although primarily for owner-operators, it has good people at the helm, including journalist Jim Park. This group certainly has the ability to be a “voice in the wilderness” but paid membership is small (correct me if I’m wrong) and many operators are only lukewarm when it comes to joining a group and paying fees. Initially, it didn’t help that Industry Canada start up funds were stolen by one of the original officers.
The feds were interested in creating a group like this after the blockades and slowdowns of Sept. 2000, when owner operators turned militant as a result of spiking fuel costs. Quebec independents just about choked off the northern part of the province with blockades. The provincial and federal governments grew concerned that no bargaining unit that could be brought to the table. Quebec passed legislation that would severely punish anyone blocking a public road. It’s unlikely that we’ll again see the direct actions and bridge blockades of the last century.
And then there’s Peter Turner of The Truckers’ Voice, who claims great success at going to bat for drivers and lots of paid up members (at $100 a pop). For that money you get a newsletter and two hours free consultation concerning job matters. Turner also claims to be an effective political lobbyist. He sounds like a radical talking to him on the phone and I have no way to verify any of the things he told me. Maybe he is Moses and will lead us out of the desert.
Truck drivers know they are important and that without them the country would grind to a stop. Once in a while someone gets the idea that everyone should park their trucks for a day. Presumably, so the public will see how important this industry is. A particular day is chosen for drivers to lay down their tools, but nothing much ever comes of it. A few O/Os shut down for a day and then complain that there is no solidarity among drivers.
Fiercely independent truckers don’t like being told what to do, or what group to join. Some have contracts that they wouldn’t think of jeopardizing, while others don’t think work stoppage measures would be effective, and others just don’t care. I personally wouldn’t stay home from work unless there was a very good reason to do so.
It’s unlikely you’ll ever get consensus on any one topic among truck drivers. For example, most drivers don’t like speed limiters, but not all of them. Company drivers like myself have always driven governed vehicles, and guys always found a way to circumvent them.
And what about hours of service? Most O/Os want the right to work as many hours as they decide, like doctors. But not everyone thinks we should be able to work around the clock. Some would prefer 12 hours off between shifts and mandatory overtime after 40 hours (inter-provincial carriers don’t have to pay OT because they fall under federal jurisdiction).
But I have to admit that the politicians might be right in ignoring truckers, bunch of sheep as Julio, pirate CB operator in Toronto, used to remind us. Personally, I’m voting Rhino next election.

Harry Rudolfs

Harry Rudolfs

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.
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10 Comments » for who will speak for truck drivers?
  1. meslippery says:

    Harry is finally getting upset.
    I gave up on over the road pre 1999.
    I could see the writing on the hiway.
    Local work paid by the hour to me is the way to go,
    If I work 20 hrs today I point it out to the boss, am
    I working Saturday? NO ok I will book 10hrs on Saturday then.
    NO problem he says Thanks for your effort I thank You.
    To me it beats trying to play there game.
    But yes I miss the hiway but now not so much Now.

  2. Peter Turner says:

    You are not the first one to call me a radical I say to you sir, how is it that when I am willing to take a stand to try to protect the writes of my members and refuse to worry about upsetting the very people who are screwing the Canadian truckers . Then sir I am proud to wear this name as a badge of honour. I have held this industry accountable from doing collection to having a MTO agent dismiss in Ottawa.
    As you stated you are waiting for your union to do something well I guess that’s leaves you a lot of free time to write about the issues. Just like Mr. Park, I guess the only that is difference between you and me other than we are truckers, I sir have done something about it I stop complaining and did something about it.
    Talk is cheap. What have you done?

  3. Happy Jack says:

    Harry,O Boy R U In Trouble.It sounds like you may have struck a nerve in the Spineless Back of PT.oh well Harry he is a BLOW HARD anyway.I found a blog recently that stated Peter Turner Is the VOICE Of the Canadian Trucker..BULL *(%),He speaks for himself & thats the Fact Jak.Harry You Make Some GREAT POINTS here.Its sad that with these kind of #s we Dont Have a STRONG VOICE out there.OBAC Is the way to go.Ritchie & Parks REALLY Do CARE about this industry.I Have put the BRAKES on my driving for the momment (sort of),Im Helping out @ the winter Olympics in Vancouver,Just to show these AMERICANS who got the “GIG” that yes we too have well,qualified PROFESIONAL Coach Operators on this side of the BORDER.When I Return to the EAST,I will Be Hooking up with OBAC,& I WILL BE MAKING SOME NOISE….Happy Jack Over & Out.

  4. Al Goodhall says:

    Maybe it’s time for truck drivers to start speaking for themselves and not waiting for a voice to represent them.
    As you say, truck drivers are fiercely independent. But we need to start participating more as individuals. Information and access to public forums is available like never before. This is fast becoming the golden age of free information and it’s as close as your keyboard or smart phone. We need to turn our individual energies from bitching and start using it in a more positive way. It’s not easy to do when your out here on the road for week’s on end focused on putting bread on the table. Few of us, if any, have an extra hour in the day to practice grassroots activism. But we can find an extra hour each week for our own benefit can’t we? Sometimes just a little participation is all that is needed to motivate us to do even more.
    Happy Jack is on the right path by saying he is going to join OBAC to make his voice heard. If we don’t have the time ourselves then parting with a few dollars to enable others to do the job for us is the way to go. Having “rights” is wonderful but somebody has to provide those “rights”. We can’t expect others to represent our views at their own expense and on their own time if we are not willing to do the same ourselves.

  5. Ed Wesselius says:

    Excellent comments Harry!! Couldn’t agree more or have said it better myself.

  6. Brent says:

    At least the Internet gives truckers some semblance of a unified voice or a chance to communicate, which is tough for a group that’s scattered all over the country. Auto workers can get organized because they all work in the same few plants. Truckers, not so much.

  7. Mike Mitchell says:

    I wonder if the idea of a national day off (call it a strike if you will) is as really far fetched as the naysayers think. If it worked to get the right attention would they refuse the benefit(s)? Thats right drivers…let someone else do it!

  8. Mike Beernaerts says:

    I’ve been driving for 22 years now,and I can’t imagine why anybody would want to get into driving truck anymore.The government treats us like idiots,most of the companies treat you like a piece of equipment,the customers treat us like crap and the general public could not care less about us.I used to be proud to be a trucker,now I’m embarrased to tell people what I do.I try to take satisfaction in doing the best I can everyday if only for my own sake.It’s the only thing that keeps me motivated anymore.I just keep my head down and try to get it done so I can try to pay the bills.If I could afford to get out (and if I was 10 yrs younger) I would do it TODAY.It sounds as though I’ve given up on hoping things will get better,and I guess I have.I don’t even have retirement to look forward to because there is no way in hell I’ll ever be able to afford it.I feel like I’ve wasted my life doing this job and I would NEVER encourage any young person to get into it.It’s just not worth it anymore.

  9. Jack Logan says:

    Mike B. You Mister have hit the nail on the head…But do not despair,do not go around with your head down.pick up your chin,be proud and Be LOUD..let people know you drive a truck and feel very PROUD in Doing So..Tell it like it is..Sometimes the truth really hurts…Let Joe Public know its NOT your kind ruining this industry,its your Provincial/Federal Gov’s,along with said Special Interest Groups (OTA)-(CTA),Who have welcomed all these NON-Skaters into this country,helped them all financially to get going,allowed them to get Licensed without having driven a TRUCK at all & Have singalhandedly Brought this Industry To Its KNEES.Tell your neighbours and your family and friends to steer clear of these INEXPIERENCED/UNPROFESSIONAL/RUTHLESS/RATECUTTING NON-SKATERS,Who have NO RESPECT for THEMSELVES,Let alone the MOTORING PUBLIC AROUND THEM…Call A Spade a Spade….Be LOUD & Be PROUD…..

  10. kelly morgan says:

    its about time someone came to essex county to help truck drivers iv been driving dump truck here 14 years now i cant even make ends meet i here how much other trucks are geting 75 to 85 and were here geting 65 i realy hope he can do something or i will have to sell my house and move to were i can make aliving i love driving dumptruck i work for a very very good company but they cant afford to give me any more than 17.30 per hr they said if they could get more i would get more an di hope you can do something about time and ahalf we dont get that in essex thank you kelly morgan

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