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Battle Hardened

MT: When disgruntled owner/operators formed the National Truckers Association you worked with them as they tried to establish ties with the different governments. Yet in the end they ended up giving t...

MT: When disgruntled owner/operators formed the National Truckers Association you worked with them as they tried to establish ties with the different governments. Yet in the end they ended up giving the industry another black eye when their spokesman told the national media that drivers are fudging their logbooks and driving excessive hours. Considering the effort the OTA has put into changing the public image of the industry, are you still interested in working with the National Truckers Association after the last stunt it pulled?

Bradley: It remains to be seen if this group really gets off the ground what they intend to do. If they intend to become a bargaining agent there will be those members who will want us to stay away because that’s not the OTA’s role; we don’t negotiate. On the other hand, there are some carriers who would rather deal with one group, because then at least they would know who they were talking to instead of dealing with all these splinter groups which makes the situation so inconsistent. We’ve always made the point that the industry would be stronger if owner-operators were better business people. Clearly from my personal perspective, in terms of lobbying government, it would be helpful to have a reasonable professional group to partner with. When you look at the hours of service issue, for example, and you look at the kind of garbage that CRASH spins out, it’s one thing to have the representative from the corporate side say this is how it’s going to affect drivers and it’s quite another thing to have someone who really does represent drivers speak to it. We will always try to work with anybody if they want to work with us.

MT: One of your greatest obstacles in working with the Ontario government was Finance Minister Ernie Eves. Because he had a family connection to the trucking industry he kept the industry at arm’s length so no one could accuse him of conflict of interest. Has the appointment of Jim Flaherty to that portfolio made a difference in how trucking interests are received at Queen’s Park?

Bradley: The difference is night and day. The problem wasn’t just Ernie Eves, the bureaucracy was petrified to deal with us because they feared suffering Ernie’s wrath. It was really, really frustrating. That has changed just in the last couple of weeks. We have met with the new minister, the deputy, the senior policy advisor, there has been follow-up on our issues. Now we can get back to making sure our sector is competitive going forward…The only thing that really caused (the Eves situation) to be not as big an issue as it might otherwise have been was that we went through five years of tax reductions after so many years of tax increases. If we had been shut out while fuel costs and other things were increasing it would have been an intolerable situation.

MT: Speaking of intolerable situations, in recent weeks there has been a lot of sniping back in forth among the OTA and the Railroad Association of Canada. Some major carriers, such as Yanke Group, are embracing intermodalism and forming close relationships with the railways. Despite the bitter feelings between the two associations is there room to create a working relationship?

Bradley: I would much rather be doing other things than fighting the railways but they started it and there’s no damn way we are going to allow them to get a competitive advantage over our industry because of public policy… I hope (the railways) will realize that working together is much more effective than fighting each other. If you look at what the railways are asking for – accelerated CCA rates, lower fuel taxes – that’s what we want too. The problem is that it’s the freight transportation sector that is discriminated against when it comes to taxes, not just rail or truck. It’s both of us. If we could go in together to see the minister of finance and say this vital sector needs change I have to think we would be more effective than the railways going in and saying hurt the truckers and that will help us, or us going in and saying don’t hurt us unless you are also going to hurt them. What’s a politician going to do then? He won’t do anything.

MT: Realistically how close are we to making such cooperation between the two modal associations reality?

Bradley: Right now I don’t know that we are anywhere. It’s too easy to say let’s work together. I would need some convincing. It was two years ago that Paul Tellier stood up at the OTA convention and said it was time to stop sucking and blowing. We have to see something concrete and I’m not sure he is inclined to do that.

MT: Some of your own members have criticized the quality of management expertise within the industry and they look outside the industry when they want to fill a management position. Do you see the OTA getting involved with colleges and universities in accrediting new management programs specific to transportation?

Bradley: Not really, we’ve done that in the past and there wasn’t enough uptake. I think we have a role, perhaps more indirect, in trying to promote our industry to people who never thought of working in it. And maybe when carriers do hire someone there is a role for us in giving that person a general understanding of the industry.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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