NAICAM, Sask. – Drivers and carriers hauling bulk commodities now have a national association to represent their interests.
The Canadian Bulk Haulers Association (CBHA) was formed recently to develop group purchasing power, and improve communication and collective representation.
President Richard Stewart, who operates Stewart Trucking in Naicam, Sask., says the organization began after a group of concerned carriers in Saskatchewan decided they could improve the status of their industry by working together.
This led to the formation of the association, which currently has over 40 members and represents more than 200 trucks.
“There are a lot of issues to be discussed, such as the driver shortages, the crumbling infrastructure and so on. If we stand alone, we will have little impact on these issues,” says Stewart.
Despite its short life, the association has made significant strides in several areas, including group insurance. The CBHA has been working closely with Gary Prokol of Butler Byers, an insurance broker, to develop a blanket insurance program.
By using the strength of membership numbers, Prokol has approached seven insurance companies to provide quotes on a uniform policy for the association.
The association is also making progress on group purchasing initiatives. John Holterman, maintenance committee chair, says he is approaching industry suppliers to see if the group’s members can receive discounts on maintenance.
“These programs are great because they can be monitored and that will decide if they should be increased or decreased,” he explains. “If everyone works together, then we all benefit.”
Less agreement has been made on developing group purchasing of fuel.
The association has been working with Petro-Canada to receive cheaper fuel prices, but several obstacles remain in the way.
Petro-Canada is concerned about who would be responsible for paying the fuel bills if individual association members did not meet their financial obligations. There are also concerns regarding the location of fuel stations, and with the higher cost of crude oil, the oil companies say there is less room for discounted pricing.
Perhaps the most contentious issue the CBHA is grappling with is freight rates. Steven Balzer, who heads the freight rates committee, says the committee has developed a proposal for suggested local freight rates.
“If you are operating in a specific area and you are operating cheaper, it is good to communicate with each other so you know what the rates are,” says Balzer. The committee proposal calls for freight rates ranging from $5 per metric tonne for hauling 10 miles to $11.66 per metric tonne for hauling 100 miles.
Although the desire for higher freight rates may worry agricultural producers who rely on commercial carriers, Stewart says his group is very supportive of these producers.
“Without viable ag producers, we are not viable either,” he says. “Farmers need to increase their net returns. We support their efforts to increase their revenues.”
In addition to these issues, Stewart says the association must continue to attract members if it is to have clout in the industry.
Although most of the members are concentrated in Saskatchewan, an increasing number are beginning to come from Alberta and Manitoba.
Membership fees are $200 for bulk haulers and $100 for non-voting industry stakeholders. n
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