that it seems more difficult than ever to make a decent living driving dump truck.
The observation stems from the growing number of calls I field from dump truck operators who say they’ve been forced to park or sell their rigs since rates have been driven down to unsustainable levels. There’s little I can do for these folks, besides lend an empathetic ear.
One such owner/operator was Gord Balford from the Barrie area. He said he has parked his Western Star gravel truck and sold his pup trailer because there are simply too many guys running their trucks for $70/hr and too many customers exploiting the situation. Some companies -including major corporations -are taking months to pay drivers. Balford had just recently received a cheque in mid-January for work he completed in August.
The sad thing is, take a look at the equipment you see on and around construction sites these days. The nice iron is getting parked because the rates are being undercut by someone with a 1979 beater that spews black smoke at every upshift.
The extent of the problems facing gravel haulers and construction truckers varies by region. One visitor to my blog commented that in the Ottawa area, a record snowfall had opportunists running out to buy vocational trucks for snow removal contracts. Come summer, the rate wars were in full gear as those truckers struggled to keep their trucks working. Follow that up with a mild winter and -well, you know what happens.
Out in Alberta, as recently as a few years ago you couldn’t help but make money with a gravel truck. The business was so lucrative, in fact, that people from neighbouring provinces flooded to Alberta to cash in on the boom. Now that the economy there has cooled off, the overcapacity there is as bad as in other provinces and, of course, cue the rate-cutting.
Overcapacity and rate-cutting is not a problem that’s unique to construction truckers, of course. You’ll find evidence of it in every segment of an unregulated industry.
However, it seems more cutthroat in the construction business than elsewhere. I can’t help but feel disheartened by the current state of the construction trucking industry. Fortunately, there are those out there who are willing to work to get their industry back on track. Ron Singer of the Alberta Construction Trucking Association (ACTA) has been working doggedly to have every dump truck operator in that province sign on to a Code of Ethics and Standards that would encourage ethical business practices.
Singer feels that if everyone in the business unites, they can force some real change when it comes to rates and working conditions. We’re not talking about union organization and we’re not talking about price-fixing -his group is just asking guys to respect one another out there and demonstrate a level of professionalism and courtesy that seems to have been waning in recent years.
There is a precedent for this. The Truckers Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) is a pretty effective little industry group out east that looks after its members and has even convinced government to agree that a certain percentage of trucks on any taxpayer-funded job site will belong to independents.
Nova Scotia dump truckers are not without their problems, but there’s a level of respect among them that’s almost non-existent in many other parts of the country. Singer says TANS is the model ACTA aspires to.
We wish Ron and the ACTA well in their endeavour to raise the professionalism of their industry.