Editor’s Comment: Make the shippers pay – not the general public
June 1, 2005
It's been a year of discontent for owner/operators. Over the past 12 months truckers in the forestry industry walked off the job in Northeastern Ontario and the B.C. Interior. They were protesting a n...
It’s been a year of discontent for owner/operators. Over the past 12 months truckers in the forestry industry walked off the job in Northeastern Ontario and the B.C. Interior. They were protesting a number of issues – rates being among their priorities.
Now, owner/ops in the Lower Mainland are also threatening to park their rigs, and some gravel haulers have already brought attention to their plight through the use of rolling protests.
Fuel prices are sky-high – especially on the Lower Mainland where truckers face additional fuel taxes over and above what the feds and province charge. Still, one has to urge caution when it comes to taking extreme measures such as blocking highways.
First of all, it’s important to consider that the vast majority of the public is firmly in the trucker’s corner when it comes to high fuel prices. Everyday consumers have been complaining about the cost of gasoline for years and anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge about what trucking contributes to the economy can certainly extrapolate that fuel prices hit this industry the hardest.
So blocking roads and punishing the everyday motorist who’s just trying to get to work so he can pay his own gas bills and mortgage seems like an inappropriate response.
I’m with the associations on this one, and everyone from the B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) to your own Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC) has advised against such protests. As OBAC executive director Joanne Ritchie points out, such demonstrations will only serve to alienate truckers from the communities they serve.
Appealing to government to make owner/operators exempt from some fuel taxes is a nice idea in theory, but do you really think the province (or feds) are going to let that cash cow free? Uh-uh, no way.
So what it boils down to is establishing a better pay structure with shippers. In recent years, most shippers have come to accept the concept of a fuel surcharge. Or maybe restructuring pay (like hauling by the hour as the sign-waver on the cover suggests) is a better solution for your application.
Either way, the only way this issue can be successfully conquered by the industry is through solidarity.
Truckers don’t have to congregate on a busy freeway or at the gates of Parliament to be heard. Nope, your voice will be just as loud if you stick to your guns when negotiating rates and count on your fellow colleagues to do likewise. Trucking’s a competitive business, but by greedily undercutting rates and accepting loads that don’t compensate for wait times and fuel prices – you’re not only huring your own business but the industry as a whole.