It’s anniversary time

by Bruce Richards

Everyone enjoys an anniversary fete and here at the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada we are about to celebrate 35 years of serving the private trucking community in Canada. The original articles of PMTC’s incorporation were filed in December 1976 and officially recorded in April of 1977, the date we acknowledge as the beginnings of the PMTC.

It’s interesting and instructive to look through those official records and the reports of the day. The six applicants for the original charter of the PMTC were K.W. Dunn of Sarnia, David R. Gillelan of Toronto, A. E. (Ted) Peck of Georgetown, W.A. Tett of Toronto, Larry F. Leonard of Willowdale, and J. E. Devai of Oakville.

They were the pioneers who saw the need for private fleets to be represented when trucking legislation was being developed. In those days there were severe limits placed on the operations of private carriers, and prior to the formation of PMTC they didn’t have a voice.

Here’s some of what the Toronto Star’s Lee Belland wrote about the newly created PMTC on Jan. 25, 1977:

“When you are out taking the air in your jalopy, you should be aware that three out of every four trucks that somehow get in front of you are those belonging to private carriers.

“The word ‘private’ is used – properly – to distinguish this class of vehicles from the word ‘common.’ The common carrier is a truck out for hire by anyone who comes along with enough money.

“Now, for the first time in Canadian truck history, the representatives of a number of major operators of private fleets have formed a non-profit organization.

“The first chairman…is Larry Leonard who was never a truck driver but is director of distribution for the tractor-trailer fleet of Union Carbide.”

In his inaugural address to the group, Leonard expressed outrage at the use of the phrase ‘illegal private truck operators,’ which had been used to describe the activities of unlicensed truckers on Ontario roads. “By combining the title of private truck operators with the word illegal,” Leonard said, “a pernicious, emotional relationship has been established which lingers unclear – but persistent – in people’s subconscious minds.”

At the time several provinces, including Ontario, were proposing new legislation to regulate illegal for-hire truckers, and Leonard was alarmed that legitimate private carriers were being involved in the new legislation.

The Financial Post also reported on the creation of the PMTC. In an article dated Feb. 26, 1977 it quoted Leonard as charging that the freedom to operate private fleets was under attack. He said that leading the crusade are government-created trucking monopolies represented by the federal and provincial trucking associations.  Leonard’s view was that “We should be governed by the laws of the highway – but the right to the highway shouldn’t be legislated.”

Those were obviously heady and combative times.

In a lengthy article written in March 1977, Motor Truck magazine covered the first general meeting of the PMTC in Toronto.

That article included photos of PMTC’s first Board of Directors, its chair Larry Leonard, vice-chair Al Roden, and president Russ Neal. The article reported that there had been a good deal of open discussion from the floor – some apparently felt that private carriers had sufficient representation from other associations, others expressed the view that these fleets needed an association that would put their interests first. The tone of the article indicated that the discussion was fairly heated from both sides.

Transportation & Distribution Management magazine covered the formation of the newly created PMTC in its December 1976 edition. PMTC, as the newest industry association, attracted a lot of press and interest in its start-up phase because it really was a first. Other contemporary associations in the industry had committees to deal with private carrier concerns, but these were seen as fragmented and largely ineffective. The lack of a central body, or a unified source to voice the private carrier viewpoint was a challenge.

T&DM followed that piece with another article in its August 1977 issue that explained the reasons why companies turn to operating their own private truck fleet. For that article, Eileen Morris interviewed PMTC’s first chairman, Union Carbide’s Leonard. He discussed the economic benefits that can accrue to a company with its own fleet, and the opportunity such fleets can provide to improve service.

As for the economics of private fleet operations, Leonard spoke about the co-existence of private fleets and for-hire fleets. He pointed out that many companies operating private fleets supplement their transportation needs with for-hire services, particularly when the choice of for-hire is more economical on a particular route.

I spoke with Leonard just a few months ago as he was preparing for a move from his home in Carolina to Georgia. Larry is 80 years of age now, but remembered clearly the early days of PMTC. He was also able to provide many of the magazine and newspaper articles to which I’ve made reference.

Without a doubt, the formative years of PMTC required foresight and determination. The private trucking community has a lot for which to thank the original six, their successors who have served as directors, and of course all the members who have supported the PMTC over its first 35 years. 

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