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Membership Has Its Privileges?

It is unfortunate (OBAC executive director) Joanne Ritchie uses her column space in Truck News not to inform or participate in constructive dialogue on LCVs and other issues but to take shots at other...




It is unfortunate (OBAC executive director) Joanne Ritchie uses her column space in Truck News not to inform or participate in constructive dialogue on LCVs and other issues but to take shots at other industry groups for getting things done, most notably OTA. It all smacks of so much sour grapes, that normally I would not bother to respond, but I think your readers deserve better.

Let me begin first by saying that I am the owner of a relatively small, family trucking business. Ms. Ritchie’s continued assertion that OTA is a “club” exclusively of large carriers is pure bunk. Second, it is worth reminding people that LCVs are not for everyone. There are clearly many situations and many types of freight where they will not be able to be used.

But, where they can, the potential for improved productivity is significant. OTA has always subscribed to the view that the industry should not stand in the way of productivity enhancement.

There is a healthy dose of self-preservation behind this thinking. Ontario, more than ever needs to retain and attract direct investment (and that means customers for truckers). By contributing to a more productive supply chain, LCVs can play a role in doing that. So, we applaud the Government of Ontario for what it is doing.

In terms of pricing, Ms. Ritchie’s mention of two-for-one specials shows a lack of understanding of how most carriers view LCV pricing and does us all a potentially great disservice by building erroneous expectations amongst shippers who may read Truck News.

But, her chief complaint and the one I would like to focus my attention on is that only OTA members can participate in the on-road pilot of LCVs expected to commence this summer. As the headline to her article states: Membership has its privileges. I could not agree more and as OTA chair I make no apologies for the fact that the carriers from the associations who invested their time, money and experience in making LCVs possible in Ontario, should be the ones to participate in the pilot -so long as they meet the stringent permit conditions. As a carrier, I have no tolerance for free riders who want all the benefit of what OTA accomplishes but don’t contribute a dime to the cause.

Often it can’t be helped -for example, all carriers are benefitting from the exemption OTA obtained from the Michigan Business Tax – but on an issue such as who gets to participate in a pilot, why should my money paid out in membership dues to OTA be used to benefit a non-member?

The official announcement of the LCV pilot was very recent. However, OTA’s efforts to gain permission for LCV use in Ontario began three decades ago. Those who are only remotely aware of the issue, know how difficult and frustrating a process it has been.

Even last year when it appeared the Ontario government might be open to revisiting the LCV issue, there was an enormous amount of work that first needed to be undertaken to ensure that public concerns and perceptions were addressed. An accord had to be reached with MTO on the permit criteria for LCV operation.

It was understood from the outset the permit criteria would need to be sufficiently strict if they were to satisfy groups like the CAA and the Ontario Safety League.

Then, an independent engineering study of the primary (common route) network, to assess the capability of all current on-and off-ramps on the 400-series of highways to safely accommodate LCVs, to identify emergency stopping areas and then contact the facility operators to secure permission for use of those locations, had to be undertaken.

Finally, a fair process needed to be established to select the carriers to participate in a one-year pilot.

What was OTA’s role in all of this? The OTA LCV Committee (made up of more than 30 carriers and was open to all interested members) led the effort on industry’s behalf, investing countless hours in the process both at the negotiation table and in preparation and follow-up.

OTA paid the entire bill -which was in the range of $200,000 -to engage the independent engineering consultants to conduct the common route study. This relieved the burden from any OTA member from having to go out and do its own common route study (which would be cost-prohibitive for most) and avoided duplicative studies.

As such it also leveled the playing field for all interested carriers. Moreover, OTA has always understood MTO’s position that the pursuit of LCVs is a private sector initiative. We have been seeking permission from them to operate these vehicles under special permit. OTA has been consistent over the years in stating that the private sector, not the taxpayer, should be responsible for funding the required studies and for building/purchasing any additional infrastructure that may be required in order to operate LCVs.

When it came to deciding who should participate in the pilot and have access to permits, OTA felt it only fair that participation in the pilot should be limited to those qualified carriers who had paid for the engineering work -in other words, OTA members. There was nothing stopping other carriers or groups from coming up with the cash and doing their own study; it’s just that no-one did.

Such is the benefit of belonging to a strong and effective organization as opposed to trying to do things on your own or belonging to groups that don’t have the will, the knowledge, the means or the credibility to deliver.

Lastly, OTA developed a lottery system, which gave all carriers – again regardless of size, domicile, etc. -equal opportunity of being selected. However, it is important to note that being chosen in the lottery is no guarantee of participation in the pilot.

The carriers must first meet all requirements of the permit criteria. And, they are also responsible for conducting individual engineering analyses to verify that LCVs can operate safely between the highway and the ultimate origin/destination of the freight. Ms. Ritchie suggests this will lead to duplicative studies of the same routes. In

fact, OTA members are already teaming up and working together to jointly conduct and pay for such studies.

This is another example of the benefits of belonging to an organization like OTA -chances are there is always someone else in the same boat as you that is prepared to work towards mutually beneficial solutions.

As with all complex issues, there is always give and take. That can be frustrating. It takes a lot of hard work, a spirit of compromise and mutual respect from all involved to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Sitting in front of a computer taking pot shots at those who are prepared to show leadership is easy, but ultimately ineffective and as I said at the outset smacks of sour grapes. The lesson for non-member carriers in all of this is perhaps you should join OTA.

-Julie Tanguay Is Chair Of The Ontario Trucking Association.


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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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