NAPD starts to look national with new Western alliances

by James Menzies

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – Two days of roundtable discussions between various Western Canadian trucking groups have resulted in the formation of the Canadian Alliance of Truckers’ Associations (CATA).

The alliance, which was spearheaded by National Association of Professional Drivers (NAPD) president Darren Liebrecht, is the first of its kind and is aimed at coordinating various lobby efforts and campaigns.

While each sector of the trucking industry experiences similar concerns, the 14 industry representatives in attendance all agreed going it alone has done more harm than good.

“Our biggest problem over the past 15 years is that we’ve all been acting independently of one another and we decided at that point to come together as a group and develop a national alliance,” says Liebrecht.

While each group will maintain its own identity and autonomy, the main objective is to create a single voice to demand more attention from government and the general public.

“We want to bring together all the various segments of trucking across Canada and be able to align ourselves so we are speaking on behalf of the entire industry,” stresses Liebrecht.

The B.C. and Alberta branches of NAPD, the Canadian Owner/ Operators Workers’ Association (COOWA), and the Southern B.C. Truckers’ Association (SBCTA) all signed on the dotted line before the meetings were adjourned, creating the foundation of the new alliance.

Other associations have been invited to the next series of meetings in April and CATA representatives are confident they will also be quick to jump on-board.

While the movement seems to be gaining momentum in Western Canada, there is still some uncertainty about whether the National Truckers’ Alliance of Canada (NTAC) will be as quick to join the mix.

Liebrecht is optimistic that the Ontario-based association headed by Bill Wellman will team with CATA, but he has yet to receive affirmation.

“We believe that Bill Wellman’s group, which is a big part of what’s going on here, will be involved,” says Liebrecht. “The reason that we feel so confident about that is that our group was involved in the first round of talks on NTAC and we have not shied away from that vision.”

But Wellman was non-committal when contacted by Truck News, refusing to comment until more information about the fledgling group becomes available.

COOWA president, Doug Nael, says the West seems to be leading the way when it comes to the issue of joining forces to create stronger representation within the industry.

“NTAC itself seems to be spinning, so it can’t grow … I don’t know where it’s going to end up,” says Nael.

“But we know what we’re doing. If we were to wait for the East and the government to get things moving, it would be 2005 before we could do anything, so it’s very important that we structure from the West.”

CATA is planning on scheduling a central meeting sometime in the summer in hopes NTAC will show up ready to talk business.

But in the meantime, the alliance is concentrating on garnering more support in the West, with another meeting now slated for Apr. 13.

“Between now and then we’re going to be sending out more information to the associations in the West to once again invite them,” says Nael, noting that a number of important players were unable to attend the last round of talks due to prior commitments.

Sabik Singh, director of SBCTA, was able to attend, and he says he left the meetings confident the group was headed in the right direction.

Now it’s up to CATA to prove it delivers value to its member groups, some of whom are still a bit skeptical.

“So far, right now, they’re sort of mixed,” says Singh of the reaction from his members. “We’ll see which way it goes but as people come on-board you have more input and we’re excited about it.”

Singh adds, “It will definitely help the truckers and the trucking industry … I think we’re going down the right road.”

With each group thus far based out of B.C., Nael says the timing couldn’t be better for the group to be forming a unified voice.

“With Big Gordie (B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell) doing his job, I’m very fearful of what’s coming down the road in B.C.,” says Nael. He also says it’s evident from the latest Truck News State of the Industry Survey that truckers aren’t happy with the current state of affairs and they need active representation on a national level.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to address some of those affairs across Canada and hopefully next year when the survey comes out there will be some turnaround,” says Nael.

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