VANCOUVER, B.C. - Darren Liebrecht, president of the B.C.-based National Association of Professional Drivers (NAPD), says truckers will have a national voice - it's just a question of who'll do the si...
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Darren Liebrecht, president of the B.C.-based National Association of Professional Drivers (NAPD), says truckers will have a national voice – it’s just a question of who’ll do the singing.
The push to form the National Truckers Alliance of Canada (NTAC) may seem like it’s bogging down, but that isn’t going to stop trucker solidarity he promises.
“I really hope NTAC does move forward, we trucker associations need to strengthen our lobbying voice through a national alliance of some sort,” he says. “NTAC coming together successfully would be the ideal, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll push the Canadian Alliance of Trucker Associations (CATA).”
The brainchild of Oshawa, Ont.-based National Truckers Association president Bill Wellman, NTAC is in the process of drawing up incorporation papers.
“We’ll be looking to bring our board together soon after that,” he says.
Wellman has indicated in the past, NAPD may not find its way into the fold hinting some members do not agree with Liebrecht’s style.
In the past, Wellman has indicated his would-be Canadian trucker group is also working to secure $400,000 worth of funding from Industry Canada.
“We wouldn’t see a dime of that,” Wellman tells Truck News. “If we do get the funding, the government would cover our startup and operational costs as needed to a maximum of $400,000 – it’s not like they’d simply write us a cheque.”
However, Industry Canada’s Joanne Ritchie explains there has been no real discussion of an actual amount.
“That’s a rumor I’ve been fighting since the 27th of March … I have no idea where it came from,” says the bureaucrat charged with helping the fledgling group to get off the ground. “The NTA made a proposal to Brian Tobin … That’s it … There hasn’t been any offer of funding from Industry Canada.”
That is sure to be music to Liebrecht’s ears since he isn’t sold on the idea of government funds empowering the voice truckers need to pressure the feds.
“I hate to say it,” he complains, “but there may be too much government involvement.”
Instead, he proposes a member-funded national group.
“Our membership dues are $20 a month, that’s $240 per year,” he explains. “We could take $48 annually per member and put it towards NTAC or CATA, whichever one develops first.”
This would accomplish two goals, says Liebrecht.
First, it would keep Ottawa from meddling in the proposed group’s affairs; and second, it would keep the focus of any national body on the individual member groups.
“Across Canada, truckers have many diverse views on various issues,” says Liebrecht. Those unique flavors can’t be sacrificed in boiling down trucker concerns to create a national voice or it won’t actually speak for anyone, he stresses.
This is actually the model Ritchie says is favored by those working to bring NTAC together, too. She insists there has been a great deal of misinformation about what the group is or will be doing. And before it is even formed, it is unfair to pass judgement on its value to owner/operators, she complains.
“If this fails, I want it to fail because it was a bad idea,” not because people were upset about what it was or wasn’t rumored to be up to before it even got off the ground, adds Ritchie.
Following B.C.’s lead
Meanwhile, NAPD isn’t forgetting about the individuals who gave it life. Recently the group negotiated deals allowing members to cash in on volume discounts from two key industry suppliers.
Both Shell Canada and Goodyear’s Fountain Tire have entered into agreements with the association to dramatically improve the buying power of individual members.
Shell will discount diesel by nine cents and gas by 1.5 cents under the terms of the agreement. At the same time, Fountain Tire locations from Thunder Bay, Ont. to Canada’s left coast will extend similar incentives to the association’s members.
“The great thing about these relationships is that they apply not only to commercial purchases, but to personal buying, as well,” explains Liebrecht.
“That means saving money when filling up or putting new tires on the family car – not just the truck.”
Liebrecht insists every penny saved on the purchase of fuel translates into about $100 in an O/O’s pocket at the end of the month.
The group has inked Metrofueling to an agreement that sees members get a discount when filling up south of the border and it is looking to expand this package to include maintenance, as well.
Members can additionally take advantage of a 30 per cent discount from A Traffic Ticket Defense.
“We’re working on a similar arrangement for insurance,” he adds. For more information, contact the group at 250-554-2067.
Fueling the deals
Liebrecht says Canadian O/Os need these types of price breaks now, not six months down the road.
“NAPD is doing this with NTAC in mind, but it simply can’t wait for a national group to come together,” he stresses.
“Too many guys are losing their trucks … For someone who is two steps ahead of the bailiff, we can’t do anything for them. But the guy who knows he’s going to run into trouble if something doesn’t change soon, that’s the guy we can help.”