No fireworks at this year’s TANS annual general meeting

by Adam Ledlow

TRURO, N.S. – The board and members of the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia enjoyed a relatively low-key annual general meeting Apr. 21, when compared to the venom-filled rants that accompanied the same event last year.

The 2006 meeting got off to an intense start when some members disagreed with the phrasing of the association’s proposed policy on criminal acts and convictions. The dispute snowballed into what the board later admitted was one of the fieriest debates in recent TANS memory, with colourful language to boot.

But a fireworks-filled meeting was not meant to be in 2007. The meeting, held annually at the Best Western Glengarry in Truro, N.S., got off to a sombre start in 2007, when the TANS board and its members honoured those who had lost their lives in the war in Afghanistan with a moment of silence.

After an introduction from newly-appointed TANS executive director, Matt Brehmer, and a favourable report from the group’s auditor, the floor was open to discuss old business – which ended up being the only bit of business that incited any debate all day.

The business focused on the association’s longstanding insurance issue. Years ago, the association created a benevolent fund as a form of insurance coverage for its members, since the group had been unable to find a traditional plan to cover it. They had been turned down for a number of reasons. There were a fair number of smokers among TANS members, a number of members were over age 70 and as TANS chairperson Bill Dowe puts it: “Truck drivers aren’t the most physically fit people in the world.”

So the benevolent fund was put in place and member fees were set at $20 per member and $10 for spouses, and the fund had grown at one point to a balance of about $50,000. The payout upon the death of a member was to be $5,000 (halved for spouses), but after one year saw TANS lose eight members to sickness and accidents, the group was forced to roll back on payouts.

“That was a huge setback and that was an eye-opener. That’s when we decided something had to be done to correct the situation,” Dowe said.

So at the 2006 AGM, a motion was put forth to explore further insurance options.

“We were trying to find a way to right this imbalance; everybody pays the same, everybody should get the same payout,” Dowe said. “If too many payouts occur in one year then the fund is depleted quickly, so the insurance idea was born trying to find better coverage for a reasonable price.”

In total, 11 insurance companies were approached, but only one would offer a quote. The association sent a letter asking if members were interested, but of the association’s approximate 600 members, just over a third responded. This apathetic attitude is a consistent source of frustration, Dowe says.

“If they don’t want it, that’s great but at least respond and say so. The lack of response is always difficult and to me, that’s evident in the (low) numbers that show up for the AGM,” he says.

So at the 2007 AGM, association members decided to keep the benevolent fund going until another policy is put in place. But because the fund had already been greatly depleted, the idea of raising the annual dues was thrown out to members – a move which irritated at least one member.

“I already made the exact same motion last year and you guys shot it down. Now we’re right back where we were last year,” said TANS member, Ken Dunphy.

After some mild grumblings from other members, Dunphy made a motion to raise benevolent fund dues by $25 to $45 total ($55 with spouse) – a movement which was passed to thunderous applause.

“I was pleased with how that went because it was the members on the floor that decided how it would go and to me that’s the way it should be,” Dowe later told Truck News. “It shouldn’t just be the board making the decision and then going to them for approval.”

After the motion passed, the floor was open for new business, but none took the bait. Instead the membership spent the lunch hour prepping for the afternoon’s event: a question and answer session with two DoT officers to discuss the latest changes to the Hours-of-Service rules. Dowe says the issue is especially pertinent for TANS members, as an estimated 95% are aggregate haulers – a group which has long avoided the hassles of filing logbooks.

“To be compliant with the Department of Labour, we are supposed to be keeping a record of hours of work, but we never had to break it down before into duty status such as working hours and driving hours,” Dowe said.

That afternoon, members were treated to a session lead by Paul Cornier and Allan Chapman, but despite their cheery and helpful attitude, Dowe said many members still didn’t get what they were after.

“I don’t think that people got the information they were looking for,” Dowe told Truck News. “I think a lot of the guys there were expecting these officers to be able to show them how to actually keep a record.”

Though the officers were not in a position to offer a “how-to” session because of conflicts of interest, many counties across Nova Scotia are currently in the process of setting up training sessions for the new HoS.

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