OSHAWA, Ont. - A year after its birth amid last winter's diesel fuel protests, some leading members of the the National Truckers Association (NTA) are wondering out loud whether or not the group can s...
OSHAWA, Ont. – A year after its birth amid last winter’s diesel fuel protests, some leading members of the the National Truckers Association (NTA) are wondering out loud whether or not the group can survive to see birthday number 2.
The group has lost more than half of its reported membership and most of its momentum, insiders say. And with its first annual general meeting scheduled for Feb. 3, morale couldn’t be lower.
First of all, NTA president Bill Wellman, will not be standing for re-election. Wellman says the association is changing, and he feels it’s time for him to move on.
“The support is dying,” Wellman says. “Look, the price of fuel is as high now as it was most of last winter, but you don’t see owner/operators screaming about it. Nobody seems to care anymore.”
Vice-president Keith Swayne says although he still supports the association, he has already effectively resigned his position. Like Wellman, Swayne says he didn’t feel he had the support of a strong organization behind him when dealing with carrier and shipper associations.
“Bill and I tried it our way and took it as far as we could,” Swayne says. “Maybe some new blood will help move it along a little further.”
That new blood may come in the form of NTA board member John Bonsma, an owner/operator who runs nine trucks as well as a truck repair shop in Blackstock, Ont. However, Bonsma says he isn’t even sure he would want the job of NTA president if he is nominated. He believes the association needs to completely change direction if it is going to survive. He says that will be the first topic for discussion at the Feb. 3 meeting, set for noon at the NTA office at 2000 Clements Rd. E. in Pickering, Ont.
“This could be the swan song,” Bonsma says. “If it’s going to work, I say lets make it work. If not, lets let it die a peaceful death. I think the NTA should forget about talking to the government, forget about talking to the carriers.”
He says instead the group should focus on getting memberships up and using those numbers to get fuel discounts, parts discounts, and tire discounts. “We also need to get an advisory committee in there – people with smarts, a lawyer, an accountant – to help run the thing.”
Membership numbers for the NTA have been a moving target from the beginning, but the total commonly reported during fuel protests this past fall was just under 2,000. Bonsma says the association certainly never had that many paid-up members, and now it has about 570.
So what happened?
“Tell me one thing the NTA has accomplished in the past year,” complains Bonsma. n