Truck News


O/Os need more rational thinking, not more blockades

One issue persisting on the minds of many truck drivers is that of strike action.In the last year or so, there have been some fairly significant protests that have taken place all across Canada, liter...

DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer
DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer

One issue persisting on the minds of many truck drivers is that of strike action.

In the last year or so, there have been some fairly significant protests that have taken place all across Canada, literally from coast-to-coast.

The threat of striking truckers appears to be stuck on a permanent simmer, especially considering I recently saw a sign posted in a popular Alberta truck stop calling truckers “to action.”

Let me be candid, if carriers have been hit hard with the current trends in the trucking industry than the Canadian owner/operator has been financially sucker-punched.

There are very few independent truckers who aren’t financially reeling from high fuel prices and terrible rates. I personally can attest to my fuel prices increasing 11 cents per mile in 2000 as compared to 1999.

Fuel surcharges hardly made a dent, so the difference came off an already razor thin profit margin.

Along with increased fuel, everything else on the market I must buy has also increased, and the value of my equipment has significantly decreased due to market pressure.

I also feel that the worst is yet to come – we haven’t reached the bottom of the barrel yet. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight on a freight train coming right for us.

Despite this extremely dim outlook shared by many O/Os, I do not feel that strikes, blockades or rolling protests are going to solve anything. And I strongly discourage any truck driver from instigating or participating in any such activities.

Economics are doing to the industry exactly what needs to be done. Furthermore, hold on tight, because its going to be one heck of a shake-up.

Unfortunately due to these same economics, the O/O is a dying breed and it is likely that many of us are facing financial ruin. However, striking is still counter-productive; instead, write your politician.

Refuse to work for slave wages. Write the newspapers. Stand up for your rights, educate the public, join a reputable organization or association. And, in dire situations, park your truck in the driveway and withhold your services.

Another issue that is closely related to the bleak outlook for O/Os is the looming driver shortage, which numerous parties within the industry claim exists.

In my opinion, there is no shortage, and, if in fact there is, it is not as bad as most carriers think. Many carriers – but not all – talk out of both sides of their mouth. On one side they scream “driver shortage;” out the other they quote low rates and don’t pass along fuel surcharges. Not to mention, most carriers attempt to micro-manage their lease ops, bending to government pressures of “due-diligence” and asking drivers to do many tasks for free.

Again let me be candid, my operating costs per mile for 2000 were $1.21/mile with fuel making up 36 per cent of my overall costs.

That was with my own trailer and includes capital depreciation. Now, as an experienced driver with over a million miles experience, an excellent abstract, and a willingness to work hard, I would expect to pay myself a minimum of 40 cents a mile.

That equals $1.61 a mile.

I can assure you my income was nowhere near that figure for last year. Straight up, the only shortage in the trucking industry today is adequate compensation, and not adequate drivers.

Moving along, there has been an issue that has been simmering under my skin for some time now, and that is the gates entering into Jasper National Park. In a national park, all traffic has to possess a park permit. However, commercial vehicles are exempt from this requirement.

A number of years ago there was a bypass lane for trucks and other vehicles not required to stop.

Around the same time, the union representing park workers were crying that the booths employees had to work in were unsafe.

Now granted, the booths were probably unsafe. However, in their haste to construct new ones, the government eliminated the bypass lane, so now all trucks have to pass through the booths, even though they still don’t need a park permit.

On a completely different note, regular readers of my column know that I am a very strong proponent of having the proper attitude when driving: it is one quality that separates the professional from the wannabe.

A few months back I wrote that I’d never heard of a course that helps truck drivers develop the right attitude. Well, I stand corrected.

Joanne McDonald, of JVI Commercial Driving School in Summerside, P.E.I., called to inform me that, indeed, their driving course spends a considerable amount of time teaching what the proper attitude should be for a professional driver and tips on how to attain that attitude. So anyone interested should check them out.

The number is 902-436-8774. n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and a monthly contributor to Truck News.

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