O/Os protest treatment from railways

by Katy de Vries

BRAMPTON, Ont. – At 6 a.m. on Sept. 25 owner/operators in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) parked their trucks at the Brampton Intermodal Terminal (BIT) in an attempt to garner attention about O/O rates and rail yard wait times.

The Container Carrier Owner/Operators Association of Greater Toronto (CCOOAT) circulated a flyer as a call for drivers to halt deliveries on that Wednesday morning.

Five days later, the drivers were back on the road with an agreement from the carriers and from Canadian National (CN). Canadian Pacific Rail was unavailable for comment.

The CCOOAT drafted a proposal for items of interest and refused to start driving again until it had been reviewed.

The requests included, among other things, an increase from $55 to $85 for city moves; a 30 per cent increase for all highway moves; and a flat rate compensation for time wasted waiting in rail yards.

Approximately 40 carrier companies in the GTA were affected by the protest, which represents the large part of ocean container movements in the area.

The truckers were attempting to slow down the international intermodal loads.

Wait times of up to six hours are not uncommon for drivers picking up or dropping off containers at the rail yards.

This limits the number of containers that can be moved within the legal number of hours that truckers are allowed to work, which in turn limits the amount of money that can be made.

Chris Kane, director of operations for Adams Cargo, says if the owner/operators didn’t do what they did, nothing would change.

“A good driver can move 10-12 containers in a day, but not if they are sitting in the yard waiting,” Kane says.

“The whole thing is ass-backwards, because 80 per cent of the container industry is run by owner/operators, and everyone is raising rates around them but they have had the same wages for 15-18 years.”

The drivers at the BIT were in agreement that it was tough to feed families, pay for insurance and fuel, make truck payments and make any rig repairs when waiting times are long and rates are low.

The truckers’ September movement resulted in an increase in the O/Os’ per move rate in the GTA to an average of $80 per move, according to Chris Ford, vice-president for The Ace Group of Mississauga.

Mark Hallman, a CN spokesperson, says CN obtained an interim injunction on Sept. 26 to prevent the drivers from interfering with the functions of the terminal.

“It is important that the process at the BIT is not be impeded so that we can keep our customers happy,” he says.

According to Hallman, a number of measures have been put into place to ensure objectives of both parties are met, and there is a timely flow in and out of the terminal.

As a result of these measures, he says, wait times have decreased significantly.

Kane says the new intermodal terminals in Montreal and Halifax are more efficient and are good models to work towards.

“Those terminals have a new automatic gate technology which keeps the lines moving and eliminates backlogs.

“There is no people contact, and so it is much more streamlined,” Kane says.

Until the GTA intermodal terminals can take shape like in Montreal or Halifax, the carriers, drivers and rail line will have to work cohesively in order to function efficiently.

“We (carrier companies) have also agreed to meet with CCOOAT and CN Rail on a regular basis to ensure improved service levels at CN’s facilities in the GTA,” Ford says.

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  • This is very good agreement with most owner operations happy with the new rates. Driver services are still breaking the rules 5193578686