This month’s column will deal with OBAC’s Spring & Summer Survey of owner/operators and company drivers. The questionnaire will be circulating across Canada over the next several weeks and will be found at truck stops, weigh scales, brake checks and “Show and Shine” events. You can also find the survey at the OBAC Web site: (www.obac.ca); just print it out (we’re working on an interactive version, available soon) and fax a completed copy, toll free to 888-205-9991.
Some of the questions (such as those dealing with logbooks) demand a candid answer. For this reason we are not asking anyone to identify themselves beyond their level of experience in the trucking business. To protect your privacy, your name, address, carrier, or any other identifying information is not required for this survey. Your honest answers, thoughts and opinions, offered without fear of consequences, are encouraged.
If you are a company driver, we would appreciate your participation as well. Whether you are in favour of running your own business or dead set against it, your opinions matter to OBAC.
We are asking for your rating of the most urgent issues facing owner/operators. These include fuel prices, freight rates, hours of service, unpaid work and waiting time, pensions and insurance. We’re also asking about issues surrounding weights and dimensions, health and safety, border security, equipment problems and load brokerage.
The precise legal relationship between owner/operators and carriers needs to be spelled out clearly so that neither is taken by surprise during a dispute. We want to know if you have a signed contract with your carrier and if it has an expiry date. We are also interested to learn whether you would switch carriers for better rates if you were otherwise satisfied with the carrier for whom you presently work.
OBAC has instituted a Contract Advisory Service – do you believe that such a service is useful?
There are several questions dealing with logbooks and hours of service. Do the hours of service rules limit your earning potential? Have you ever felt pressured by a carrier to “adjust” your logbook? Would you be more inclined to keep a “legal” logbook if you were paid for all the working hours, which you now log as “off duty”? Are you in favour of the new hours of service rules?
Unpaid waiting time is arguably one of the biggest issues facing owner/operators. We are asking for an approximation of the number of hours per week, which you are enduring as unpaid waiting time.
Many consider trucking to be merely general labour, while others consider themselves professionals in every sense of the word. Do you support the idea of classifying truck driving as a skilled trade? Considering the length and level of training involved, do you believe that there should be a formal program of graduated licensing for truck drivers?
What do you think that the trucking industry could do to attract suitable drivers? Would programs such as formal on-the-job training be useful? Would training scholarships be a possible resource? Would somehow raising the standards of professionalism be the solution?
For the veteran owner/operators, we are interested to learn if you would still consider becoming an owner/operator knowing what you now know about this business? Would you encourage your child to pursue a career in trucking?
Do you know your cost per mile? If so, what is it? One of the best ways to keep track of this indicator is the use of the personal computer. We are very interested in the computer literacy skills of the trucking population. Do you use a computer, whether at home, in your truck or elsewhere? Do you use it for e-mail, managing business records, routing and mileage information or Internet surfing? How do you rate your computer skills? Would you consider buying an affordable, trucker-friendly laptop computer if such a thing were available?
We also want to know how long you have been in trucking, and how many years that you have been with your current carrier.
Finally…do you feel that it’s important that the general public has a better idea of what truck drivers do to make sure that load gets delivered on time? Do you feel that your carrier really cares if your business succeeds?
OBAC is also looking at the viability of several service options for its members including a 24/7 toll-free hotline, carrier rating systems, group buying programs, complete health, dental and travel insurance, investment and pension programs, and contract, financing and legal services. Do these interest you? Would their inclusion convince you to join OBAC? OBAC is also announcing that we have revised the annual membership fee to more accurately reflect the dismal realities of owner/operator cash flow. The annual membership dues have been reduced to just $25 per year. The association decided to adopt this plan to encourage wider participation from the Canadian trucking community. Our lobbying and advocacy efforts will be more effective if we have the support of the largest number of owner/operators and drivers as possible. In numbers there is strength.
– A long time O/O, Mike Smith is a member of OBAC’s board-of-directors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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