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Of devils and details

MONTREAL, Que. - Quebec's Forum on Trucking is still hammering out, in secret, the details of the contrat type (sample contract) it hopes will keep business relations clean and fair.As the Forum's sec...

MONTREAL, Que. – Quebec’s Forum on Trucking is still hammering out, in secret, the details of the contrat type (sample contract) it hopes will keep business relations clean and fair.

As the Forum’s second anniversary approaches, and with the completion of its first project – a usable standard contract – still not in sight, it is worth noting that two years ago in Ontario, a set of contract guidelines were bashed out in mere days.

“Two of us sat down and wrote it, we had the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) lawyer (examine) it, then we had the board of the O/O Forum and the OTA itself approve the ruling,” recalls Leo Van Tuyl, who co-wrote the guidelines.

“Because it was set up as guidelines, rather than hard and fast rules, there was no problem with the wording.”

The Quebec guidelines, aimed at improving owner/operator relations with either fleets or load brokers, are said to be more detailed, but still, according to Forum board member Steve Ramescu, “It is more a reference point of good spirit between two parties.”

Progress in preparing a usable sample contract is hampered by the fact the Forum board members already have full-time jobs; agreeing on meeting dates is a real challenge says Ramescu.

Another obstacle, hinted at, but indubitably true, is that the representatives of the “givers-of-work” and the three unions “representing” O/Os on the Forum board are on a long journey to any agreed-upon points of view on the sample contract details.

“For example,” reveals Ramescu in response to rumors that guaranteed payment has been demanded by the unions, “guaranteed payment has been asked for along with many other things from here to the sky.”

He went on to add, “I can tell you that there is a box that talks about payment … is guaranteed payment more important than (other payment options)? Absolutely not. I guess where unions get excited is that they want this (sample contract) to be God Almighty.”

Once Quebec O/Os, carriers and logistics companies start applying a sample contract however, the agony invested in its creation may seem like pure pleasure in retrospect. After all, Quebec had a similar creature called minimum clauses (there were 14 of them) in “force” from 1995 to 1999, blessed by supporting legislation.

However, former Association des proprietaires de camions remorques independants du Quebec president Daniel Brulotte explains, “But it didn’t work. Jesus!”

Carriers avoided the spirit of the regulations, complains Brulotte.

“The guys did not want to inform themselves,” he adds.”It didn’t work because they don’t care … they won’t even read what’s in their grasp.”

Just as ominous is Ramescu’s concern that when it comes down to a situation where a carrier chooses between an O/O using the contract and another O/O who negotiates mainly on faith, both bucking for the same back haul from California, who is going to get the job?

Forum members remain confident, however, that they will come up with a winning document.

“At the end of the day,” says Ramescu, who also happens to be president of the Association of Intermediaries in Transport in Quebec and the vice-president of Clarke Logistics, “(the sample contract) is going to be applicable to Quebec-based trucking.”

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