OOIDA willing to help out ‘any way we can’ in Canada

by Dean Askin

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. – The president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) says his group is willing to help a national Canadian owner/operator’s association “any way we can,” but OOIDA isn’t looking at forming a Canadian chapter, at least any time soon.

“While establishment of a Canadian chapter of OOIDA is not out of the question, I strongly believe that Canadian truckers should have their own association – an association that is distinctly identified as representing Canadian truckers,” Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA, said in a recent interview with Truck News conducted via e-mail.

Johnston was asked whether OOIDA would ever consider forming a Canadian arm after Maurice Corriveau, a former O/O and head of a now-defunct trucking association in northern Ontario, suggested that a Canadian chapter of OOIDA would be beneficial for truckers in the northern part of the province.

The OOIDA has 88,586 members, but only 450 of those are in Canada.

Although OOIDA doesn’t have a formal presence in this country, the group has worked with Canadian federal authorities including Transport Canada and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) on issues that affect both Canadian and American O/Os. These include Hours of Service regulations, harmonization of truck size and weight limits, safety audits and cargo securement regulations.

“We’re often contacted by officials of the Canadian government for input on owner/operator issues. This is primarily because of the absence of a viable owner/operator association within Canada that they can contact on issues that arise from time to time. We always respond to such contacts by speaking on behalf of Canadian truckers just as we do for U.S. truckers,” says Johnston.

In addition to being a voice for Canadian truckers, Johnston says Canadian members “have access to and benefit from” OOIDA member benefit programs.

Most of OOIDA’s Canadian members are O/Os who “conduct a substantial portion” of their business in the U.S. He notes that Canadian O/Os who operate under lease to U.S. carriers can participate in competitively priced OOIDA insurance programs, and would “benefit in equal proportion” to American O/Os in certain lawsuit settlements.

Johnston says OOIDA looked at creating a Canadian division a few years ago when Dave Marson, now president of the fledgling Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada (OBAC), worked with OOIDA trying to recruit Canadian members, but OOIDA abandoned the idea when recruiting didn’t generate enough numbers.

“At that time it was felt that if we could generate a significant level of participation we could make the necessary investment to establish a Canadian division of OOIDA. Unfortunately, that participation never developed,” says Johnston.

At the time, OOIDA was also funding Marson’s lobbying efforts with the Canadian government on trucking issues, Johnston adds.

Johnston said that although Canadian and American truckers “share many of the same issues and problems,” the creation of a Canadian arm of OOIDA could create conflict of interest problems when it came to dealing with industry issues on this side of the border, so Canadian truckers need their own autonomous association.

He says OOIDA has in the past looked at affiliation with “several different Canadian truckers associations” that didn’t last. “Unfortunately those groups never seemed to survive much beyond the early formation stage,” Johnston says.

Johnston says OOIDA “would hope to maintain a strong and productive affiliation” with a national Canadian association.

He says he’s aware of the efforts to build a national association here, and while OOIDA isn’t prepared to endorse any specific organizing effort, he “very strongly” urges Canadian O/Os “to get involved in the process.”

There are two movements afoot to become a national voice for O/Os in this country: Welland, Ont.-based OBAC, and the Stittsville, Ont.-based The Truckers Voice, a one-man lobbying operation run by a former O/O turned lobbyist and consultant, Peter Turner.

Both have about 100 members.

Johnston says that for O/Os, getting involved in the process means putting aside “understandably justified suspicion” and searching out and joining “a credible association,” and then being actively involved and supportive to make sure leadership and goals of the group “remain compatible” with the interests of O/Os.

He added that while OOIDA is prepared to help a Canadian association “any way we can,” the group would have to be a national one that “has the broad-based support of Canadian truckers.”

Johnston says regional or provincial associations are really limited in their ability to be a voice for O/Os.

Personal egos and political infighting that prevent “real unity” often plague regional associations and limit their effectiveness, he says.

“It really takes a national organization to be able to develop the necessary numbers and resources to be able to provide effective representation. Unfortunately too often regional, provincial or state associations seem to work against the effective formation of such a national organization.”

Building a lasting national association to represent Canadian O/Os may appear to be an almost impossible task, but Johnston isn’t surprised by this.

“In that respect Canada is no different from the U.S.,” he says, pointing out that he has spent the past 30 years trying to achieve the goal.

He says it took 15 years to establish credibility and trust, and that most of OOIDA’s accomplishments have been made only over the past 10 years.

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  • I was a member of OOIDA until about 3 yrs ago. When financial disaster struck. I won’t bother with details. Other than My Wife and our pets and I were left pretty much homeless. Other than an old 1971 camper Trailer and a 1988 travel van.
    I’ve been a Commercial Driver for over 42 yrs. As a Co. Driver, a Contract Driver, and as an O/O. I have come to the conclusion, I am Either Very Dedicated to this line of work. OR I am really “Stupid”.
    The biggest problem that I can see about recruiting members to any “Trucking Association” is; Trucking has NO CREDIBILITY. There is no Future in it. It has become a “JOB” for transient workers. Drivers will only stay drivers until they can find a job with a future. How many ” Immigrants ” have come over from Europe and the Middle East to fill driving jobs. Only to move on to other types of employment at there first opportunity. I don’t blame them.
    Until the Driver sector of the Trucking Industry. Is no longer classified as “Unskilled Labor”. And finally made into a Legitimate “Apprenticeship Trade Program. ” I mean really who is going to contribute a membership fee to an organization that might and might not be of any benefit to me. Besides the individual is only driving until something better comes along. What we need is something like ” The Profession of International Truck Drivers” Then we might actually begin to command some respect again. Right now, even Hamburger slingers get more respect and recognition than A COMMERCIAL Driver does.
    I plan to re-instate my membership asap anyway.
    Chuck Labrenz ( The Moonlite Flyer )