Peaceful protest a possibility
TRURO, N.S. – It has been a long time coming, but the Truckers’ Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) may soon take to the highways to fight for higher rates.
The grassroots group – primarily composed of aggregate haulers – got to voice its opinion to the Provincial Finance Minister Neil Leblanc as well as Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Angus MacIsaac.
The much-ballyhooed meeting, which was called when word made its way to government officials that professional drivers in Nova Scotia wanted to hold an “information session” took place on Apr. 30 and tabled many concerns from the members. With no formal agenda, the meeting mostly focused on the recent fee increases, which balanced a large portion of the budget on the backs of the driving community.
Fees introduced in the month of April included a 40 per cent hike in motor vehicle registration fees as well as a $50 charge for the newly introduced commercial carrier registration fee implemented May 1. Unfortunately for Nova Scotia tandem haulers, the fee structure is now simply a fact of life and will not change.
Dave Roberts, executive director of TANS was at the helm of the meeting, accompanied by several of his directors – Donnie Whynot, Brian Smith and Bill Dowe.
“Any plea against the amount of dollars hitting the industry was unproductive,” explains Roberts. However, he did say a nerve was struck in regards to the difference in trucking rates between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The information supplied to the Finance Minister from the Department of Transportation differed with TANS’ information. “Our information showed a much greater rate difference,” he says.
When looking at a rate comparison, one would wonder what Nova Scotia drivers are complaining about. For a one-km haul, Nova Scotians make on average 16 to 42 per cent more than their Atlantic counterparts. These percentages continue to remain higher until the 11-km mark at which point the rates drop and never climb again.
In Nova Scotia, a 40-km gravel haul will see a driver paid $4.28 per km while in New Brunswick the driver hauling the same will make $5.99 per km. This is a 39 per cent variance. In Newfoundland the same haul pays $6.23 per km (a 45 per cent difference) while in P.E.I. drivers will make $5.48 per km (a 28 per cent difference).
“We were working on 1991 rates up until a couple of years ago,” says David Clarke, owner of David C. Clarke Trucking, a dump truck service. “Right now we’re working with ’70s rates,” he says. “Instead of us getting a raise in 10 years, we get a decrease. I don’t see fuel and everything going down, it keeps going up.”
With commercial drivers looking at a 40 per cent increase, registration of a tandem truck will increase by $400 while a tractor trailer will go up $900.
“That is a pretty sizeable increase to swallow in one bite,” explains Bill Dowe, of Bill Dowe Trucking and Excavating and TANS executive director.
He says the general feeling from members is one of anger.
“We’ve had a pretty tough go in the last couple of years with a rate decrease, fuel is higher, insurance has taken quite a jump this year,” explains Dowe. “I don’t think there is anybody in our government’s provincial house who is working for 70 per cent of a 1991 pay scale.”
A peaceful protest in Halifax (originally planned for the end of April) has been put on an indefinite hold until the next hurdle is reached, which is a meeting with Minister of Transportation Ron Russell. “The guys still cannot haul for the current rates with the current fees and expenses,” says Roberts.
“Leblanc promised to talk to Russell about setting up a quick meeting with TANS to discuss the provincial haul rates,” he says. The meeting with Russell (who is prepared to look at rates for 2003) had been slated for late June instead of “as early as possible.”
In the end the goal sought by the association is to either have fees reduced, rates increased or a combination of both. It appears the fees will remain the same but the rates may take on a new look. The meeting with Russell in June will determine the fate of the Nova Scotia trucker.
“We are looking for a good faith response,” says Roberts.
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