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Policies, low rates draw ire during TANS’ annual general meeting

TRURO, N.S. - Bickering and confusion marred an otherwise pleasant gathering as members of the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) assembled for their annual general meeting at the Best Western...

TRURO, N.S. – Bickering and confusion marred an otherwise pleasant gathering as members of the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) assembled for their annual general meeting at the Best Western Glengarry Apr. 22.

The commotion started less than 30 minutes into the meeting, when there was a disagreement over the phrasing of the association’s proposed policy on criminal acts and convictions. The policy essentially outlined TANS’ zero tolerance for criminal acts within its membership and specifically stated, “This policy serves as authority for the executive chairperson or their representative to remove any above mentioned person from their office by reason of committing a criminal act and being convicted of that act.”

One irate member called into question what constitutes a criminal act and said he disliked the power that such a policy would give to the TANS board.

“All you guys never done nothing wrong in your life?” he asked the board during a discussion on whether to adopt the policy into TANS bylaws. “This is bullshit. Everybody’s perfect, right?”

Bill Dowe, secretary/treasurer and Area 2 director of TANS, shot right back with an example, asking if the members thought driving under the influence was okay?

“We have to uphold a certain standard here,” Dowe said.

Other members brought up how politicians with convictions are not forced from their office and how committing an offence under environmental regulations can even constitute a criminal act.

“I move that this motion is crap,” snapped another member.

Donald Whynot, chair of the TANS board, was quick to note that the association was not making up what constituted a criminal act. He also reminded that the policy was first drawn up in August of 2005, giving the members ample time to have their say.

“It wasn’t just something we dreamed up and put in there,” he said.

Ultimately, the membership voted and approved the policy by a narrow margin, but included an amendment that each case would be reviewed by the entire TANS executive, not just the chairperson alone.

Frank Henderson, executive director of TANS, said the problem with the criminal policy is that some members don’t believe it’s necessary for it to be a bylaw within the association and criminal activity should remain a matter for the courts.

“The intention of having it in the bylaws was to address the issue of drinking and driving and such acts that would serve to damage the image of an industry constantly fighting an image problem,” Henderson later told Truck News. “The other issue was determining what severity a criminal charge would determine action as a result of the bylaw amendment. A case in point was an environmental issue that perhaps was not the fault of the individual, but they were fined anyway. It is difficult to cover all bases with one bylaw, but the motion was carried, so ultimately it was the wish of the members. It is certainly a step in the right direction of professionalism.”

One member sided with the board and blamed the anger over the policy on members not attending TANS’ meetings.

“You guys are doing a great job,” he told the 10-member board. “Everybody’s crying about everything but you’ve got to come to meetings.”

Many suggestions were given to help boost waning numbers at TANS meetings and also ensure a greater turnout for voting. (This year’s meeting included a vote for the Area 3 director between incumbent James Height and Brady Hennigar, with Hennigar coming out on top).

One member suggested mailing the ballots and having members only vote within their respective areas, but the movement was shot down. A second member suggested penalizing members who are absent from TANS meetings with seven days without dispatch. He noted that many members have other commitments when meetings are scheduled – not to mention the expense of attending – but noted that “you can spend $100 to make $100,000” by getting involved.

Another member voiced his dislike of the idea, saying, “Don’t force them (to attend). They’ll just become seat-fillers. I agree 100% with what these guys are saying, but that’s not the way to do it.”

In the end, the motion for a seven-day penalty was passed, though the board said the legal implications of the penalty would be looked into thoroughly.

“This matter was a problem faced countrywide with associations …(with members) not understanding the issues or in many cases complaining about issues, but not showing up at meetings to be a part of the solutions,” Henderson said. “Many counties have difficulty getting good numbers at their meetings and as you saw we had about 125 of 600 members at our AGM. There was an election and other issues to discuss and we had barely 20% of our membership there. As I said it frustrates those that regularly attend meetings.”

As far as the seven-day dispatch penalty is concerned, Henderson said he’s not sure how it will be received.

“These are hard times in this side of the industry and nobody can afford to lose work at the best of the times, but this shows the level of frustration of those that attend the meetings and are trying to advance our cause,” he said.

During the event, Henderson also discussed recent meetings between TANS and the Department of Transport and Public Works (DOTPW). In the past, Henderson said such meetings have become infrequent simply because the same issues with the same answers were always being addressed. One such issue has been waiting time, where TANS drivers have lost up to four hours a day when being loaded and unloaded at job sites.

“They only get paid while hauling and the rest of the time it’s for no pay,” Henderson said. “You can’t do this and successfully run a business.”

Another issue addressed at the DOTPW meetings was the fuel surcharge. The longhaul side has enjoyed a surcharge since 1999 and each time fuel costs have been hiked, the TANS board has asked for a meeting to try to negotiate an increase to account for fuel.

“This is not easy for us or the DOTPW, but last year we did negotiate a rate increase of 5% (as of July 1) to offset fuel increases,” Henderson told Truck News. “This was great, but we need a fuel surcharge in place that will automatically allow for a fuel increase (or) decrease. This would be fair to us and DOTPW and would ensure our members wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of fuel putting them out of business which is a real possibility in this day and age.”

In addition to the 5% fuel increase, TANS members also received an increase of about 8-10% in haul rates (as of Jan. 1). TANS also managed to convince the government to delay the implementation of weight tolerances that had also been scheduled for Jan. 1, which Henderson says would have cost its members 10% of their income.

Yet despite all these apparent successes, there was still much grumbling within the ranks of TANS members at the meeting.

TANS recently received a CPI increase of 2.5%, but members still shouted that it wasn’t enough.

“(Those comments) show that there needs to be a clear understanding by some of our members that there is a reality to all of this,” Henderson later told Truck News. “We did receive a CPI increase of 2.5%, but we are still negotiating a fuel surcharge. If we are successful, then in my opinion it wouldn’t be realistic to expect more in one year given the accomplishments with DOTPW the past year.”

Dowe also was quick to back up Henderson’s achievements.

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Dowe told the 100-plus crowd, “but I thought we did exceptional this year and a lot of that credit goes to Frank. You guys need to take it upon yourselves to deny rates. It’s not our responsibility. I wish I could hold up a mirror. You’re the association.”

Henderson concluded offering some advice for the frustrated crowd: “The key to all our efforts this season is to speak up. If you don’t, nobody will.”

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