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Professional drivers’ association looks to get results

MONTREAL, Que. – Winter road conditions on a lonely stretch of Hwy. 389 between Baie-Comeau and Fermont, Que., were often bad last winter. Truckers reported the problem to their Association des Routiers Professionnels du Quebec (ARPQ)....


MONTREAL, Que. – Winter road conditions on a lonely stretch of Hwy. 389 between Baie-Comeau and Fermont, Que., were often bad last winter. Truckers reported the problem to their Association des Routiers Professionnels du Quebec (ARPQ). (An unofficial English translation: Quebec Association of Professional Truck Drivers).

ARPQ forwarded the complaints to Transports Quebec. This spring, Transports Quebec called ARPQ with news that it had spoken to the road maintenance contractors and resolved the problem.

“We worked with the government and Transports Quebec,” says Charles Englehart, director general, ARPQ. This example, and the fact that this May Transports Quebec gave ARPQ a permanent seat at a government-industry table on heavy vehicle safety (la Table de concertation gouvernment-industrie sur la securite des vehicles lourds) speaks to the value of an association dedicated to the interests of truckers.

“The Ministry of Transport believes that ARPQ (and with the information drawn from the practical experience of its members) can play a very effective role in highway safety…(and) is a very positive element for the Table de concertation,” says Quebec Transport Minister Pierre Moreau.

“ARPQ represents the person behind the wheel,” Englehart declares.

ARPQ publically announced its creation on June 13, 2010. Its purpose is to strengthen the trade of being a professional driver, promote driver training, rights and safety and to provide services at a lower cost to its members.

“We are not a union and we will not interfere with how an employer manages its employees. Our mandate is just to protect our trade, so truckers can practice it safely and legally,” Englehart says.

ARPQ is a lean, revenue-neutral organization. The secretary holds the only full-time position. Englehart and Martin Boivin, ARPQ’s president, work on unlimited time contracts. Englehart does the office work and negotiates with “partner” companies. Boivin is the public face of ARPQ; ie., he sits at the Table de Concertation.

Both have day jobs: A veteran trucker, Englehart now teaches driving full time. Boivin is a full-time owner/operator.

The sole requirement for membership is possession of a valid Class 1, 2 or 3 driver’s licence. Membership costs $99 plus tax per year and anyone in Canada can join and access its benefits.

ARPQ has negotiated special rates with partner companies for its 1,000-plus members. This includes group medical insurance, truck insurance, legal, accounting and financing services.

To qualify for group medical insurance, ARPQ successfully applied to the Regie d’assurance maladie (provincial health insurance company) for status as a recognized trade group. This lets ARPQ offer group medical benefits and lets its members opt out of mandatory Quebec government insurance. “Now we can get the same benefits and coverage as any other trade,” Englehart says.

The medical plan includes disability insurance, 80% drug coverage, access to health specialists and $5 million in travel insurance, worldwide. “If you go work for somebody with group benefits, we suspend your benefit fees. (Upon) leaving the employer your ARPQ benefits are reinstated,” Englehart notes.

The membership fee includes access to the law firm Heenan Blaikie, which made a deal with ARPQ for fighting tickets.

“A member can call them and the first 30 minutes of advice are free. If a member decides to retain Heenan Blaikie, filling out an application for an action is free. After that the cost is the standard professional rate. The cost for fighting a ticket is usually less than $250,” Englehart explains.

ARPQ is also focused on improving the status of trucking as a trade, both in the eyes of the public and drivers. For example, ARPQ invites experienced members to apply for a DEP equivalent (a trade school certificate), which gives them official recognition as a professional driver. It passes on member requests to one of the two provincial driving schools: either the Centre de formation du transport routier Saint-Jerome, or the Centre de formation en transport de Charlesbourg.

A school instructor will spend about 10 hours with the driver and, if need be, even bring along a tractor-trailer.

“If you are at the same level as school graduates, you will get official recognition of your expertise. If you are not, you can take special courses,” Englehart explains. “A lot of members have taken advantage of this. This is important; for example, some employers will not hire a driver without a DEP. Getting a DEP equivalent gives the driver more pride in his work.”
ARPQ also arranges other training courses and negotiates prices. One course they put in place, for example, taught drivers how to become owner/operators.

“We are very active with our members. On the member section of our Web site we keep them up to date with every file we are working on. They can call and make suggestions. Most of the files we are working on come from ideas from our members. To become a member is to become interactive with ARPQ.” See http://arpq.org for details.


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