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ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. - Fresh from several major successes, the Newfoundland and Labrador Carriers Association (NLCA) is looking for stronger ties with owner/operators and the Newfoundland government for ...


FUEL FIGHT: The provincial group was born out of the spike in diesel prices.
FUEL FIGHT: The provincial group was born out of the spike in diesel prices.

ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – Fresh from several major successes, the Newfoundland and Labrador Carriers Association (NLCA) is looking for stronger ties with owner/operators and the Newfoundland government for its first birthday present.

“We’re looking at getting our government more involved with our industry,” says NLCA president Gerry Dowden. “And they too are open to that idea, because up until now they had no group, no body-group to talk to, just individual companies.”

The association also told Truck News following the group’s meeting in St. John’s that plans are afoot to form a committee to look into issues involving O/Os. The committee, however, will not get involved with individual grievances between O/Os and carriers, Dowden emphasizes.

The NLCA was formed in March 2000, after record-breaking diesel prices caused a Canada-wide crisis in the trucking industry. Through a combination of good organizing, a small market and sheer luck, it successfully negotiated a fuel-surcharge for its 42 member fleets.

A total of about eight groups in the province, such as manufacturers and exporters, lumber exporters, and the construction association, approached the government with a proposal to wedge a tax break for fuel costs into the province’s harmonized sales tax.

“We were unsuccessful in getting that (tax break), and predictably so. However we just took the forum that we had in the same meeting and cemented home the idea that our industry needs a fuel surcharge to compensate for the increased fuel prices,” Dowden explains. “Having (shippers) in the meeting, listening to our plight, at least we got an idea from the shipping community that our industry did need a fuel surcharge and we feel that was instrumental in people accepting the fuel surcharge for what it is.”

In a campaign equally as important to the Rock’s trucking industry, the association crushed a bid to boost by eight per cent the commercial-vehicle rates charged by Marine Atlantic, the crown corporation that runs the ferry service to Newfoundland.

The association had been given only 10-days notice of the rate hike last May, which would have added about $1.4 million in additional costs to the industry.

“The very next day after we heard that, (federal Finance Minister) Paul Martin was in St. John’s doing a luncheon speech,” says Dowden, who notes about 63,000 rigs use the ferry service every year.

There was a question-and-answer period with Martin on the lunch agenda, he remembers.

“We went down and got up to the microphone and asked him about the proposed increase for Marine Atlantic. And he didn’t know anything about it,” Dowden says, adding, “and he’s the finance minister, so … (Martin) did respond to us in a couple of days, saying that all proposed increases for Marine Atlantic for commercial traffic was going to be on-hold until further notice.”

The NLCA is now lobbying Marine Atlantic to expand its commercial operations through Argentia, Nfld., the ferry service’s terminal closest to Newfoundland’s capital region, on the Avalon Peninsula. The main terminal is at Port aux Basques, clear on the other side of the island and roughly 800 km from St. John’s.

“You don’t really make a lot of headway as an individual company so much as you get with an association behind you,” Dowden notes. n


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