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Salted wounds

TRURO, N.S. - The Truckers Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) is claiming that the province's roads may not be getting properly salted thanks to low inventories and flawed changes to the tendering proc...


BITTER DISPUTE: Haulers in Nova Scotia contend the province's new salt tendering system neither saves money or delivers the goods where its needed.
BITTER DISPUTE: Haulers in Nova Scotia contend the province's new salt tendering system neither saves money or delivers the goods where its needed.

TRURO, N.S. – The Truckers Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) is claiming that the province’s roads may not be getting properly salted thanks to low inventories and flawed changes to the tendering process.

TANS general manager, Dave Roberts, says members of his association have heard reports that the provincial stockpiles of road salt aren’t being topped-up in a timely and efficient manner.

The association, comprised almost entirely of dump truck owner/operators, has been an outspoken critic of the tendering system ever since the province ended a decade-old pact, robbing TANS members of the salt-hauling work.

Nova Scotia Minister of Transportation and Public Works, Ron Russell, says the agreement was ended last spring due to Nova Scotia’s deficit.

“As a result, each department was charged with decreasing the costs of their operations, and one of the things we looked at was the transportation of salt from the mine to the various salt depots around the province,” Russell explains. His department’s investigations uncovered an inconsistency that stood out like a red flag: the cities of Halifax and Sydney were paying less than the province for hauling salt to their sheds, even though they all used the same mine.

So the department decided to cut TANS out and put the whole thing out to tender. It divided the province into 11 areas, and opened up the bidding process. The system has been in place since September.

Roberts, however tells, a different story. He says the province decided to stop working directly with TANS (many of the tenders are held by TANS members, but they had to compete against one another for the work) after a “big row over prices,” last year. TANS members were doing the work for a “fairly low” rate, but then the February 2000 jump in diesel prices occurred.

“The guys bitched and complained about hauling, so they had a strike, and then minister Russell said enough-is-enough and he sent it all out to tender, instead of allowing the association to continue its procedure to haul it,” he complains.

Roberts also counters that the province hasn’t saved any money, either. According to figures he received, the province has spent $3,848,242 so far this year, compared to $3,334,378 for all of the previous winter – actually an increase of about 15 per cent.

Russell admits his department has spend more this year, but argues it’s really only about 10 per cent more. He speculates it was largely due to fuel prices.

“Could we have done a better job? We think so, but we can’t prove it because we’re not there,” says Roberts. n


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