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Shootout at the Toronto Transportation Club

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - It may have been billed as a night in their honor, but some of the carriers attending the Transportation Club of Toronto's Road Carrier Night on Oct. 5 were fighting mad and they d...

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – It may have been billed as a night in their honor, but some of the carriers attending the Transportation Club of Toronto’s Road Carrier Night on Oct. 5 were fighting mad and they didn’t care who knew about it.

The evening’s round table discussion, featuring Canadian Trucking Association head David Bradley and executives from some of the largest trucking companies in Canada, quickly turned into an outpouring of anger and frustration. With many shipper clients in attendance, several of the carrier speakers tore a strip off shippers for their unrealistic expectations and miserly ways.

“It’s a sad, sad situation our industry is in. It really hurts me that an industry can exist that’s as important as road transportation and get treated as a non-entity,” said Stan Dunford, chairman and CEO of Contrans Corp., one of nation’s largest trucking companies. In a speech peppered with profanities, Dunford said he was particularly incensed with how some shippers – particularly in the automotive sector – are trying to dictate the size of fuel surcharges. He likened that to the trucking industry running a full page newspaper ad stating its members would only pay a certain price for a car.

“That’s absurd, but not any more absurd than GM telling me what they are going to pay me for a fuel surcharge that is based on my cost. Those are things we deal with,” a clearly angry Dunford told the more than 300 in attendance at the Capitol Banquet Centre in Mississauga, Ont. He went on to tell the audience of a major account his company recently lost because, after more than four years of no rate increases, the shipper actually asked for a reduction in its rate. There were four carriers hauling for that shipper and two were “willing to work for less money than they were making 10 years ago.”

“If this industry lacks that much intelligence we really don’t have much of a future,” Dunford said.

Dan Einwechter, president of Challenger Motor Freight, also criticized shippers who say they will only consider paying higher rates if carriers find more efficiencies within their service. Einwechter said the industry is already as efficient as it can be.

“You can’t get blood from a stone. It’s time to be reckoned with,” he said in an address using coarse language of his own.

He also blamed shippers for contributing to the driver turnover problem.

“I don’t think we have a recruiting problem in this industry. We have a retention problem. And we have a lot of shippers out there who treat drivers like shit,” he said.

Mark Seymour, president of Kriska Transportation, said it will take an increasing amount of bankruptcies to weed out some of the “bottom feeders” in the industry and return trucking to a more profitable environment.

Bradley said the industry’s rapid growth has masked many of its problems but, as it heads into its next decade and some of that growth starts to slow down, current problems, such as the driver shortage, will only get worse.

“Ten years from now we will wish it was still the year 2000,” he said.

Bradley also vented his frustration with the nation’s various levels of government and their lack of understanding of the trucking industry.

“It never fails to amaze me how the people who hold power in this country have no idea how the economy really works,” Bradley said. n

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