DON MILLS, Ont. – You can pick any industry you choose and there is probably a better-than-even chance it has some kind of association linked to it. From flower store owners to building contractors, in the world of business, birds of a feather do indeed flock together.
Whether the goal is bulk buying power, government lobbying efforts or just plain old networking, membership in industry-related associations can have its priviledges.
Unfortunately, owner/operators have traditionally tended to shy away from association membership. They give all kinds of reasons for not joining – the fees are too expensive; they don’t want to get involved politically; they don’t have time to take advantage of the services offered. But are owner/operators missing out when they choose to go it totally alone? Heres a look at what’s out there:
The NLITA was one of a number of owner/operator associations that sprung up during the diesel fuel crisis of last winter. NLITA protests prompted the Newfound-land government to step in and broker talks between the association, shippers and carriers to find a solution to the fuel problem. The carriers and shippers eventually agreed to pay a 10 per cent surcharge on truck-load deliveries and 6.2 per cent on less-than-truck-load, with a provision that the surcharge would move up or down with the price of fuel. NLITA president Dave Cook reports that the agreement is still in place and working well for the most part.
The province even chipped in $25,000 to help the NLITA get properly organized. The group now has more than 100 members and continues to actively lobby the government on behalf of independent truckers in the province.
Primarily a carrier association, the APTA has been around for some 50 years and now boasts better than 400 members. According to president Ralph Boyd, the association has about 50 members that are classified as owner/operators, although they may have anywhere from one to 15 trucks.
“They don’t necessarily contract with the shipper, but commit one or more trucks to a carrier,” Boyd explains.
It costs $40 per truck, per year, to join the APTA. For that, Boyd says, the member can take advantage of discounts on telephone services, home and auto insurance and training programs on hours-of-service regulations, air brake inspection and wheel certification. The association also offers a small fleet and owner/operator group insurance program for benefits and insurance for commercial vehicles.
TANS is almost exclusively an O/O organization with more than 800 members involved mostly in aggregate haulage. TANS charges members $100 per year and provides access to a number of associated trades offering discounts on things like truck parts, tires, and accessories. The association also puts out a newsletter to update members on issues of importance.
But the primary function for TANS, according to executive director Dave Roberts, is to keep up a constant dialogue with the Nova Scotia government regarding the allotment of road work in the province.
“We have an 80-20 clause down here that allows us (TANS members) to get our fair share of government tendered contracts,” Roberts explains. “That’s a constant battle right there just making sure the government is keeping up its end of the bargain.”
Founded in 1926, the OTA’s 1,700 member companies make it the largest carrier association in Canada and the third largest in North America.
In an attempt to address the issue of the folks who turn the wheels for a living, the OTA created the Professional Driver and Operator Forum. According to the OTA, the forum was established “to allow professional drivers – both company drivers and O/Os – to be part of a well-respected, responsible and professional organization with an effective industry voice.
“The forum wasn’t established as a group to overcome a specific obstacle facing independent drivers at a particular moment in time, and then once the issue goes, so does the group,” says the OTA’s Betsy Sharples, who oversees the forum.
Membership in the Professional Driver and Operator Forum costs $25 per year for company drivers and $50 for O/Os. Sharples says the group currently has about 500 members.
In one of its first initiatives, the forum created and published a free booklet entitled Guidelines for Carrier/Owner-operator Contracts. Sharples says the forum is currently working on a “Code of Best Practises” for professional drivers.
Mainly comprised of auto parts haulers from Oshawa, Ont., the NTA is another O/O association born out of conflict. The NTA arrived on the trucking scene with a bang last February and led the call for a nationwide truckers strike to protest high fuel prices. After thecrisis passed, the NTA faded quickly into the background; but, against the odds, it still survives.
Throughout last summer, the group worked to consolidate its core membership and to secure deals with industry suppliers for group discounts. For an initiation fee of $10 and an annual membership fee of $120 per year, NTA members now have access to discounts on parts, tires, travel and life insurance, truck financing, long distance phone service and family heath benefits.
“I sure take advantage of the discounts, and that’s basically what we are suppose to be about,” says NTA president and O/O Bill Wellman.
“For a tire that would normally cost $428, you can get that same tire through the NTA for $360. If you are buying 20 or 30 tires for a couple of trucks, the discount pays for your membership ten times over.”
The NTA also has a deal with Peterbilt that allows members to get a $1,000 discount on a new truck that is multiplied by the number of trucks being bought. “So if you have 10 guys together that want to buy new trucks, they all get $10,000 off their truck,” Wellman says.
The NTA now claims about 1,900 members based, for the most part, in Ontario.
Founded in 1965, the GOTA is a 600-member organization that is mostly comprised of aggregate haulers. Membership fees run $400 per year for one truck and $500 for multiple trucks.
“We have no carrier members at all, that’s the OTA’s job,” says GOTA president Dwayne Mosley.
The GOTA is actually more of a co-operative buying group than a political lobby group, although the association did join forces with the NTA during last winter’s protests and as a participant in the Trucking Industry Working Group this fall. Like the NTA, the GOTA offers its members discounts on a wide range of truck equipment as well as on insurance, health benefits and vehicle rentals.
Last spring, the GOTA established links with a group of about 170 truckers calling themselves the Northern Ontario Truckers Association and set up a sort of chapter arrangement that extended the discount benefits to those new members. The association recently established a brand new chapter made up of aggregate haulers based in the GTA, although GOTA president Dwayne Mosley admits work has just begun to establish discount deals with suppliers in that area.
Founded in 1972, Ancaster, Ont.-based COM-CAR bills itself as, “the voice of the owner/operator in the trucking industry in Canada.” Membership costs $150 annually and the group claims about 1,700 members.
COM-CAR is active as a lobby group and keeps its members updated on government legislation and policies that could affect their business. COM-CAR also offers its members access to discounts on out-of-province medical coverage, business expense prot
ection and accident insurance, downtime protection and road service. Members can also get preferred-rate loans through a leading Canadian bank.
In addition to discounts on goods, COM-CAR members can also get referrals for legal and tax advice and for a drug and alcohol testing consortium. The group also conducts a business skills course and ongoing education seminars for members.
Groups like the MTA, STA, ATA and BCTA are essentially carrier associations with no individual owner/operator members. Their primary function is to promote the trucking industry in their specific province and to lobby the various levels of government on behalf of their membership, especially on issues of regional importance.
It is often the case, though, that an individual O/O who works for a member carrier is also considered a member of the association, entitling them to member rates on services such as association-sponsored courses and seminars and on products like log books and training videos. They also often distribute handbooks on topics like dangerous goods handling, crossing the border, the National Safety Code and U.S. safety regulations. n
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