Viewpoint: A Spade Is a Spade

by Lou Smyrlis

Not being fond of using editorial space to criticize competitors, I have never in my 15 years on the job even mentioned another publication. Yet after reading the comments penned by HighwayStar Editorial Director Rolf Lockwood in his July issue column about our coverage of the ongoing problems with the Owner-operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC), I find myself unable to continue that practice.

His comments cannot be left unchallenged.

According to Mr. Lockwood’s editorial, our June issue cover story about the resignation of OBAC president Dave Marson “got it wrong and Canada’s owner-operator community isn’t being well served as a result.” According to Mr. Lockwood, the story wasn’t “worthy of front-page placement.” He sees the troubles with OBAC as nothing more complicated than “a few strong personalities banging into one another.” He also says he feels compelled to defend “a couple of friends” whose involvement was called into question by our coverage.

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Lockwood; his contributions to the trucking industry over the last quarter century are unquestionable. But on this occasion, I believe that it’s Mr. Lockwood who has the story wrong, and for reasons that should concern all owner/operators.

First, it’s important to point out that the main person quoted in that story, Dave Marson, thinks we got it just right. Nor, three months after publication, have any of the other people quoted in the story complained of being misquoted.

Of course, I understand this issue is not really about the validity of the facts presented, but whether OBAC’s troubles deserve the exposure they have been receiving. To answer that let me pose a question: If the main association representing the interests of trucking companies suddenly suffered a rash of resignations from its board of directors, its own president had quit and publicly chastised the organization for not serving the interests of its members, and its accountant went missing after allegedly writing more than 17 checks to himself totaling $70,000 – all true in the case of OBAC – would the industry not want to know? If that’s so, why should OBAC’s story be treated differently?

As for Mr. Lockwood feeling compelled to defend his friends, and I assume by that he means in part his HighwayStar editor Jim Park, while commendable, does the fact that he is defending a friend not also place Mr. Lockwood in a clear conflict of interest in commenting about OBAC? And for that matter does Mr. Park not have an even greater conflict of interest in reporting – or choosing not to report – on OBAC issues? After all, by Mr. Lockwood’s own admission, Mr. Park played a very active role in getting OBAC off the ground, helped to assemble the first board of directors and although “retreating to the sidelines” once the organization was launched “his advice was sometimes sought” and his writing skills were “sometimes called on” (he received several payments from OBAC, association records show, we might add).

As I’ve mentioned once before, this news magazine deeply understands the valuable contribution O/Os make to the Canadian trucking industry and is strongly in favor of a well-run association representing their concerns. We salute the work and dedication of many well-intentioned members on OBAC’s board of directors and we hope OBAC can evolve past its initial troubles. But we also consider it our responsibility to keep readers informed about OBAC developments – both positive and negative – in a professional and unbiased manner.

It’s what respectable news organizations do and it’s what, we believe, serves the O/O community best.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached at 416-442-2922 or

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