Groups gather to provide South Asian truckers with a united voice

Ontario’s South Asian trucking associations have taken the first step to unite to provide a common platform for the community’s drivers to air their grievances and seek solutions to the challenges they face.

Meeting of South Asian trucking group members
Members of South Asian trucking organizations during a meeting at a gurudwara in Mississauga, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

Members and leaders of the AZ Canadian Truckers Association (AZCTA), Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA) and Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association (OATA) met on Sunday at a gurudwara in Mississauga to discuss the need for a united voice as provincial elections approach in June.

Sukhraj Sandu, AZCTA vice-president, said the main agenda is to stay within the system and address its shortcomings. “The community is divided by groups – longhaul, local, dump truck drivers, aggregate haulers. We are all truckers, and when one has a problem, we can come on one platform and voice our issues together,” he said.

The ODTA’s Jasvir Dhalival said his association is thankful that the AZCTA and OATA have agreed to join forces with his association.

Picture of dump trucks
Dump trucks parked in Mississauga, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

OATA president Jagroop Singh lauded the move as a good step and starting point. “In the future we are going to be together to solve more issues. We are going to get a common platform.”

Singh highlighted two urgent issues – rest areas and truck parking. He criticized the lack of infrastructure, pointing out that some rest areas have parking for only 20 trucks and drivers have to scramble to find spots.

He said truck parking fees cost a minimum of $500 a month, similar to the monthly cost to insure a big rig. “There is lots of land in Caledon, Ont., they can give us an outdoor storage permit. God is not going to come down and change the zoning. It is political. They can do it any time they want,” Singh said.

Picture of Sukhraj Sandhu
Sukhraj Sandhu (Photo: Leo Barros)

AZCTA’s Sandhu said the group aims to highlight issues with rules and regulations, authorities, pay problems, public safety, and education of new professional drivers.

Manan Gupta, publisher of Road Today stressed the need to improve the community’s professional image in the industry. He suggested educational resources and availability of spokespersons who can raise issues competently on multiple forums. Gupta also invited community members to attend the upcoming Truck World – the meeting place of Canada’s trucking industry for first-hand knowledge and networking opportunities.

Community activist Jotvinder Sodhi suggested that South Asian truckers wear a logo on their clothing to reflect the group’s identity, enhance visibility and forge a united front.

Attendance at industry events and continuous lobbying of politicians as elections approach were also discussed.

Issues raised included washroom access for drivers, air brake renewal exemptions, insurance, unfair wages and brokers eating into profits.

The move comes amidst strikes and protests by gravel haulers and dump truck drivers seeking increased rates for the loads they haul, amid other demands.

Demanding a 40% increase in rates, the OATA’s producers agreed to a 20% hike and drivers returned to work on Monday after two weeks.

Meanwhile, an ODTA member who was stabbed during a protest last week remains in hospital. Most dump trucks are still parked in the province as the association’s members continue job action advocating respect for their labor rights, fair wages, and compensation, and to highlight safety issues.

By Leo Barros

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca