BREAKING NEWS: Cloud hanging over Highland Transport’s future

TORONTO — Negotiations going on today between union leaders and TransForce execs could determine the fate of the trucking giant’s Highland Transport division. has learned that Highland‘s parent company has threatened to shut down the truckload and intermodal carrier if its owner-operators voted to reject immediate changes to their current collective contract, which runs until December 2008.

The Highland owner-ops, who are unionized Steelworkers members, say that Montreal-based TransForce informed them that it was going to cut the negotiated per-mile rate and eliminate the cap on fuel, as well as demand that all units operate at 8.5 mpg, starting yesterday, July 28, 2008.

Any owner-op that chose to run his unit after that date would automatically be in acceptance of the new policy, thus rendering the current contract null and void.

Last week, the owner-ops voted unanimously to reject the company’s new terms.

It’s still unclear whether TransForce will go ahead and shut down its Highland subsidiary. When contacted today by, TransForce President Alain Bédard had no comment.

Owner-ops are holding out hope that Highland
is still able to be saved.

A Steelworkers Union VP told us he couldn’t talk about the situation because the union had opened a new round of talks with the company this afternoon and "things could change any minute."

Dorothy Sanderson, health and safety rep for the owner-operators, is holding out hope that a settlement can still be reached.

"Let’s ‘GM this company," she said, referring to the recent deal General Motors signed with the Canadian Auto Workers to create new production jobs for employees laid off from another plant. "And by that I mean for the union and management to work together to keep Highland going."

Sanderson, a former operator whose husband and son-in-law still drive for Highland, says she didn’t expect this from the company. "Highland is supposed to be and was a very great place to work. We’re not too impressed with the situation."

Reportedly, one of Highland’s largest customers has decided it will no longer pay a fuel surcharge. "It seems," says Sanderson, "like the company is losing money but blaming it on the owner-operators."

"Plus they want to let the drivers earn a cap but only if they make 8.5 mpg. I don’t know whose truck can get that kind of mileage."

A former Highland owner-operator told us anecdotally that a number of other TransForce carriers are currently operating under similar terms of the new contract. "We’ve heard that some owner-operators under the TransForce umbrella are losing their trucks under the new pay schedule. We are glad we jumped ship when we did," he said. 

— We’ll report further details as they become available.


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