It’s a union thing: Guelph carrier shuts it down after battle with Teamsters

GUELPH, Ont. (Sept. 6, 2004) — Brad Crawford has hauled freight through some of the trucking industry’s toughest times. He’s survived a few major fuel price spikes, an economic dive or two, and deregulation. But after half a century in trucking, it was a union that forced him to throw in the towel.

The trouble started last year when talks over a third collective agreement broke down in February. Crawford said the stumbling block to a new contract was a dispute over how management addressed mistakes in assigning truck runs. The union fought to change a clause in the original document stating drivers can’t grieve allocation of work, and wanted compensation for drivers whose loads were mistakenly assigned to others.

“Things happen. Loads come up on short notice, loads get cancelled, dispatchers makes mistakes. Stuff just happens,” Crawford told Today’s Trucking. “We just couldn’t afford to pay two guys — one guy for going, and then another who claims he should have gone but was sitting at home.”

Crawford says the policy in place — offering drivers whose load was given away by mistake first pick of the runs next time around — was working well until the union took the clause to arbitration last year. The arbitrator sided with the union, ignoring, Crawford says, the fact that the clause was negotiated and agreed upon twice before.

Although the union is now charging that Crawford abandoned its employees, Crawford said ceasing for-hire operations was not a direct reaction to the arbitrator’s ruling, but a financial fallout resulting from an ongoing strike threat.

“We gave them our final offer. The ball was in their court to strike,” he says. “But they still hadn’t. So now we’ve got this cloud hanging over us – customers don’t want to spot a tanker and found others to do it — and we stopped getting work.”

Crawford is now in the process of selling his 38 tractors, and has begun leasing and renting tankers and trailers out. So far the business switch has been good, says Crawford, adding that it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever get back into trucking.

“Even if we did, I don’t think we’d ever go back to trucking under a union,” he says. “The other issue is a lot of people who are now our customers would become competitors. I don’t think it will be in our best interest. I think we’ll stick with the trailers, and the hell with the trucking.”

— Read the complete story in the Sept. print edition of Today’s Trucking

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