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MISSISSUAGA, Ont. — The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) has sent out a letter-to-the-editor arguing that competition and poor freight rates–not fuel surcharges–are to blame for trucker’s woes.

In the letter, penned in response to the threat of renewed protests by “the independent truck operators in the Oshawa area,” OTA president David Bradley explains, “clearly, a doubling of the price of fuel – the single largest component of the independents’ operating costs – was (and still is) having a debilitating impact on most, if not all, of these small businesses,” Bradley says.

“But, the price of diesel fuel is not the sole problem, though it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Bradley notes that “it is no secret that the economy is slowing,” and “as a result, some independent operators are having difficulty making enough just to pay their fuel bills, let alone their truck payments or put food on the table. There is no way they will be able to sustain their businesses for very long under those circumstances.”

Bradley notes that, “in a free market, the weak, the inefficient and the unproductive have every right to fail. But, what about everyone else?”

Granting that, “the attention brought to the plight of the independent operators, did … contribute to some additional cooperation between independent operators, trucking companies and the shippers they serve,” he notes, “often the surcharge was late in coming, and less than what was needed–but most shippers did at least do something.”

Explaining that “that was when times were good,” Bradley adds, “what the trucking industry needs–in addition to fuel surcharges–is a general price increase,” he says.

Bradley argues that it is futile for “the trucking companies and the independents (truckers) to attempt to strong-arm surcharges from the ‘big shippers.’ Some of these shippers are now saying that fuel prices have come down and they want some of the fuel surcharge back,” since, “in recent weeks, diesel fuel prices have started to trend down slightly.”

He concludes, “the market will eventually adjust, though it will take time.”

The Oshawa-based National Truckers Association was founded in February 2000 after diesel prices skyrocketed to historic highs in a matter of weeks. That same group is now in the process of forming another, more broad-based group, the National Trucking Alliance–not to be confused with the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

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