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National Body Takes First Flight

by Jim Park

After 20 months of meetings, long-distance phone calls, arguments, pushing and shoving, plus more than a little give and take, the National Truckers Alliance of Canada (NTAC) has taken its first official steps. Four brave souls have taken a leap of faith and affixed their signatures to a document formally incorporating a national business association for Canadian owner-operators.

The four are: Blaine Houlind, a lease-operator from Camrose, Alta.; Dave Marson, a lease-op from Calgary; Jon Summers, president of the Newfoundland & Labrador Independent Truckers Association; and Bill Wellman, president of the National Truckers Association (NTA) based in Oshawa, Ont. Marson, not incidentally, has ties to OOIDA, the powerful Owner Operator and Independent Drivers Association in Missouri.

Over the next couple of weeks, they'll be choosing up to 11 more candidates to form a complete board of directors. They will interview around 30 shortlisted people from all corners of the trucking industry, selected to provide the most well-rounded body of expertise possible.

"We need people with vision and imagination to get the ball rolling," says Wellman. "Once we're established, we'll have regular meetings and elections to decide who'll be on the board. This time out is where we'll have to set the stage for all future decisions."

They're now hiring a consultant to prepare a detailed business plan, to set up the operational and financial structure of the organization, and to tackle the more serious issues of how to manage regional and sectoral representation of owner-operators.

In November of last year, Wellman submitted a proposal to federal Industry Minister Brian Tobin on behalf of his regional NTA group requesting help in funding the start-up of a truly national association. That request remains under consideration by Industry Canada pending the successful incorporation of the new group. The Ontario government has been approached by NTAC for assistance with start-up costs in that province, while the government of Newfoundland and Labrador made a $25,000 contrbution last spring, in addition to in-kind contributions of legal and administrative services to the association to help get it off the ground.

Jon Summers says he's pleased with the progress of the group so far, and while he admits it's taken longer than he expected, he's says NTAC is going to hit the ground running.

"We've taken a very systematic approach to starting this thing up," Summers says. "We'll be ready to go, right off the bat. And when the funding comes through, all the T's will have been crossed and the I's dotted; there'll be nothing left to do but get to work for the owner-operators."

NTAC has also released a statement outlining its mandate and its goals and objectives. Wellman says the group has decided to focus on business and owner-operator advocacy issues rather than protests, labor stoppages, and other forms of disruptive intervention.

"We've seen that that approach doesn't work," Wellman says. "We're going to provide owner-operators with an opportunity to enhance their quality of life by becoming better business people."

NTAC's mandate says it will not conduct its affairs or act in any way that would prove contrary to the good of the economy, either local, provincial or national. It also pledges not to intervene directly in the business affairs of its members or its affiliates, or to act in a manner that could be interpreted as collective bargaining.

Other highlights among the new organization's goals and objectives, paraphrased, include:

  • NTAC plans to develop education and business skills programs, conduct research and seminars in areas where owner-operators need help, and work with allied trades to provide group buying strength and/or volume discounting.
  • NTAC "will speak with a single voice" and will pursue every opportunity to provide input to any government body or agency making legislation or policy with an impact on its members' livelihoods.
  • NTAC will work to improve the financial lot of owner-operators by urging safer, more fiscally responsible and driver-focused business and operating practices. It will also develop policy positions that further its members' interests in industry-related discussions.

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