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Canadian Owner-Operators Worse Off Now Than in March

August 31, 2000

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The National Truckers Assn. in Canada, sick of empty promises and endless chats with well-intentioned bureaucrats, will hold a meeting next Sunday to plan a strategy to deal with skyrocketing fuel prices.

Spokesperson Heather Whyte said the meeting will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17, following Truck World 2000, at the Holiday Inn at Oshawa, Ont., located at Brock Rd. just off the 401.
"Since February, we've had meetings with just about everybody even remotely connected with this issue, but we have seen no action at all," Whyte says. "It's obviously time to regroup and take another look at the issue."
Rack prices for diesel fuel in the Toronto area are currently at least as high as they were during the February/March fuel crunch, which prompted local owner-operators to stage slow-downs and minor highway blockades. At the same time, owner-operators in Atlantic Canada staged a blockade of the Trans Canada highway near Amherst, Nova Scotia, and brought commercial traffic in Newfoundland to a standstill by making certain highways impassable to trucks.
Whyte says that several carriers whose owner-operators are also NTA members have actually taken back the fuel surcharges they offered their contractors in March. The rates now, Whyte says, are about 2 cents per mile less than what the owner-operators were getting after the fuel surcharges were initially applied.
Whyte says she's aware of several owner-operators who've had to refinance their trucks in order to cover the shortfall in earnings due to the astronomical fuel costs. She also said many of the members have been unable to renegotiate the loans on their trucks because their spouses have responsibilities at home and can't work.
"It's like being in quicksand," Whyte noted. "We're getting deeper in debt every day, and we've very few options." The next few weeks could be the final weeks for many NTA members, who typically haul auto parts to and from the automotive manufacturers in the Oshawa/Windsor corridor.
Whyte says the recent spike in fuel prices comes on the heels of a seasonal summer slowdown in the auto sector, which saw many of the contractors furloughed for periods of up to two weeks. "The problem is, the pay period that includes the shut down is coming up soon, and that means dramatically reduced revenue," Whyte noted. "But the pay periods always includes fuel deductions right up to the day of the statement. That means the cost of the fuel they've purchased to run the post-shutdown miles will show up on the next statement. There'll likely be nothing left after the fuel is paid for."

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