Our Two Cents

St. John's, NL. (May 9, 2005) The Newfoundland and Labrador Independent Truckers Association (NLITA) and the Owner-Operator's Business Association of Canada (OBAC) are extremely pleased with the report presented to Transport Canada by a special advisory committee set up to study the future of Marine Atlantic Inc.'s (MAI) ferry operations.
Many of the committee's 41 recommendations address OBAC's and NLITA's concerns about poor on-time performance, unsatisfactory quality and service levels, and escalating operating costs.
"We couldn't have come up with a better plan if they let us write it ourselves," says president, Jon Summers. "We are gratified to see that many of the concerns we've presented to MAI management have been addressed in this report, and we're not ashamed to say that we feel vindicated in that our concerns proved legitimate, despite repeated refusals by MAI to address them over the years." 
The majority of the committee's recommendations hinge on the discontinuation of the drop-trailer service, which has a significant negative impact on cost, schedule adherence, and customer satisfaction. Summers says the added deck space created with the discontinuation of the drop trailer service by MAI will have a very positive effect on the traveling public. "This move to streamline operations should make long waiting times at ferry terminals a thing of the past and alleviate the frustration that was far too common when traveling to and from the Island."
"The committee recommendations are going over well with our members, mostly independent operators who make at least one crossing every week," says Summers. "We believe all our members will see a real improvement in their earning potential over the course of a year, but more significantly, the plan to discontinue drop-trailer service will be a tremendous boon to the Island economy, and to small producers who rely on timely delivery of their goods to market."
Joanne Ritchie, executive director of OBAC says the committee's recommendation that rates be reduced across the board by 15%, stabilized, and indexed to inflation will make it easier for small business to budget transportation costs, and for her members to offer competitive service between the Island and the mainland.
"Rates are now considerably higher that the equivalent road-distance cost, and that hurts business," she says. "We're excited about rate stabilization, and the planned introduction of newer, larger vessels on the crossing. That will accommodate more passenger traffic and more commercial traffic. It's a win-win situation for just about everyone." 
OBAC and its Newfoundland and Labrador caucus took part in stakeholder consultations this past winter. NLITA's brief to the advisory committee argued that MAI should consider getting out of the freight service for drop trailers and focus its attention and resources on the core business of running a ferry service. As well, they pushed for more equitable fares, with trucks billed by more accurate measurement of their usage of deck space, which was also in the committee's final recommendations.
Nevertheless, Summers says the news caught many drop-on carriers by surprise. "It was a bit of a shock to some when they heard the announcement. But these carriers will have lead time to modify the way they bring their trailers to Newfoundland and Labrador. There are several options open to them, and the changes recommended by the committee should not have a negative impact on their business."
Next steps are a review of the report by Transport Canada, and further consultation with stakeholders, before the Government of Canada makes any decisions on the implementation of a long-term strategy.

P.O. Box 5596
St. John's, NL
A1C 5W4
Telephone: 709-351-1838
Jon Summers
President, NLITA
Joanne Ritchie
Executive Director, OBAC