Our Two Cents
Owner-Operator Groups Meet With Marine Atlantic to Discuss Service Improvements
St. John's, NFLD. (October 14, 2004) – OBAC and its Newfoundland caucus, the Newfoundland & Labrador Independent Truckers Association (NLITA) met last night with Marine Atlantic management to discuss a number of operational and service issues that are frustrating truckers at the ferry's Port aux Basques and North Sydney terminals.
Joanne Ritchie, OBAC's Executive Director, termed the meeting productive. “There was some frank discussion, a lot of issues were put on the table,” said Ritchie. “But most importantly, we've opened the lines of communication between Marine Atlantic and owner-operators, a segment of the industry whose concerns havenÂ´t been adequately addressed.”
It was useful to look at the issues from both sides, added Ritchie. “Marine Atlantic looks at the big picture – they consider overall service levels, and when they add up the numbers and average things out, they can point to improvements in a number of key areas. But that big-picture view often doesn't make sense to an individual who's looking at things from behind the wheel of a truck,” said Ritchie, “especially if they're left sitting on the dock for 24 or 36 hours.”
Roger Flood, President and CEO of Marine Atlantic, and former Day & Ross Transportation Group executive, understands the needs of the industry. He admits that the crown corporation could do a better job in some of areas to improve service to its roll-on customers. Flood says he is committed to ongoing improvement, and would welcome input from front-line ferry users through dialogue with the associations.
NLITA President Jon Summers, who chaired the meeting, was pleased with overall results.
"I believe we've made some positive first steps in resolving issues that have been plaguing owner-operators and drivers for years,” said Summers. “In the past, we've expressed our concerns to local terminal staff, but this is the first time owner-operators have had the opportunity as a group to discuss the issues with Marine Atlantic senior management.”
“We intend to make good use of the open door,” said Summers. “Marine Atlantic has already agreed to consider a number of specific proposals we put on the table about improving traffic flow and scheduling, some safety concerns, and policy clarification.”
NLITA will work closely with Marine Atlantic at the local level to address these and other service issues, while at the national level, OBAC will participate as a stakeholder in meetings being organized by Transport Canada to develop a long-term strategy for Marine Atlantic's Gulf Strait service.
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