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New trucking group vows to ‘disrupt the status quo,’ demands seat at decision making table

A newly formed trucking organization has been created over the last two months, and on Saturday brought together at its inaugural gala more than 1,000 people representing about 200 carriers.

The Canada Truck Operators Association (CTOA), comprised largely of trucking companies run by people with South Asian backgrounds, promised inclusivity as it demands a seat at the tables where policy and legislation affecting its members are created.

CTOA dinner event picture
More than 1,000 people gathered at the inaugural gala of the newly formed Canada Truck Operators Association. (Photo: John G. Smith)

The association is headed by executive director Jaskaran Sandhu, a Brampton, Ont.-based lawyer and former executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

“This is absolutely powerful that the trucking industry has come together,” he told the audience at the Speranza Banquet Hall in Brampton, Ont., Saturday night. “You have here the backbone of the Canadian economy. You have billions of dollars of goods movement that is managed by the folks in this room. Now, that is incredibly powerful.”

However, the segment of the trucking industry that comprises the CTOA has largely been missing from discussions regarding the policy and regulations affecting it, Sandhu noted. A Newcom Media analysis in 2018 found that 17.8% of Canadian truck drivers identified as South Asian, up from 1.8% in 1996. That number was higher in Ontario (25.6%) and B.C. (34.6%).

Not only has this growing segment been missing from the decision-making process, Sandhu also said it feels “targeted” by “legacy” associations who’ve led a high-profile fight against the controversial Driver Inc. business model, which the Canadian Trucking Alliance says improperly classifies employees as independent contractors.

CTOA crowd photo
Trucking industry representatives register to attend the group’s first event. (Photo: James Menzies)

“The folks in this room have, not to their fault, been missing from the table,” said Sandhu. “They’ve been missing from the conversations that impact policy, regulations and legislation that impacts the trucking industry, and that’s a shame. It really is a shame that these people here today haven’t been able to provide their perspective on the policy that impacts them and we’re here to change that.”

About two dozen municipal, provincial and federal politicians came from as far away as B.C, proclaiming their support for the trucking industry.

“We believe in inclusive decision-making,” said Sandhu. “We have a lot to give this country and it’s not just moving goods, it’s changing policy as well. We’ll be at the table shaping every piece [of legislation] that impacts our industry.”

He then introduced a legal team he said will work with the CTOA to defend its members’ classification of drivers. Shari Cohen, a labor lawyer and partner with law firm Davies, said she’s looking forward to working with the association and “pushing back on the targeting of what other industry players and competitors label as the Driver Inc. model.”

She added, “What we have seen from member companies is that the Canada Labour Program at times applies an overly simplistic analysis of whether a driver is an employee or independent contractor.”

But while Sandhu said the organization is set to “disrupt the status quo,” he added last night was a celebration.

“Today will be remembered as when the industry changed for the better,” he said. “Not only is it the first time this many people and companies in the industry have come together, this is the first time the trucking industry has proactively come together and made it clear they want to be at the table. That’s something to celebrate.”

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