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OBAC is Born

by Jim Park

The Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, as we went to press, was set for the official kick-off of its agenda of advocacy and education at a Sept. 26 press conference during the Truck World 2002 show in Toronto.

"At a time when owner-operators in Canada are facing soaring operating costs and stagnant rates, we believe OBAC can help owner-operators achieve their financial goals by standing as an advocate for the advancement of the owner-operator's business and operating skills," says OBAC president and board chair, Dave Marson, "and as an ally in helping to open more doors to the owner-operator at the regulatory level."

For more on Marson and his thoughts about OBAC's future, have a look at our interview with him.

OBAC has been more than a year in the making. Following some tentative steps taken in March of 2001 under the name National Truckers Alliance of Canada (NTAC), the new association was incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act, Part II, and received its Letters Patent from Industry Canada Corporations Branch in March, 2002.

NTAC's initial application for incorporation, filed in November of last year, was rejected because of a possible name conflict with an existing association. The group decided to change its name to OBAC, reflecting its commitment to small-business trucking in Canada.

During the months between its inception and its official launch, the group's founding board members - Blaine Houlind, Dave Marson, Jon Summers, and Bill Wellman - worked to establish an agenda that would provide a voice for drivers and owner-operators on both the national and provincial levels. It stresses the importance of proper business management and better representation as the two keys to the successful operation of a small trucking business in Canada.

In keeping with its by-laws, OBAC struck an outside selection committee to round out its compliment of directors at 15. The committee consisted of several prominent figures in trucking, as well as several working owner-operators. A list of 42 candidates was shortened to 17 through a series of telephone interviews. A representative assigned by the founding board members then interviewed those 17. The resulting questionnaires and interviewer's comments were passed to the selection committee in April, 2002.

The 11 successful candidates were notified in June, following a board meeting where they were accepted. The founding board agreed to leave one seat open until the group was up and running. A consultant was hired in July to initiate the start-up process and to stage the first formal face-to-face meeting of the full board. That three-day meeting took place in Toronto during the last week of August.

Founding members Houlind, Summers, and Wellman have all since stepped away from OBAC, having resigned at various times throughout the process. The resignations leave three vacancies on the board, which OBAC intends to fill in the coming months.

Start-up Funding

Past efforts to launch an association on a national scale have been largely unsuccessful, partly due to the cost. A plan as ambitious as OBAC's simply couldn't have been implemented with only volunteer help and personal funds. Prior to the official launch, and subject to meeting a specific set of deadlines and commitments, OBAC received two key financial commitments. Industry Canada would provide $250,000 to fund the start-up, and another $100,000 would come from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, now known as the Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, to launch an Ontario branch of OBAC that would address issues of specific concern to Ontario-based owner-operators. Neither government has committed any financial support of an on-going nature.

The funding enabled the group to establish a website, fund the launch effort, bring the board of directors together from across Canada, and to pay for the expertise to make it all happen before the first dime of membership dues had been paid.

With the launch process almost behind them as we went to press, the board has a pretty ambitious agenda to complete, including:

J Setting up provincial chapters of the association in all provinces, beginning with the provinces that have sufficient membership to support the effort. The provincial chapters will be better positioned to deal with local and/or regional issues. They'll operate with the same mandate as the national organization.

J Identifying and researching issues that affect its members, establishing positions, and, ultimately, policies on the various issues.

J Creating or partnering to deliver courses, seminars, and on-line learning opportunities for its members, including industry-specific training or skills-updating, such as fatigue management programs, cargo securement training, and others.

J Development of a suite of products and services, including carrier and financing contract advisory services, where members could have contracts reviewed by in-house legal experts, identifying potential areas of conflict or difficulty, as well as the positive aspects of the contract.

J Group discounts from various industry suppliers willing to negotiate special purchase plans and discounts for its members.

For more information about OBAC, or to enquire about membership, please visit www.obac.ca, call toll-free 888-794-9990, or fax toll free, 888-205-9991.

Team OBAC: the Board of Directors

Paul Knibbs - Surrey, B.C. Paul has been self-employed most of his life, with 19 years as an owner-op, several years as a top-earning truck insurance sales rep, and as a partner in the Truckers' Business Consulting Group, which provides his trucking clients with business consulting, bookkeeping and accounting services.

Don Robertson - Duncan, B.C. Don is a co-founder of the National Association of Professional Drivers, and has invested much of his own time trying to advance the career-development cause for drivers and owner-ops.

Michael Smith - Kamloops, B.C. Mike is a former owner-op with a degree in philosophy. He's an out-of-the-box thinker with a well-tuned sense of adventure.

Roy Craigen - Edmonton. Roy has been in trucking for 29 years, and has served on many board and committees dedicated to education and improvement of drivers. He's currently general manager of Economy Carriers, Special Commodities Division, chair of the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council board of directors, and a director of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

Dave Marson - Calgary. (president and chair) Dave was a founding member, and later vice-president, of the Alberta Trucking Industry Safety Association (ATISA), as well as the Canadian representative for OOIDA at one time. He's also a working owner-operator.

Pam Wilkinson - Winnipeg. Pam is one-half of the now-famous Wilkinsons of meal-tax fame. She's been a staunch advocate of standing up for what is right, and has never backed away from an argument she believed she should win.

Art Joseph - Nipigon, Ont. Art is a former law enforcement officer with both the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. He now owns and operates a paralegal service assisting the trucking industry its law enforcement challenges.

Fred Nix - Orangeville, Ont. Fred is one of the trucking community's pre-eminent researchers and consultants with over 40 research papers to his credit.

Kim Richardson - Caledonia, Ont. (1st vice-president) Kim is president of KRTS Transportation Specialists Inc., one of Canada's finer driving schools, and an advocate of the development of better operating and business skills for owner-ops.

John Newton - Montreal, Que. John is best described as self-educated by necessity, self-reliant by default, and self-improved as a result. His unique perspective proves that better business management can contribute to the success of a small trucking enterprise.

Donna Muir - Bayside, N.B. (secretary) Donna's life experience as an educator, farmer, owner-operator, and mediator will serve OBAC well in a number of capacities.

Ron Jesso - Corner Brook, Nfld. (2nd vice-president) Ron describes himself as an advocate for self-improvement, and has worked most of his life helping others help themselves. He's currently president of the Newfoundland & Labrador Dump Truck Association.

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