Area trucking firms, including Penske Truck, staggered by strike at Cami auto plant
Doug Coleman Trucking has laid off 100 workers, and has $4 million in tractor-trailers stranded due to the Cami strike, says a company official. (DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press)
A London trucking firm has $4 million in tractor-trailers stranded behind picket lines and has laid off 100 workers due to the Cami strike, a company executive says.
Four major Southwestern Ontario trucking firms ship parts to the Ingersoll auto plant and all are idle, stranding more than 200 trucks, said Rick Miller, vice-president of Doug Coleman Trucking in London.
“It has had a huge impact on trucking in this area, definitely,” said Miller. “We have trucks dedicated to that plant, people that are laid off and assets that are behind the lines.”
The trapped rigs are packed with parts for the plant, he said. “They were about to be delivered, they are loaded. Just to have so much equipment idle has an impact.”
Ben Lockstein, one of 36 drivers off the job at Ingersoll’s Penske Truck in Ingersoll, said he wants to stress that the strike hurts more than just parts workers.
“I’m going to survive, but there are a lot of other drivers that are hurting,” said Lockstein. “They will go find work elsewhere and may not come back.
“I can go find other work if I have to.”
Lockstein normally collects his truck at Cami, picks up parts at suppliers from Milton to London, then delivers them back to Cami. At stops including Tillsonburg and St. Thomas, he picks up everything from tires and rims to wiring harnesses, he said.
“I was in bed when I got the call, I knew something was up and they said, ‘Stay home,’” he said.
At Cami, more than 2,800 workers hit the picket line at 11 p.m. Sunday, largely over job security language. The union wants a letter ensuring that most production of the Chevrolet Equinox vehicle it assembles will remain in Ingersoll, while allowing some production in Mexico.
The plant lost a vehicle, the GMC Terrain, to a plant in Mexico in July, forcing more than 400 layoffs.
At Coleman, Cami accounts for about a third of its business.
“This is going be hard for us, we have shut some trucks down,” said owner Doug Coleman.
The workers have been laid off to file for employment insurance.
“All we can do is carry on. We can’t provide work for them right now,” Coleman added.
“I am concerned about the impact this will have on our business, about what will happen at the plant.”
The other trucking firms most affected by the strike are Verspeeten Cartage, McClays Transportation and Penske Truck. Other, smaller trucking firms also ship into Cami.
One such firm, Cassens Transport, hauls assembled vehicles from the plant. Cassens officials could not be reached for comment.
The strike’s toll on local trucking underscores the importance of the auto sector to transportation.
Canadian Association of Manufacturers and Exporters figures show auto and parts exports from Ontario alone were worth about $79 billion in 2016, about 31 per cent of the province’s total exports of $250 billion, the association reported.
“(Cami) is a huge plant. Common sense tells us the carriers that service the facility, as well as suppliers and vendors, will all be impacted,” Ontario Trucking Association communicator Marco Beghetto said.