Teamsters fighting speed limiters
The union’s national negotiating committee for TForce quietly filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on July 12. It alleges that TForce, formerly UPS Freight, violated federal law by modifying the speed limiters without consulting the union and refusing to negotiate after the fact.
“Changing the speed governors directly impacts employee earning capacity, hours of work, hours of service, and safety, which are all mandatory subjects of bargaining,” the complaint states. “The company has refused to rescind its unilateral action and has refused to bargain about its decision and effects on unit employees.”
NLRB is investigating the complaint. It emerged as an early flashpoint between TFI and the Teamsters after the Canadian company assumed ownership of UPS Freight on April 30.
TFI acquired UPS’ less-than-truckload operation for $800 million with plans to aggressively boost profits while reining in costs. Chief Executive Alain Bedard has signaled willingness to work with the Teamsters, which represent employees at some of TFI’s Canadian operations.
But he also suggested there are limits: “We live with it, we work with them. But we manage the company.”
The speed reduction, implemented in June, has angered many drivers at TForce Freight who have already viewed the new owner with skepticism. The change effectively extended the working day of linehaul drivers who run regular schedules while reducing the maximum daily earnings potential for others.
“That may not seem much, but it adds 30 minutes a day to your run,” said a TForce driver, who spoke on the condition that his name isn’t used. “And since you’re paid by the mile, it’s like working 30 minutes extra a day for free.”
Another driver, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the speed reduction has hit morale — particularly since TFI’s rollout of new trucks has been slow.
“We’re spending more time on the road, less time at home, driving old equipment,” the driver said. “You get a worse attitude.”
Bedard told analysts in July that the company reduced the speed of trucks “to be safer on the road.”
Reducing truck speeds is part of a long list of measures TFI has been taking to improve profits at an LTL operation that struggled to make money under UPS. In the first months of ownership, TFI brought TForce’s operating ratio from a barely profitable 99 percent to below 95 percent.
TFI is hoping that a promised refreshing of TForce’s aging truck fleet will amount to a win-win for the company and drivers. But the rollout has been slower than expected amid delivery delays from manufacturers.
Drivers said speed reduction and lack of new trucks are contributing to the wave of post-acquisition departures — and Tforce’s struggles to replace them.
“It was the last straw for some,” a driver said.
The idea of reducing truck speeds has gained traction in recent years with proponents arguing it improves safety and fuel economy. The bill’s backers include American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association and Alliance for Driver Safety and Security. But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes it, saying it would make the roads more dangerous by increasing the speed difference between trucks and passenger cars.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” a driver said. “We’re stuck in the slow lane with people trying to get around us, people tailgating us.”