February 2007—One Trucker’s Story
The following letter was sent to the Members of the federal Cabinet and the Standing Committee on Finance. The committee is presently doing budget consultation prior to the spring budget. —Editor
I have been a trucker for 50 years. The adventurous life, the mystery of what is around the next corner is still there after all these years.
It is a lonely life, away from home; some truckers are away for weeks at a time. This damages your home life as I can attest with my three marriages. Wrecked marriages and lonely kids are common in the trucking community.
What is also common unfortunately is the poor health that many truckers face with their sedentary work and their food obtained in the cheapest manner, possibly for days and weeks on end.
The government finds it necessary to the health of their employees that they receive $75.40 per day for meals and incidentals. Considered necessary for their health; no receipts are required. This is increased twice a year.
Yet the traveling public, such as truckers and salesmen are expected to exist for days and sometimes weeks on end, year after year, on half of the allowable Income Tax Meal and Incidental Allowance of $45. per day. When this $22.50 is adjusted on the income tax return at the end of the year, the traveling for business public only receives $10 to $11 a day.
There is constant pressure on truckers today to make ends meet. High taxes coupled with long absences leave truckers and others traveling for business, with few options while they attempt to support and care for their families.
Running double logbooks; popping amphetamines to stay awake while working, running illegal double shifts; all these issues can be partially attributed to artificially low meal allowances that squeeze the truckers with many not reported expenses that really are part of their work.
The cheapest food of course is what is not good for you. It is also filled with carbohydrates that once you get behind a wheel tend to make you dozy. Many truckers report this as a common problem while on the road, as they find themselves beginning to drift to the side or across the center line. So they pop amphetamines.
Civil servants are cut a cheque for $75.40 per travel day. These funds are tax free and no receipts are required. We submit that those that travel for business should be allowed the same amount deducted in a manner from their income tax that would allow them the same income tax breaks that the federal employee receives.
The income tax department in Ontario recognizes the need for higher meal allowances and allows truckers $70 per day without receipts, though this is still cut drastically by year end income taxes. Other provincial branches of this federal department will only allow $22.50 without receipts. This creates deep resentment in the provinces where it is not allowed and does nothing to foster unity in the country. I respectfully submit that I and others like me should not be penalized because we live in a province other than Ontario.
There is a crisis in the trucking industry today. Over 5000 truckers are needed in BC alone over the next year. This is a $51 billion a year business that is growing quickly; cross-border trucking is growing at a faster pace than the
growth in the economy;
30,000 to 45,000 people need to be attracted each year into the industry (which currently employs more than 500,000 people) to keep up with demand.
In recent years only 5,700 to 18,100 people have been hired per year i.e. the industry is falling further and further behind; low pay and long hours keep the occupation low on the radar of young people;
The very negative factor of the lack of repayment for meals discourages both those in and those looking at getting in the occupation from trucking.
Those truckers who are already in are leaving in droves and there are no replacements.
To truckers, the single biggest issue is the tax provisions with respect to their meals.
The truckers are seeking justice.
I respectfully submit that rectifying this situation by bringing meal allowances into line with civil servant rates would bring economic benefits to the nation including that of heath care costs due to poor food combined with sedentary work.
The extra funds provided in fair meal allowances would allow other discretionary income to be used for the benefit of families; which would benefit the economy as more money circulates through the retail industry.
This of course brings in more tax dollars which benefits government.
I am writing this letter at the request of Stockwell Day. The group I am associated with would be willing to appear before the Finance Committee to state our case.
The lawyer representing the meal allowance issue is Tom Johnston, Johnston, Johnson & Company, Box 1530, 9921 Main Street, Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0
Tel: (250)494-0442 Fax: (250) 494-0402
I am enclosing a letter from the lawyer which further addresses the problems in this sector. I and/or representatives of the meal allowance issue would be willing to provide further information to the Finance Committee. Thank you for giving your attention to this long-standing issue.
—Ron Smith, Penticton BC
The Meal Allowance Class Action against Canada Revenue Agency was denied—Editor.