By Mike Millian, President of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada
The image of the professional truck driver has taken a hit over the last 20 years. It has long been considered a job of last resort or a second career. We have all heard the statement, “Can’t do anything else, you can always drive a truck.”
There are many reasons for this perception of the industry – from those who are outside of it. First off, almost all skilled trades have taken a hit over the last decade or two. Society has placed a higher importance on academics; therefore, moved their focus away from seeing skilled professional trade people as a respectable profession. This has pushed everyone to move towards a certain educational stream and led to a shortage of skilled trades workers across the board. Somehow, somewhere along the line, society started thinking of anybody who worked with their hands as people who were just not smart enough to do other jobs, which of course is simply not correct. We have almost shamed hard working, intelligent, and skilled workers away from this field and into University. We all played a role in this – as parents, educators, guidance counselors, government, and many others. Trucking is not even listed as a skilled trade, which is a travesty; as a result of this, we were even hit harder by the shortage of young people wanting to enter our industry.
I started in this industry as a driver 30 years ago, at the age of 18. I was not alone but we were in small numbers for sure. However, many people – especially those who grew up in rural communities with time and experience around heavy machine – thought of this profession as a job of first choice. Driving professionally was respected and viewed as an opportunity to make a good living right out of school. Those possibilities and realities have not changed but the awareness of the opportunities within the industry has diminished. It may be harder to drive now at 18 – as a result of insurance and (depending on jurisdiction) it may not even be legal for you to drive until 19, 20 or 21 – but roles in this industry are still there. Many different positions are open and can lead people on a path to becoming a driver, shipper, receiver, safety professional, warehouse personal, mechanic, owner and so on, the opportunities are endless. Successful careers are open for the taking, but nobody knows it but us.
The pandemic has been a terrible thing that has affected all of us in one way, shape or form; however, I always believe there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. The silver lining in this case is the upgraded public perception of the professional truck driver and our industry as a whole. It took the visual impact of emptying shelves and the publicized urgent need for delivering crucial PPE to elevate the importance of the professional driver to a level of respect that the public has not shown in my lifetime. When the world shutdown, drivers kept going, and kept our essential services functioning and supplies available. Of course, this has always been our role but finally everyone became aware of it. Politicians from across the world starting thanking drivers at their press briefings; services that were closed at the start began opening and providing drivers with free meals and access to showers and washrooms; groups of people were standing at the roadside with signs thanking truckers and asking for the air horn grew: this is great to see and it is about time drivers received the respect they deserve. As an industry, we must take advantage of this. This public adulation will not last, as with everything; when we return to normal, this too will be forgotten. Right now, however, kids know who we are and what we do and, even more importantly, so do their parents and school guidance counsellors. Now is the time to reach out to elementary and secondary schools and provide them with information about our industry, the jobs available, and highlight career paths that a student can take. Currently, we are in their minds so we have a chance to have the conversation – whereas before we could not even get the door open. We must share our success stories since the general media only shares the bad ones. Fill up social media with positive information about the industry and connect with your local papers and radio stations, school board, and communities. If we do not act to collectively build on this swift positive change, it will quickly be forgotten and we will lose an opportunity to build awareness around the greatness of our industry.
Funding is Now Available
We know and have complained that funding is not available to help people enter our industry. In this current time when fleet budgets may be tight, there is great support for industry through a program by the Federal Government called ‘Career Expressway.’ Managed by Trucking HR Canada, this program will provide $10,000.00 in funding for the training of qualified people under the age of 30 years old.
For Private Fleets, I think this is a no brainer. This is an opportunity to gain funding for an employee, who may be working elsewhere in your company, with hopes of becoming a driver and advancing their career. Through this funding, you could get that individual upgraded while having nearly the entire cost of the course covered. The additional wage subsidy will provide as much as $15,000.00 in subsidies for people under the age of 30. This funding is not just for driving positions either: it could be for a dispatcher, warehouse worker, load planner and many more jobs in the transportation and logistics field. Both programs are now open and expire by March 31, 2021.
Additionally, a wage subsidy program is available for persons with disabilities. The funding is available in the transportation field, is up to $15,000, and open until June 30, 2021.
For theses program to be a success and have potential for consideration of continuance, we must ensure we utilize these funds, make the program a success, so that perhaps the government will look at expanding it in the future. For more information, go to www.truckinghr.com/hr-training-resources/wage-subsidies and review the program details.
Trucking HR Canada is conducting a webinar on September 30 to explain the details of the program to PMTC Members. If you would like to join this webinar, please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward the details – even if you are not a member. The goal is to ensure this program is utilized by anyone in the industry who can benefit from it.
We have never had a better opportunity to recruit people into this industry then we do know, lets ensure we take advantage of it!