DAILY NEWS Nov 11, 2012 7:37 PM - 11 comments

Transportation inflation will be driven by the talent shortage, Harrison tells CITT

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By: Lou Smyrlis

HALIFAX, NS – The greatest driver of inflation in transportation pricing will not be rising equipment costs but the need for talent, according to Doug Harrison, COO of Day and Ross Transportation Group.

The need to find talent will also prove to be one of the greatest limiters to growth for Canada’s transportation industry, Harrison told a packed room of shippers and carriers attending the Multi-Modal C-Suite Panel at CITT’s Reposition 2012 conference this week.

Not only is talent hard to find, it’s also hard to retain, at least in the trucking industry. Harrison pointed out that driver turnover among some of the larger Truckload fleets in the US tops 100%. He questioned how fleets besieged by such high turnover can train their drivers and engage them in providing superior customer service.

The graying of the current transportation workforce will also add to the shortage.

The talent shortage was the first of three key issues which Harrison felt would impact commercial trucking. What the industry has to do to ensure its capacity is in line with the new normal of a slowly growing economy was another issue Harrison considered. Carriers have to consider how much capacity they can remove and still provide quality service, he said.

Certain to have an impact on trucking capacity levels and the need for drivers are changing shipper attitudes towards using intermodal services. Traditionally it was commonly accepted that the economics of rail surpassed the economics of trucking services at around the 750-mile mark. During the discussion of the C-Suite Panel, however, Harrison said that may have shifted down to 500 miles, with many motor carriers themselves using rail services. And, in some cases, rail service could be viable at as low as a 350-mile distance as a way to avoid congested corridors such as Toronto to Montreal.

The need to make heavy investments in technology is another key issue shaping transportation, according to Harrison.

“Companies are looking to be a lot more responsive at the last minute. This creates pressure on suppliers to be very agile,” Harrison explained and that agility requires the visibility into supply chain operations that allows fast and intelligent decision making. Technology is necessary for reaching that state.

Harrison was joined on the blue-chip panel by Jeff Cullen, CEO Bellville Rodair;  Neil McKenna, vice president, transportation, Canadian Tire; Rudy Mack, founder Rudy Mack Associates; Jean Jacques Ruest, executive vice president & chief marketing officer, CN Rail, and  Lise Marie Turpin, vice president, Air Canada Cargo.

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Reader Comments

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Peter Mueggler

I don,t want to sound like a old grumpy gear grinder, I love driving, I love travel and I really like meeting all sorts of characters out on the road. I find a few critical factors missing with the fleets I have worked with, first, the internal hypocrites we deal with( operations and safety ). The incompetents of untrained dispatching i.e.: mainly people skills, and the disregard for hours at pick ups and deliveries. If these points were tweaked, well it speaks for it self. I am 55 and have just changed companies after 10 years with the same accident and incident free.I hope it will be my last. Company integrity and a positive attitude will retain people. To my fellow drivers " may the forces be with you "


Posted November 15, 2012 12:07 PM

John Seaurse

Recognize that it is a **PROFESSION**, just like dentists or lawyers.
However, with that said, a lot of driver are doing themselves a disservice by not **ACTING** or **LOOKING** like professionals.
Maybe we need to go back to UNIFORMS . Might not be a bad thing. Just getting some of the unhealthy ones....into a uniform, will be a challenge.

Posted November 13, 2012 01:58 PM


HOURLY PAY the only way to keep good Driver's.If trucking company's want to attract and hold on to GOOD Drivers they need to take the cue from Great Britan as I have heard that they have LEGISLATED away the money per mile as a SAFETY concern because it FORCES Drivers to drive(when they should be resting) and fudge the logs to "KEEP THE WHEELS ROLLING" to make any money.
Pay Drivers well and by the hour what they are worth as a skilled trade, and retention and safety scores will reflect the pride that most drivers feel when the drive is done and the bills are paid.

Posted November 13, 2012 12:16 PM

Peter Barber

As a Ontario driver who has "hung up the keys" just before the age of 65 I think the the whole industry has to change & nobody seems to want to!!!! The Carriers are still stuck on paying by the mile & getting a bargain of free labour from the drivers & O/O when the driver isn't moving. The shippers don't care if they hold you up 2 or 3 hrs at the dock "BUT you'd better make the delivery on time" We have had to defend ourselves from the weigh scales, & all the other regulations that you need a lawyer to understand!!! Who in their "right mind" would want to get into this industry, low pay, no family life, responsible for just about everything, & it's always "our" fault when things go wrong!!!I taught truck driving for a little while, but 1/2 the students didn't show up for allotted lesson, so again "NO PAY"& most of the students were just there to collect UIC or welfare & were not interested in going into this line of work when they found out what was involved!!! Sad situation from the years gone by!!! I don't miss it a bit!!!!!

Posted November 12, 2012 06:03 PM

David Huggins - InSight

I'm not a driver although I've been around the transportation Industry for more than twenty years. I'm a behavioral scientist who has been involved with Carriers of all sizes and forms.
The comments above are absolutely valid - but there's a deeper, underlying factor which contributes significantly to the issues mentioned - respect for drivers. This is the 'elephant in the room' that too few are ready to discuss.
Drivers are the spearpoint; they manage the hundreds of thousands of 'moments-of-truth' that happen every day in the industry. They make (or break) customer satisfaction issues, profit margins, market share and many other vital business factors. They appear to get scant respect from others, including owners, management, dispatchers, specialist staff, enforcement people and even the public on the highways. They have little say in their own destiny and many are even denied the information needed to project their own income / revenues.
We need a change in perspectives, a new 'deal' for drivers that recognizes them as the professionals they are. This should begin with full integration with the immediate team that's in direct support roles and whose livelihood depends on the contributions that drivers make. Drivers are people, not a resource, and they deserve the respect they're due.

Posted November 12, 2012 03:09 PM

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