Don’t settle for harmful trucking practices

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“No – I will not settle!”

This comment was delivered very forcefully to me during my Crazy Canuck Truckin Podcast by Adele Hills from Creston, B.C. At the time in her life that she was describing to me, she was bedridden by back injuries and related surgeries and life was extremely difficult. She was told that she would never be active again and that she should get used to the idea that she may never walk again.

That didn’t sit well with her at all. In fact, Hills has tremendous respect for her doctors, but they were wrong.

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Cheap freight ends up getting farmed out to low-cost operators running shoddy equipment. (Photo: iStock)

She got to work figuring out what her mind, body and spirit needed to heal. Necessity is the mother of invention as the saying goes, so Spinaline, a back support for drivers was born.

Today her young company, Sacral Solutions, is manufacturing in Canada and improving driver comfort for all who have been fortunate enough to try it. This young, active, single mom wouldn’t resign herself to a life of “settling.”

This has struck me because, well, I tried and fell in love with Spinaline, but in the trucking industry’s economic climate, her words resonate on many different levels.

Specifically, are we in this industry going to settle and let things happen? Are we going to keep trying to do business as we always have?

Fuel prices are ridiculous. Equipment costs — if you can get equipment — are unreal. And yet, there are still people driving down the rates. Why?

We are in a dangerous bubble right now — one that could pop very soon. Large companies know they get better deals on fuel and equipment than small carriers, so what’s happening? They offload cheap freight, which they would never handle, to the myriad small start-ups that think there’s a fortune to be made in trucking. Take note of how many small carriers are pulling trailers belonging to large carriers these days. Are they making a sustainable wage? Not a chance. 

It’s currently legal. Throw a mostly eaten bone to a starving owner-operator who thinks they will make more money with their own authority and you have a new indentured servant. It is sickening. Just like the surgeons and doctors telling Hills that she should just accept the status quo, far too many trucking industry leaders are pushing a system that will fail. There’s no hope for a carrier that is just now beginning to survive in this system.

I see trucks that have obviously had several names on the door. One goes bankrupt, the next steps up, and the cycle continues. And the brokers and logistic people hiring those new carriers are the only ones making a profit.

The consumer doesn’t win all the time, either, because the freight has a higher chance of being in a crash, or it is mishandled causing damage, or it goes missing before it reaches the end user.

Another casualty of this system includes small carriers that have been in business, possibly for decades, serving a niche market. Perhaps they just have some customers that they know well and have grown alongside. Others see them looking after their business, and looking good doing it, so they try to steal the business.

Greed wins out almost every time. Even loyal customers are tempted by low-cost carriers, only to find out they represent a short-term saving. People who made a decent living for decades are told by the experts that they should sell, cash in on their work, and retire. What if running their small business is all they really wanted? Should they settle and be forced out? 

Trucking does have ups and downs. We have always adapted. But when was the last time it was this bad? Not in my 34 years in the business.

I do not want to see trucking re-regulated. Nor do I want our industry run by a handful of large companies paying a pittance.

Let’s not settle. Let us work for fair wages for all. Our industry needs to get healthy again and make the tough choices for the future.

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • We need min freight rates and a min rate of $40cd per hour plus fuel to lease ops. The current model is very unsafe and certain larger companies are using this model.