Now’s the time to fix trucking’s top issues

Been there done that. Then, been there several more times because apparently, I never learn.

I’m struck with the idea that what we are currently living through will eventually be reduced to a chapter in a history book, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

We are in the middle of an event that some of us more seasoned folks have been through before. Not to this extent, but I remember SARS – or as it was also known at the time the Asian bird flu – and the absolute devastation it was going to bring to us all.

Where is SARS now? It can be found as a paragraph in history books, and that is where it belongs. Of course, the unfortunate piece of the puzzle is that when SARS eventually subsided, it was widely acknowledged that another SARS-type situation or worse was going to occur.

Whether you believe this current problem to be hyped beyond reasonable thinking, or if you believe what the majority media is reporting on the seriousness of the situation really doesn’t matter.

Where we’re at with this thing can’t be ignored: closed borders; suffering businesses barely surviving or completely failing; unemployment at double-digit highs; sickness and deaths. These are realities no matter what side of the debate you’re on.

If you’re interested in seeing the similarities from the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak to today’s pandemic, you will find many shocking similarities. It is incredible to see how we have learned so little from our experiences. As voters, we should have expected a better performance from our leaders.

Covid-19
(Illustration: iStock)

When I think about the things that I profess in my carrier workshops and the SWOT test that I strongly advocate as a useful tool in strategic planning, I get frustrated with the state of what we are currently experiencing. The Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threats exercise, appropriately done, reveals areas of concern to be addressed and opportunities to be capitalized on.

This exercise is not new to organizations or governments that are enlightened, and that decide a detailed exercise in planning strategy is a much more effective way to secure a successful future than pandering to the loudest issue of the day.

But this type of foresight seems to be too much to ask for from our current political leaders. A Covid-19 or similar event was coming. This concept was widely accepted and professed by many in the infectious disease community.

Were we adequately prepared? Not even close. We outsourced many of the PPE supplies that our frontline folks needed to other countries. Talk about having our heads in the sand. Such short-term thinking should have no place in people seeking leadership positions.

Trucking is currently labeled an essential service, and for years has been referred to as a base utility by the more enlightened among us. I believe both references are accurate. But in the long run, will it retain this ‘essential’ status?

Certainly, without drivers and trucking companies, everything stops. We all know this. The question moving forward is how our trade associations and individual voices might leverage our new-found status. There are so many issues that need to be addressed – can we leverage our heightened profile to possibly gain ground on some of the problems is the question, on both sides of the border.

We might start with tort reform in limiting nuclear rewards the courts have hammered many trucking companies with over the past couple of decades. If this were dealt effectively, what kind of pressure would that take off the current state of the oppressive insurance rates that plague anyone who operates a Class 8 vehicle? I would suggest that the vast majority of trucking company failures over the past three to five years are related to this issue.

As an essential service, shouldn’t demurrage be something that is fixed? This is an issue that has been around since the construction of the first truck. Giving a person’s time and their equipment away for free makes no sense whatsoever.

Try telling the next plumber electrician or HVAC person that comes to your house that they will need to wait outside for a couple of hours until you get to them. In today’s big data world, this issue should be history.

As an essential service, the truck parking issue should be an easy one to fix. This is another issue that snuck up on us in plain sight. I remember this was starting to happen when I drove 30-plus years ago. But what a surprise, it didn’t fix itself! Since we are an essential service, companies that can accommodate trucks should be gladly opening their lots to weary drivers.

Along with opening up these lots, the practice of food trucks helping to feed drivers should remain and be expanded along with proper facilities for drivers. We, the consumer, need our stuff and the fact that you, the driver, can’t find a safe place to sleep in your truck is not our issue. I say that’s a croc!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what needs to be addressed: driver wages; the myriad of taxes from every state and province; and a federal government that looks on this essential service as a cash cow. The infrastructure issues, CSA inadequacies, stacks of rules, and regulations mounted on our supposedly deregulated industry.

What happens as we slowly creep out of the pandemic and how long it will take is anyone’s guess. But the time to make significant gains on critical issues plaguing our industry is now. We currently have the public’s attention, and with that comes a heightened profile with our politicians. How this opportunity is leveraged will be interesting to watch unfold. One can only hope, right?

Ray Haight

Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • I agree that changes need to be done in treatment of truck drivers. Shippers and receivers have taken advantage of Trucking companies both before and during this cross. I see many people declared essential workers but treated badly meat processing workers nursing home workers and truck drivers. Certain trucking companies and many receivers do not care about safe parking. The government at all levels needs work with the drivers to have more safe parking often with electric plugs to reduce truck emmions. We need to change the attitude of the trucking associations that currently serving the companies not the truck drivers interest. With this pandemic truck drivers have nowhere to get out of the truck as many trucks have non working A C systems and many places the bathrooms are closed to no employees.