The following is a spin-off from my column in the December issues of Truck News and Truck West, which will be hitting your desks and cabs next week. I thought I’d repeat my thoughts via my blog, so that readers can weigh in with their own opinions and get some dialogue flowing…
In mid-October, B.C. carriers lauded a decision by the province to permanently include long-haul truck driving among the professions qualifying for inclusion in its provincial nominee program (PNP).
That essentially means B.C.-based long-haul trucking firms will be able to recruit qualified drivers from overseas and the province will expedite their immigration process, fast-tracking their transition to permanent resident status.
Reaction has been mixed. Many fleets insist they can’t find qualified Canadian drivers willing to accept the pay and lifestyle afforded by a career as a long-distance truck driver. Bringing experienced drivers from countries in Europe and the Middle East fills a vital need for the industry and will benefit the economy, proponents contend.
On the flip side, others are left wondering how conditions for professional drivers will ever improve if we’re simply willing to look further abroad for workers who will accept the way things currently are? Have we no appetite to improve conditions for our existing workforce to make professional driving an occupation in which one can earn a decent living, achieve some semblance of work/life balance and take pride in their profession?
In a recent e-mail exchange, Larry Hall, a former fleet owner and head of the North American Truckers Guild, told me he feels the PNP is “the single biggest thing to happen in this industry since deregulation.” He went on to say it “has the potential to undermine our entire labour force,” and he insisted the nation’s professional drivers are “willfully ignorant” of the program’s implications.
I certainly wouldn’t go that far. In my opinion, the PNP is a stopgap measure that will not have far-reaching implications on the industry, simply because it’s an ineffective, expensive and shortsighted solution to the driver shortage. It’s costly (some estimates peg the cost of recruiting a foreign driver through the program at $10,000), many drivers either return home or jump ship to another carrier when their initial contract expires and in many cases drivers who arrive here realize they were sold a bill of goods and the realities of long-haul trucking in Canada are not as glamorous as they imagined or were led to believe.
I feel the PNP programs will have limited long-term success and eventually will fade into oblivion as progressive carriers seek more effective, permanent solutions to attracting workers (and some are already doing this). While I’m skeptical of the PNP, I do believe immigration will play an important role in keeping the industry rolling.
We have an abundance of foreign-born and second generation employees working as truck drivers in this country; progressive fleets could be tapping into this pool more effectively and offering training and compensation that would elevate the quality of our overall driver force. They’re right here, folks, you don’t need to cross any oceans to find them.
As far as the PNP is concerned, I think when we look back on it five years from now, we’ll find it had no significant impact on the trucking industry, good or bad. Larry’s not so sure.
He sees the PNP as an elaborate ploy by big carriers to drive down wages. The answer may be somewhere in the middle. What do you think? Should provincial governments be enabling Canadian trucking firms to recruit from abroad when they’re having difficulty finding drivers here at home? Please discuss…
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