Understanding the changing face of the trucking industry

Much like women, Aboriginal Peoples are under-represented in the trucking industry.

This is not the case for all visible minorities in Canada. This month marks the launch of our Changing Face of Trucking project, which goes alongside the acquisition of Road Today and the creation of Newcom South Asian Media.

The project – which spans several publications, including Truck News, Today’s Trucking, and the one you’re reading now – is a wonderful endeavor to highlight how many of the faces that can be seen in trucking today are not always like the ones you would have seen 25 years ago and beyond.

But despite the desperate need for qualified drivers across North America, there are certain communities within Canada that have not flocked to the industry in the same way others have. There are various reasons for this, of course: opportunity, cost, connections to the industry, and preconceptions.
South Asians – Punjabi and Hindi speaking people – have been getting behind the wheel for years now in large numbers. The Indigenous community, however, has not.

As I documented in our cover story this month – “Tapping into the Aboriginal advantage” – the numbers are beyond low for Indigenous workers in the trucking industry, despite some carriers making valiant efforts to turn that trend around.

The solution to the qualified driver shortage in Canada and the U.S. is to entice these under-represented groups into the industry, but there is an unfortunate repercussion to an influx of immigrants and visible minorities into the industry.

As we have seen with South Asians, underlying feelings of resentment from some – not all – Canadians who are not descendants of another country has been all too common in the trucking industry.

Stereotypes and assumptions surrounding the “immigrant driver” contribute to this hostility, something that has unfortunately mirrored many societal views in our world today.

Viewed as untapped resources, groups like Aboriginals, and more successfully, South Asians, have been targeted by carriers for a few years now. Though we may not have seen numbers in the Indigenous community grow in the trucking industry like they have with South Asians, those who do chose to start a career in our industry need to be welcomed and treated with the same kind of respect as anyone else who made that difficult choice.

In reality, though it may not seem this way from the outside looking in, trucking is a very culturally diverse industry.

There are roughly 181,000 truck drivers in Canada, approximately 59,000 are immigrants. Several of the younger drivers come from the South Asian community, as few young Canadians are choosing trucking as a career.

There are also 1.5 million Aboriginal People in Canada, nearly half of which are under the age of 24 and more than half live in cities where demand for truck drivers is strong.

Of those who live off-reserve,  72% have a high school diploma and 43% have acquired post-secondary credentials.

Misconceptions, myths, assumptions, and lack of knowledge of several of these minority groups is exactly why we believe it is important to do projects like The Changing Face of Trucking. The reality of the industry is that if we are to combat the driver shortage – or find more qualified drivers, as many believe is the case – then we need to look beyond our borders, as well as within, for the segments that make up our working population yet go unnoticed.

So look across our family of magazines this October and leading up to the holiday season and check out how the trucking industry has and will continue to change.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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