We need to make trucking tougher, not easier

Avatar photo

A coworker said to me recently, “We need to make it harder, not easier.”

He was talking specifically in support of training on manual transmissions, but in light of recent events I feel compelled to expand further on his observation. Again. And not just as it relates to transmissions, either.

Experienced driver shifting gears
(Photo: iStock)

Writers can write, legislators will legislate, CEO’s will jump on board when they see fit, but guess what? It won’t change anything. Sound cynical? Why won’t more articles on training help? Why won’t more focus on mandatory entry-level training (MELT) programs made a difference?

Buckle up snowman, because this movie doesn’t end well. Yet.

Who dictates what happens in trucking? It’s not a who, it’s a what. Money. Things won’t change because money controls everything.

But, but, but…Crashes cost money to the companies! Bad drivers cost money! Sure, they do. Just not enough.

The numbers game

Unsafe carriers play the numbers game. Economies of scale. Get big enough and a few incidents are a small percentage of revenue. Give yourself leverage through size so you can get better prices on equipment.

Be a big enough voice in a trucking association, so you can help bend rules to your own benefit. Complain to the government that you need help getting more drivers into Canada because you have a “driver shortage”.

Customers aren’t any better. Once that freight is on a truck, they don’t care what happens. If it crashes, they’ll make more widgets. They’ll cry fake tears to their customer and promise things will be better.

After all, they have all the correct documentation to show they hired “good freight movers”. Then they’ll still hire someone who will save them a few dollars. Why? Because, shareholders ya know?

Where’s the passion for our industry? Where is the pride?

Thousands upon thousands of drivers have left the industry, disillusioned with the crap going on. Upset that their voice was dismissed. Maybe they refused to do something unsafe.

Sometimes the executives don’t hear this stuff. One executive told me how a certain run was in jeopardy because with the electronic logging devices (ELD) now required by law, it couldn’t be done legally.

He asked his people why this was allowed to happen. I know this route. I was at a different company that shared the same customer. I, and many others, complained that the times weren’t legal but we were never listened to. ‘Every one else does it, why can’t you?’

In the past, I watched a trainer do illegal things such as traveling down no-truck routes on a road test. Or leaving with the truck and trailer buried under snow for another road test. He didn’t know how to show others how to use specialized equipment, but he wrote the instruction book!

I brought this up to the bosses, and almost got fired. It was a touchy situation.

It’s hard not to be disillusioned when this happens continuously. It’s a good thing some of us won’t let the passion die.

Tests should be in official languages

Let’s start here: All tests should be conducted in English or French. Written, or verbal. You don’t need to be proficient, but you should be able to communicate correctly. Do you know all air traffic controllers must speak English? What’s good for them would also benefit us.

Also, we shouldn’t allow automatics to be used in training. Drivers need to learn what happens underneath them when they step on the loud pedal.

Listen to your people. Really listen. Do what’s best. It won’t always be the most economical suggestion in the short run, but It’ll pay off in driver retention and safety.

Stop hiring tractor services to move your freight long distances. Pull your own trailers. If you can’t hire good drivers, how can they? Don’t pass off your problems to others.

Do you want to do what’s cheapest, or best for the industry in the long run?

I could bring up more examples, but until it’s tougher to get and keep a trucking licence, operating authority, and drivers, nothing will change.

The health of our industry is at stake.

Avatar photo

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.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.


  • Well said I have been saying the same thing for over 10 years now. Many people want cheap freight not safer roads we can not have both. Bring a set training program .Make everyone have to learn on a .
    . manual transmission unless they disabled. I would love to work with the government and other drivers and the large trucking companies and maybe we should bring in gov insurance in ont instead letting large trucking companies self insure and go back on the receiver when a truck driver is told if late a fine will apply for half the cost of accident and treatment of those injured the cities and the warehouses need to work together to fix the parking problem. Pay hourly off the E log or time card with time half after 9 hours of driving or 10 hours on duty and double time after 13 hours on duty and allow truck drivers to exceed the 14 hours at the double time rate to find safe parking

  • You ‘re right on the money.
    It’s too easy too get your license and too keep it. Heavy hauler myself.

  • Retirement can’t come soon enough
    I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a truck driver these days
    Remember the day of kings of the highway?
    Our industry is a joke these days

    • I’m right there with you. I haven’t told people I drive truck for over ten years now because it has become an absolute embarrassment to be associated with this industry anymore. Retirement won’t come soon enough.

  • I have been trucking for 30 years and diffently agree speaking and reading English is very important. How well could any one drive in a country where you can’t follow their language or road signs. All this while a possibility of driving on the opposite side of the road. I feel a professional AZ driver should have to drive for at least 1-2 years before taking on any large trip. They should have been driving in North/South America for at least 1 year. It may seem easy but things can happen fast, real fast. A 2nd drivers test should also follow within 6-12 months to insure proper protocol is being applied at the cost of the hiring company. I have noticed respect and curtasity are gone, they should be taught (SAD). It’s gone out the door with the CB radio(which by the way was a large moving camera for trucks.) Let the other driver in/ slow down around other stopped vehicles etc….. final words Everyone needs a job and people come to this country to prosper and make a new life. Let’s not make saving a buck the bottom line. Owners and stock holders I’m sure you will make more$$$$$.

  • The deregulation was the start of the downward spiral of the industry, I agree that ALL new drivers must learn on a standard transmission period.
    With that being said, why doesn’t the government look at a graduated licensing system where you get you DZ first and cut your teeth on a straight truck and gradually work upto an AZ

  • Very nice article. And one more concern, how come the person vistor here in North America getting AZ license?The person having zero experience of driving here is driving big commercial trucks.

  • WELL SAID MY BROTHER!!! the furtherance of all these “ILLS” or “problems ” we all face as truck drivers could be placed on the “actors ” you mentioned, but truthfully, both AZ drivers & citizens have forgotten how much power we have, complicity comes from silence or worse our acceptance!!!!

  • A commercial license makes you a professional driver. There are less, and less professionals driving commercially, making bad decisions, not caring,etc. They need to learn their profession, and operate accordingly. Unfortunately our licensing has become lax, putting unqualified drivers in these positions. Many can’t even speak English!!!

    • That’s a fact. Turn 65 and you automatically become a hazard on the roads. I was fine yesterday at 64 but not on my birthday?
      Got a ticket that was meant for someone else because I saw him. First in over 30 years. I has to do a vision test, provide a medical, write all the tests for my AC/Z licence and arrange a road test inside of 90 days all at the height of Covid or lose my job!
      I was told if I was 64, none of that would have been necessary. Discrimination at its finest.

      • Yup…
        Age harrassment…
        Now what about all those teens and egomaniacs etc ripping around in SUV’s and pickups.

  • Ever follow truck drivers these days on the 400 series rds. Using the 403 for example; truckers pass another and stay in the left lane for miles before pulling back into the right lane. In many cases side by side of another trucker for miles. Or they pull into the pass or left lane right in front of you as you’re passing in the left lane. Gone are the days of respect on our rds. Became a wild west out there.

  • I left the trucking industry after 44years experience simply because of inexperienced steering wheel holders and the dangerous situations that have been happening, there is absolutely no accountability for anything that is happening with the accidents and dangerous driving.

  • So why doesn’t every province have automatic testing here in Ontario manitoulin has had its own AZ driver training for at least 20 years you don’t pas you don’t drive and yea English and French the 3 languages spoken in Canada that’s what the signs are written in.

  • HI & txs.your message is correct it’s the problem there never was a driver shortage was more of a company & government problem that deregulation in trucking load brokers company’s drivers are a dime a dozen has made a full circle . NOW WE HAVE A BIGGER PROBLEM.

  • I agree with everything except the manual transmission part. You don’t learn what is happening connected to the loud peddle because you can shift gears. Most of us grew up around engines and mechanical things with an interest to learn. I do agree they should have a better understanding of the workings of their truck. We are fighting the same things that everyone is fighting. Companies owning companies owning companies. They don’t know or care how the job is done (just protect my investment dam it). The whole “they do it why won’t you” mentality runs really deep and caused us as a whole a mountain of problems. That one isn’t just an office problem it permeates the entire industry. New Americans don’t want this job because it’s hard on your life, you miss moments, events, kids growing up. Your alone and now the office contact that used to help doesn’t even know or have time for your problem. I don’t even drive the way a lot of driver do. I’m home almost every weekend. Man I missed a lot of my kids mile stones. It’s a life style not a job. If I didn’t drive for my self I would not be in this thankless industry. I get to foster customer relationships so we work together. My customers know if it can’t be done it’s for good reason that I can explain. Then we figure out how to do it. If a diver should be anything it’s a problem solver. We are expected to fix everyone’s mistakes and most of our Own. Customers need to pay for their inefficiency. It’s not ok to hold up 30 trucks for 12hrs and the driver gets little to nothing for a delay they didn’t create. Dispatcher don’t know or ask the right questions, because they don’t know how to. It doesn’t pay what it should. Before a trucker could provide for a family “if he worked hard” now you can’t and your not home and the industry says “this is how it’s done” so most people are out. There are far to many negatives for the money to beat, no one smart gives up their life for little to nothing in return. Most drivers reading this is from the “old school” I was trained by the old school in trucks that could easily be fixed on the side of the road. That not that do able anymore. I started in ‘06 with a ,90s FLD Freightliner. I now drive a ‘15 Volvo I can fix a lot of things but not most, not on the side of road anyway. We need to find a new path to better pay and more pride in our industry this isn’t the world it used to be we can’t solve it with old ideas. We aren’t in that world. As much as I also miss “the good old days” they are gone. The future is going to have to be something new. This industry is going to have to give more and take less of its most important resource (Professional Drivers).

  • I’ve been trucking 24 yrs the passed 3 yrs I’ve had my own authority it’s a crying shame what the industry has become as far as the e log goes it’s pretty simple if everyone would stick together and not use them but these mega carriers won’t stick to nothing they shouldn’t even be allowed to insure themselves as far as the fmcsa goes no person should be allowed to work for them unless they’ve had 10 or more yrs in the industry

    • I agree no company should be able to self insure ont needs to bring in the Manitoba or the B C or Sask model for insurance for the liability and for driver medical care . I have seen too many truck drivers / lease ops for larger trucking companies left with medical bills and no way back if sick or injured . I have seen many truck drivers in Ontario have to pay out of their own pocket and when they were unable to do so not get the care they needed and become homeless in the last 3 years in Ontario as a (volunteer ) with a nonprofit.

  • Well intentioned article. Problem is the trucking industry has long since diminished into today’s needs. Real drivers have stepped away. The pride most of us had when we started is so trampled, it at a POINT OF NO RETURN. I started in 1979. Trucking was a meaningful profession. Manual transmission, rarely had power steering. You learned the hard way. Today there’s all sorts of people behind the wheel.

  • I’ve been saying this for a long time. Sad to say, but few take pride in their work anymore and the attitude is that there is a company y down the road that will take me on. As for the companies, they no longer worry or care about driver retention because there is another body walking in to fill the seat. The companies forget the cost of training a new hire and don’t care about their reputation in the industry. This almost always occurs when companies get too large and employees become ‘just a bumber’.

  • This is all good and well but the horse has left the barn and is three provinces over…
    I got my license in 2013 and was told I could choose between auto or manuel for my drive test
    Since I was told auto was easier (I did the melt program with a manuel so not sure why I bothered with a truck I hadn’t driven)
    I used a auto for the first time, I messed up my timing impeded traffic on a left turn and failed
    Went back in a manual truck and made it 100%
    Automatic trucks are here to stay. Regardless of how any of us feel about them. I do agree with manuel only training and testing.
    The licensing option in only English or French should be a must. I’ve seen it too many times that people can’t understand road signs because they barely speak English or having to explain to them what the receiver or shipper wants from a driver because they don’t read English.
    I’m 32 now I’m working on getting my car mechanic apprenticeship and hopefully get my diesel mechanic license after. I miss truck driving
    But not the sweat shop it’s become. I get sick days and paid vacation time. No carriers I’ve delt with were like that. I work half as hard and make double the money. I’ll never let my kids drive a truck. There’s a hundred better options before they’ll be stuck in a life of slavery like that

  • The government needs to stop giving commercial driving schools the ability to give a driver a license. They should go through the ministry of training like the old days. Automatic trucks are not in my opinion a good vehicle to start all drivers should know how to drive stick. I’ve been driving transport for 30 years. I have been accident free. And that was due to the training that I received in the early 80s need to go back more classroom time more on road time with loads in the trailers. The federal government needs to buckle down on these multi-billion dollar companies. Who continuously break the laws. Safety is not an issue at a lot of places just ask the workers compensation board. But if trucks aren’t moving freight the economy goes to hell in a handbasket. If all drivers stop driving for 3 days. There would be no food no gas pretty much no nothing. It’s time we got more respect better wages and back up from the federal government it’s not all about money. Mental mental health well-being and safety should be the government’s utmost priority.

  • I am on board, and looking to get a class 3 drivers license. When I’m driving in my personal vehicle, its very worrisome to meet a big rig on the road, especially on corners! What would be the extra training involve to help actual endorsement, as they hog the road at most times!

  • Hello James

    Great article.

    Unfortunately the barn door has been left open, the cow is out of the barn and nolonger in sight. Nobody left the gate open and nobody wants to look for for the cow. Four more year and I to will be out of the barn, if I can survive the bull.


    A 28 year veteran

  • Class 1 A drivers should have a minimum of a full G license before applying for a Class 1A, this would at least ensure they have been driving a minimum of 2 years in Canada before applying for a commercial license. It would improve safety, plus raise wages making it more attractive to Canadians as a career. Trucking companies that import temporary foreign workers, and prey on International/post graduate students, supported by Canada’s archaic migrant/tfw labour laws to fill the labour gap are one step above human traffickers, and sometimes not even the one step. As Canadian’s, most of us are not even aware that indentured servitude is alive and thriving in Canadian trucking/ agriculture, and other industries . Certain foreign workers right to work in Canada, is tied to a specific company under tfw contracts, which sets up an environment ripe for abuse, creating unsafe work environments, and increased danger to the public and
    to the individuals performing the forced labour. Driven by profit and endorsed by government. Mr. Justin Trudeau, for all his crocodile tears and environmental concerns has allowed Canada to become a land of indentured laborourers, luring young foreigners to Canada, through educational loopholes and restrictive TFW contracts, so that universities and colleges can generate massive profits, starting with predatory recruitment practices in foreign countries, ending with diploma mills which have no real world value. Many unethical trucking companies engage in the same recruitment practices, ensuring by the time an individual actually starts driving, they do not have to pay their foreign employees as per the Canada Labour Code, and various provincial statutes, as the lions portion of their salary goes to pay off their relocation/ training debt.
    Shame Mr. Trudeau shame on you.

  • you are spot on. What really bothers me is the fact that a driver like me with 40 years of safe driving is now considered unsafe because I have become 65 years old. As far as I am concerned if Ontario wants new drivers that crash and bern so be it. I can give up my licence and go do something else. Which is pretty sad.

  • Extremely well written, David!
    Everything you wrote is true.
    It’s sad that the the industry won’t listen to the opinions of us old timers.
    Until they respect the knowledge of their elders, which was learned through experience, the trucking community will continue to deteriorate.

  • It’s too far gone now. You’re not going to get it back. Professional and safe driving as a whole in this industry is gone for good.