Truck News


A sorry state of affairs

DON MILLS, Ont. - Truck News has tallied up the results from our first annual State of the Industry survey and on average our readers report they're not happy with the world of trucking.The survey res...

DON MILLS, Ont. – Truck News has tallied up the results from our first annual State of the Industry survey and on average our readers report they’re not happy with the world of trucking.

The survey results peg professional driver satisfaction at 4.8; a score of 5.5 would have been a middle-of-the-road ‘satisfied.’

Perhaps it’s a symptom of the times: a sluggish economy means slower freight volumes, which makes everyone a little less happy to call the trucking industry home.

The annual report examined the responses of professional truckers from across the country – 55 per cent from Ontario and Quebec, 34 per cent from Western Canada and 11 per cent from Atlantic Canada.

As well, a healthy mix of company drivers (48 per cent) and owner/operators (50 per cent) took the time to submit their views to the industry’s leading trade magazine.

Together they averaged almost 20 years experience at turning the wheels for a living so their opinions have been formed over time and not just the hasty assumptions of their greener brethren.

Almost 84 per cent list themselves as ‘married’ or ‘married with children,’ which explains the reason the most popular way to pass a day off is at home, working around the house with family.

What’s really interesting is that when we asked this hard-working group who are dissatisfied with the state of trucking how much they like their job, the response swung in the opposite direction. Rating the profession of trucker almost seven out of 10 for satisfaction, we at the magazine were collectively left scratching our heads. If the career is a good one, what is it about the industry that leaves such a bad taste in truckers’ mouths?

The State of the Industry survey asked truckers to examine and rate all aspects of their business, including various levels of government, treatment by shippers and of course the companies signing their cheques to try to answer this question.

Fleets are sweet

The majority of the truckers who took the time to answer our survey are currently hauling for carriers handling international freight (52 per cent). The remainder is split between a large group – including vocational folks – that stay within their own province (29 per cent) and a somewhat smaller group running coast-to-coast, without ever crossing the 49th parallel (19 per cent).

The idea of the trucker as a lone wolf prowling the continent’s highways quietly trying to scrape together a living is alive and well; with the exception of 10 team drivers, more than 96 per cent of respondents say they fly solo.

According to our results, the nation’s fleets are not to blame for the poor impression of the industry behind the wheel.

This was supported by the fact that carrier satisfaction scored 6.7 out of 10 – coincidentally a total much higher than indicated in the former Truck News Rate your Carrier surveys which was conducted in each of the previous five years.

Even in this time of shrinking odometer totals, ‘How happy are you with your miles?’ earned a score of 7.4 out of 10.

This suggests truckers largely understand their companies are doing what can be done to keep them running as many miles as possible.

Also scoring well in this category was the driver and O/O population’s level of satisfaction with the equipment used on a daily basis. Overall, a score of 7.13 out of 10 indicates people are generally please with the trucks and trailers they are asked to move.

The industry low point for carrier contentment was reached on, you guessed it, pay rates. But the veteran group of survey respondents held even this oft-voiced complaint in check.

A rating of 6.32 says compensation indicates folks are more than satisfied for right now with their compensation.

With fuel costs in check, many of the O/Os who survived the price spike are seeing more dollars in their bank at the end of the month – which is hard to complain about at any time.

The customer is always right

The firms using the transport industry’s service are also among the usual suspects when a trucker starts to complain. Shippers and receivers traditionally score very low marks whenever professional drivers are asked to rate their performance.

That being said, those answering Truck News’ call – while less than ecstatic about the treatment they get from shippers – on average indicate, they are at least satisfied. At a tally of 6.39 it’s no perfect 10, but it is safely above the median.

If the companies operating the loading docks wanted to improve this rating, our respondents sent a clear message on how they could do so, too.

When asked, ‘How respectful of your time are the shippers you work with?’ a paltry 5.2 indicates it will take significant improvements before the industry is satisfied.

Overall, 45 per cent of those filling out a form indicated they lose, on average, one to two hours per stop at a dock … all thanks to shipper inefficiencies.

At the same time 24 per cent of truckers say they’re waiting more than two hours to load and unload, which by all rights should change.

One respondent in this category indicates they are stuck at the dock for at least a day at a time every trip out.

While some of the blame for this has to be attached to the shipper, perhaps it’s time the gentleman’s fleet took a long hard look at its equipment utilization to double-check that it’s getting the most out of its iron and fixed operating costs.

Look to the regulators

So if the fleets and shippers aren’t culpable for the poor state of the industry in the eyes of its frontline workers, who should be saddled with the blame?

As an elected official, one should be prepared for the occasional tar-and-feather job. And if Canada’s truckers had their way, there’d be a lot of folks in Ottawa sporting chicken suits.

By far the lowest satisfaction rating of the entire survey went to the federal government’s treatment of professional drivers.

A wretched 3.74 out of 10 was all the feds could muster indicating this is not a problem that will go away over night.

While a wide range of issues have been regarded as slaps to the collective face of the industry, 94 per cent of respondents made the government’s lack of activity when it comes to providing trucker-friendly tax deductions the area of greatest concern.

But there are so many ways the feds could win back some of these enraged voters at budget time. Where could they possibly begin?

For starters, 90 per cent of the freight haulers surveyed want to see improvements to the meal allowance system.

Certainly 50 per cent of $33 isn’t exactly reasonable especially when you consider federal employees are permitted $61.50 when they’re on the road.

As the softwood lumber trade war with the U.S. rages on – to say nothing of looming cattle and wheat battles – it should be no surprise 88 per cent of truckers want to see Ottawa get in the ring with our largest trading partner and start swinging on the nation’s behalf.

Canada’s poor excuse for a national highway system, the Trans-Canada Highway, also served to enrage the driving community. Earning only 4.07 out of 10 on the satisfaction meter, the ribbon of road is considered by many to be a joke.

Still only two lanes for literally thousands of kilometres, the route pales in comparison to the Interstate Network south of the border. And this country’s truckers are tired of settling for second place in this two horse race.

While municipalities and provinces scored far below fleets and shippers for trucker satisfaction, they did however flirt with the median in most areas.

One exception of note, however, had to be the industry’s rosy relationship with provincial truck cops. On average, inspectors and weigh scales were considered to be more than fair, and earned a 6.06 out of 10 in the survey.

That’s a little surprising given the number of calls Truck News’ editors tend to field revolving around those, ‘sonovabitch inspectors who don’t know up from down.’

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