Ayr Motor Express already knows what an acute driver shortage looks like. The fleet, based in Woodstock, N.B., is the largest employer in town, and it is counted among 57 trucking companies in the Upp...
Ayr Motor Express already knows what an acute driver shortage looks like. The fleet, based in Woodstock, N.B., is the largest employer in town, and it is counted among 57 trucking companies in the Upper St. John River Valley who compete for employees.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that the search for long-haul drivers involved reaching beyond local borders. Way beyond. For the past several years, recruits have come from as far away as Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and other European locales.
With the help of Business New Brunswick’s Population Growth Secretariat, Ayr has been successfully recruiting temporary foreign workers who have honed their skills as truck drivers in countries like these. Unlike immigrants -who should be part of every long-term recruiting strategy -the temporary foreign workers receive clearance to apply their skills in Canada for a limited period of time, specifically to help offset an acute shortage.
The importance of both categories of workers will continue to grow. According to Statistics Canada, low birth rates among the Canadian-born population, combined with an aging workforce, mean that immigrants will account for all the net growth in Canada’s labour force as early as 2011.
“At a time when Canada’s labour force is becoming increasingly multicultural, immigrants and temporary foreign workers represent a largely untapped source of potential employees,” says CTHRC executive director, Linda Gauthier. “These individuals offer a great diversity of education, training, on-the-job skills and life experiences that can enhance any fleet.”
Ayr was successful in its search for drivers who had experience with different terrains, changing weather and border crossings. “There are some slight differences, but they understand the business of trucking,” says Ralph Boyd, Ayr’s manager of human resources and special projects, noting how successful candidates demonstrated a strong work ethic. Granted, there are some practical issues to address. Ayr requires its temporary foreign workers to hold a passport that is openly accepted by the US, and to demonstrate necessary language skills.
But the fleet also needed to take some unique steps to ensure the new workers could successfully integrate into the organization and the community as a whole.
“The biggest thing that we found is, when dealing with foreign workers, they left their home country, their family, their friends behind. You become their attachment,” says Boyd. That means helping with tasks such as opening a bank account, taking road tests, helping children to get into schools and even working with spouses to find jobs and connect with other members of a cultural community.
Language barriers and cultural differences -if not properly managed -can create tension and friction in the workplace. Recruiting efforts that cross international borders can also make it difficult for fleets to demonstrate the due diligence that comes with validating past employment history, checking references and assessing language skills.
The CTHRC has a series of tools to help fleets address the related needs. The popular Your Guide to Human Resources includes two new modules that specifically support the hiring of immigrants and temporary foreign workers. Each module includes tools and templates to address recruitment, cultural awareness, orientation and integration.
The guidance can be particularly important given that the hiring of temporary foreign workers will require a fleet to interact with several government departments, all of which are identified in the CTHRC’s Report for Employers on Hiring Immigrants and Temporary Foreign Workers. This is a step by step guide that details federal and provincial government immigration programs, processes, costs and time frames.
There are other costs as well. Those who hire temporary foreign workers as truck drivers must pay for all recruiting costs, transportation to and from the foreign worker’s home country, provincial medical coverage for the first 90 days, and worker’s compensation. There may also be the need for a deposit to ensure that appropriate and affordable accommodation is available for the drivers when they arrive in Canada. But Boyd suggests that more fleets should embrace workers from outside their borders.
The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated not-for-profit organization that helps attract, train and retain workers for Canada’s trucking industry. For more information, visit www.cthrc.com.
STILL A PEOPLE INDUSTRY
For-hire transportation may require a great deal of technology, but human resources remain an integral part of all modal operations, as the latest data from Statistics Canada indicates. If bus, taxi and other similar transport sectors are included with the truck, rail, marine and air modes, more than three-quarters of a million Canadians are employed by for-hire carriers of one type or another. Trucking makes up 46% of the transport industry’s total, and medium and large for-hire carriers employ 43% of the total number of for-hire industry employees. Although Ontario has the lion’s share of employment, notice the importance of the Prairie provinces. Note also the strength of weekly earnings in Alberta and British Columbia in comparison to the rest of the country.
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