Big Rig Driver Education looking to fill driver void
December 1, 2005
EDMONTON, Alta. - Denzil Matvichuk is trying to fill a void. The owner of Edmonton, Alta.-based Big Rig Driver Education, a division of Big Valley Driver Education Inc., is doing his part to address C...
READY TO ROLL: Romanian truck drivers Florentin Melca, Mario Corozel, Dani Oprisan, Adrian Stanescu, Horatiu Calin and Chris Mocan are among the more than 50 European drivers trained by Denzil Matvichuk at Big Rig Driver Education.
THE PROF: Denzil Matvichuk teaches one of his driver training courses on a Saturday morning in Edmonton.
EDMONTON, Alta. – Denzil Matvichuk is trying to fill a void. The owner of Edmonton, Alta.-based Big Rig Driver Education, a division of Big Valley Driver Education Inc., is doing his part to address Canada’s truck driver shortage by training European truck drivers to work in Canada, giving them new lives and new opportunities as he provides what he calls a short-term solution to a looming issue in the trucking world.
“Many drivers are retiring and there are not enough people out there to replace them,” said Matvichuk, whose company offers Class 1 advanced transport driver training and Class 1 and 3 licence endorsements.
Matvichuk said he has spent a lot of time going to high schools, job fairs, Aboriginal communities and elsewhere to promote truck driving as a career and that many people have expressed an interest in becoming truck drivers. That interest, however, doesn’t seem to be enough, which is why Matvichuk sees the European driver training program as a way to address the driver shortage, for now.
“It’s easier to train people who already live in Canada to become truck drivers, but for the moment, I have to look overseas to find students,” he said. “You have to fill the void.”
The European driver training program, which began in 2002, came about after Matvichuk, who began driving trucks in 1972, became a driver trainer in 1989, and founded Big Rig in 1994, received a phone call from a recruiter in Romania who wanted him to train former members of the Romanian military to work as truck drivers in Canada. Matvichuk travelled to Romania to investigate the idea and found that the people the recruiter wanted him to train were good-quality candidates. He took resumes from the drivers and then began to sell the idea of bringing them to Canada to work to trucking firms.
“The trucking companies were very excited about the idea, but they weren’t sure how it would work,” said Matvichuk, who, in addition to speaking with trucking firms, contacted the federal and provincial governments about helping him through the process of establishing the driver training program.
Matvichuk, who has trained more than 50 people under the European driver training program, said it took about 18 months of speaking to trucking firms and the federal and provincial governments to get the program off the ground.
He said trucking companies are on board with the program.
“I don’t go to them anymore, they come to me,” said Matvichuk.
He said the driver training program has been very successful.
“We’ve got Europe’s best drivers coming through our school,” said Matvichuk. “These guys are very good at what they do.”
Having the opportunity to be truck drivers in Canada is something those who’ve taken Big Rig’s European driver training seem to value quite a lot.
A group of truck drivers from Romania recently sat down to talk about the move to Canada, a life change they’re all pleased to have made.
Florentin Melca, who came to Canada in December 2003, finds truck driving in his new country a little different from what it was in Romania, but likes Canada better.
“There are some things that are better in Romania, some things that are better in Canada, but overall, Canada is a big plus over Romania,” he said.
Driver Mario Corozel has similar feelings.
“It’s completely different, but in a good sense,” he said of working in Canada. “It’s very difficult finding a good job in Europe.”
Corozel said he was surprised at how much work there is in Canada, where he and his family plan to stay.
“My kids are really glad to be here,” he said.
Corozel said his children would have many opportunities in Canada.
“I moved here so they could have a better future,” he said.
Dani Oprisan is especially pleased to be in Canada.
“I give a thousand thanks to Denzil for what he did for us,” he said. “I was born again in February 2004 when I came to this country.”
Oprisan said he plans to build a future in Canada, where he finds that life is better for him than back home.
Horatiu Calin thinks Big Rig’s training was very good and that it prepared him for his job.
“They teach us what we have to know,” said Calin, who also came to Canada in February 2004.
Like Corozel, Calin sees a good future in his new country.
“I think Canada will be better for me and my family,” he said. “We will have a nice future here.”
Coming to Canada does not just bring benefits to the drivers and their families; their new country benefits from them being here as well.
“The Europeans I’ve trained are excellent workers and good people,” said Matvichuk. “They are an asset to our country.”