Communication the biggest barrier drivers face

by Al Goodhall

I did something at the end of October I haven’t done for a very long time – I attended a trucking symposium. Sponsored by the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada (WTFC), it brought together drivers and staff from operations, safety, and the executive suite in the same room.

I came away from the day’s meeting with a lot of information of high value to me as a driver. I also came away from the meeting with questions.

A few years ago, I spent a considerable amount of time attending industry meetings and became somewhat disenchanted. It’s not that the information I gleaned from these meetings wasn’t valuable or that the presenters weren’t professional and well-informed. The problem I saw was that the intention to create positive change on the front line wasn’t trickling down to the drivers.

WTFC is trying to change that narrative from the bottom up. In light of that, this inaugural meeting was named Bridging the Barriers.

There were a couple of things that stood out for me at the meeting. The first was the presentation on trailer theft and truck hijackings. It was an interactive session and training that every driver should receive. It was great to have a 30-year police veteran share his experience as to how these hijackings come about and what you should do if you are a victim in order to come out of it safely.

The presentation on cannabis and drug and alcohol testing was also interesting. It amazes me that the government can mandate this testing and we rarely, if ever, question its efficacy. The trucking industry spends tens of millions of dollars every year on drug testing.

So, when I put these things together in my head, I’m left wondering about something that I have written about in this space many times before. Why do we not have a federally-mandated, standardized apprenticeship training program for truck drivers in this country?

As important as it is to our personal safety, truck hijackings are not part of a standardized safety program, but standardized drug testing is. And with questionable results, in my opinion, in terms of improving safety outcomes. Why are we not questioning that investment?

It appears to me, after participating in a seminar titled Bridging the Barriers, that the greatest barrier we face is the communication barrier. Getting the information to the drivers on the front line is the greatest challenge we face. Until we overcome that obstacle, how can we address any of the other major issues that we face?

It’s not reasonable to expect longhaul drivers to attend trucking seminars on a regular basis. We simply don’t have the time, nor can we do it on our own dime. But that doesn’t mean we should just throw in the towel.

As drivers, we should be investing in organizations like WTFC. The price of membership is less than what the average driver spends on a dozen large coffees in the course of his or her workweek. The return on that small investment is that you have drivers representing you to the rest of the industry in a positive way, and bringing to light the issues we face on the front line every day.

That being said, we can’t expect that throwing only money at a problem is going to solve it. We have to participate in the process in some way. This is the objective of WTFC.

The goal of this organization is to build a network of informed drivers. This is the best way to amplify our voice as drivers in a positive way. We need to bring the driver experience to the forefront of our industry.

As professional drivers we need a unified lobby if we want to have a strong voice at the table. I would urge drivers to take a close look at WTFC as a channel for being that change that you want to see in our industry.

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