CALGARY, Alta. – The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) has developed a set of national occupational standards (NOS) for the trucking industry.
That’s why the council held a workshop at its Essential Skills Conference in Calgary recently, to help demonstrate how carriers can customize the standards to better suit their individual application.
The national standards consist of 179 different skills in 13 different categories (remember that the next time somebody says anyone can drive a truck).
Each of the skills is prefaced by the words “A professional driver performing to a satisfactory level is required to…”
However, some of those skills, such as “Perform preventive maintenance,” may not apply to all companies.
So what are occupational standards and why would a company want to invest the time in developing its own set?
“The NOS are benchmarks or points of reference against which to measure performance,” explained Carol MacLeod, essential skills consultant with the CTHRC.
She added the NOS outline what competencies are expected to be demonstrated on the job by current and prospective employees.
“The standards reflect all aspects of the trucking industry but not every single competency applies to every single driver,” MacLeod admitted.
Companies such as the ECL Group of Companies (including Economy Carriers) have fine-tuned the national standards to better suit their own requirements.
The benefits are threefold. The company now has a chart posted in its headquarters as a reminder of the competencies all its drivers are expected to demonstrate while on the job.
The customized standards can also be used while screening new drivers to ensure they’ll be able to measure up if hired.
As well, ECL can use the tool to demonstrate to shippers that they require their drivers to exhibit a high level of professionalism. It makes for a great selling point when talking to shippers.
So you want to develop your own occupational standards? There are two ways to customize the national standards to reflect your own corporate identity, said MacLeod.
Firstly, carriers need to decide if they want to do the work internally or hire a consultant such as herself. That decided, they can follow either a focus group approach or use a convenient online customization tool.
During the focus group, a number of drivers are selected to participate in the process individually.
A large room is preferred, as sheets outlining each of the competencies are taped to the walls alongside the appropriate category heading.
Drivers are then asked to read each of the competencies and decide how relevant each of the standards are to him or her.
Drivers are asked to do nothing to the sheets containing the skills they feel 100 per cent in agreement with. If there are wording issues – “log books” versus “electronic logs” for instance – then the driver is asked to place a yellow sticky note on it.
That means the driver agrees the competency is required, but the wording should be fine-tuned.
If a driver feels a competency is not necessary within the company he’s employed by, he places a blue sticky note on it.
And if an essential skill is altogether missing, he places a pink sticky note on the wall – ECL, for example, had to add “comply with ISO standards.”
“At the end of the day you end up with their take on the standards,” MacLeod explained.
The carrier and its drivers can then discuss the order and sequence the fields should appear in to further customize it.
Online customization tool
While the focus group provides the front-line workers with an opportunity to participate, some companies may find it cumbersome and prefer a quick fix.
The CTHRC has developed an online customization tool for carriers, which allows them to simply input information about their company, generating a revised edition of the standards complete with the carrier’s logo.
It costs $50 to use, but that price includes the ability to customize the standards for four different occupations including dispatcher and driver trainer.
Once the user uploads the carrier’s logo, they can then print it out on 11×17 paper and presto – he or she has customized occupational standards. The result remains online for six months before being deleted, but it’s a secure site that can only be visited by the appropriate individuals.