At the core of any training program for drivers is the need to repeat, repeat, and repeat. That repetition makes practice permanent, not necessarily perfect. So, the need to monitor, assess, and hone training programs is as important as the delivery of those programs to drivers.
The trucking industry fails miserably on both of these counts. The only universally mandated ongoing training Canadian drivers receive is for the Transportation of Dangerous Goods, once every three years. My best guess is that professional drivers in Canada will receive between zero and 40 hours of safety training from their carrier annually. My 18 years of experience tells me most drivers’ training time will be closer to zero than to 40.
As someone with a background in the delivery of training programs, I recognize the importance of self-assessment in relation to my own performance. My income, personal safety, and professional reputation are dependent on keeping my skills sharp and my knowledge up to date.
One of the things I do each year is review the SmartDriver for Highway Trucking program made available online by Natural Resources Canada. It’s a free program proven to help improve fuel efficiency by up to 35%. Safety and fuel bonuses are a significant part of my financial compensation, so this is important to me.
So, as I was reading my February 2017 issue of Truck News and saw the headline ‘Budget should focus on low-carbon trucking’ by the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s (CTA) CEO David Bradley, the question that first sprung up in my mind was in regard to available training dollars and programs for professional drivers. After all, improving fuel efficiency is still largely in the hands of the driver and this is the most direct way to reduce carbon emissions, cut operating costs, increase profits, and keep a carrier competitive.
But no, despite an industry focus on training and recruiting drivers of late, the CTA submission to the federal government stated in its introduction, “The 2017 federal budget can play a significant role assisting and accelerating investment in equipment and technology designed to reduce GHG from trucking.”
Absent was any mention of the role the driver plays in the trucking industry’s ability to meet new emissions standards.
The CTA goes on to say in its submission that, “Carbon reducing programs that target long-haul trucks will generate the most return on government investment as this sector of the trucking industry consumes the most fuel.” The government recognizes that drivers impact fuel efficiency by up to 35%, so why doesn’t the CTA?
I care deeply about the plight of other drivers and the health of our industry as a whole. I recognize that a driver’s welfare and well-being is tied directly to the success or failure of the carrier he or she works with. The CTA has assumed a mantle of leadership in the trucking industry by speaking for the over 4,500 companies it represents as a federation of provincial trucking associations. In doing so, it also represents the 400,000 direct jobs in the Canadian trucking industry, 300,000 of which are truck drivers. These are the CTA’s own numbers. By focusing on GHG reduction solely through investment in equipment and technology, while ignoring investment in human resources, the CTA is slapping drivers in the face and fueling a growing disregard for carrier associations amongst the rank and file.
Let’s not forget that the CTA’s own Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage had some strong things to say about how drivers are treated. A minimum standard of entry-level training, recognition as a skilled trade, and mandatory ongoing training/certification were recognized as core values for drivers. This much lauded report was to lead the change in recognizing and treating drivers as skilled professionals.
The CTA should be lobbying the federal government to be partnering in funding these initiatives, not allowing them to gather dust on the shelf.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall