TORONTO, Ont. – A panel of professional drivers and trainers recently weighed in on how the industry can better attract and retain drivers, while speaking at Northbridge Insurance’s Full Circle customer appreciation event. The panel included: Guy Broderick, a driver-trainer with Apps Transport; Michael Foster, driver with Challenger Motor Freight; Helen Thorpe, corporate trainer with Seaboard Transport; and Chantelle Bomberry, flatdeck driver with Contrans.
When looking for a driving career, Broderick said he sought out a company that demonstrated respect for its drivers.
“After I got my licence, I started to travel around Ontario and really noticed the level of respect some companies gave their drivers and that some did not give their drivers,” he said.
Foster said many carriers don’t do enough to develop their new hires, especially new A/Z drivers.
“You start like a seedling,” he said of entry-level drivers. “A seedling might not take roots and can cause you a lot of troubles…company owners have to make sure they train and develop their drivers.”
Women are an underrepresented segment of the population in trucking, comprising just 3% of pro drivers in Canada. Bomberry was attracted to the job because of the challenge double-clutching an 18-speed presented. She chose flatdeck because of the opportunity to be more active and get out of the truck frequently throughout the day.
“I didn’t consider driving in high school,” she said. “A lot of trucks were going by and I thought that would be something neat to try. I had just purchased my first car, which was a standard, and I liked shifting. I decided I wanted to do more of this.”
Thorpe got into the industry after being laid off from her first career choice in photo-journalism. She said she was welcomed into the industry. She said some carriers try too hard to appeal to women and have the opposite effect.
“Market to women, present it as a valid career option, but where we fall down is that marketing can sometimes be seen like we’re being talked down to or accommodated,” she said. “When doing your marketing, reach out to us, but I’m going to scream if I hear one more ad that says we can make this more female-friendly, we have automatics. I drive stick shift in my car because I choose to, I enjoy the challenge of double-clutching. I want to be treated as a driver, as a professional capable member – I don’t want to feel like girls can do this too, because we have automatics.”
While Thorpe and Bomberry are passionate about their chosen careers, Bomberry admitted there are still unique challenges facing women.
“Sometimes there are no women’s washrooms,” she says of trucking facilities. “Maybe down the road they might change that.”
She said her personal safety is a top concern.
“When you go to the truck stop are you going to be safe?”
To draw new people to the industry, employers need to better educate teachers and guidance counselors and spread the word that driving is a viable career, Broderick suggested.
“They don’t know what’s involved in it, the training that’s involved, the ongoing training. To educate those educators is what we need to do,” he said.
Foster agreed that the career has a lot to like and that it’s a matter of better getting the word out.
“This is the greatest career I’ve ever had,” he said. “What would I have done if I didn’t start driving? Drivers need a better voice so we’re all heard…it’s very rewarding when you help somebody and get them to the level where they’re working, making an income, buying their first house. We need to romanticize the job. Transportation makes the world go around.”