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Executive View: Trucking’s Lady Chair Shares Vision for Future – Part Two

WOODSTOCK, N.B. - When LeeAnn McConnell, general manager of McConnell Transport, took the helm of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association recently, she became the first female chairperson in the association's 53-year history. Truck News caught...


WOODSTOCK, N.B. – When LeeAnn McConnell, general manager of McConnell Transport, took the helm of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association recently, she became the first female chairperson in the association’s 53-year history. Truck News caught up with McConnell to discuss her new role, what it means for women in trucking, and her vision for the future.

This is Part Two of the interview with McConnell.

TN: How do you rate the East Coast infrastructure?

McConnell: Well, we are on the way with just a few miles left to twin of the Trans-Canada Highway, and like every other province we would like more, but we will be grateful for the safety that comes with the four lanes being completed. On a regional level, we have about $35 million that will be going into the operation of the Houlton border crossing and the remainder going to St. Stephen crossing.

Because we are a service industry the most important thing that comes out of this investment is that we will be able to service our customers in a more timely fashion, there won’t be the same border delays and that eases the stress on our drivers as well.

Also, with the new FAST interview station being installed at Houlton, it is going to be just incredible for Atlantic Canada and for the drivers who would normally have had to been interviewed in Ontario. We already know the backlog they experience there, so hopefully this will increase the turnaround time on our driver applications.

TN: How are the drivers in Eastern Canada doing, what hassles are they facing?

McConnell: I would like to see our drivers’ National Occupation Code changed from unskilled to skilled. We are working very hard with our politicians to educate as many people as we can on the fact that the job of truck driver is defined as unskilled labour. This has an impact on immigration levels too. I have four immigrants from Holland that I have on a two-year program and because of this dilemma, they will only allow us to bring them in for one year. This means they have to return home before they can apply for the provincial nominee program and so they just put up more barriers there. Everyone in our industry knows that these drivers are skilled workers except the government. I would like to see their job become a trade.

I would also like to see a single training curriculum for all driving schools in Canada. Right now, there is no national training program that the schools must follow, so we are working on a standardized training program through the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council. I believe this is a necessary ingredient to put pride back in this career.

And lastly it’s important to continually educate all of our members and the public about who they share the road with. The average person still does not know that if you got it, a truck brought it. We’re the only industry that shares our workplace with the public and we have all the issues that the public deals with. But our high fuel costs and skyrocketing insurance would make theirs look like appetizers. So the public needs to know what we are up against as an industry. We are going to campaign heavily within our regional carriers on the importance of educating our administration staff, continuing our drivers’ education and most of all educating the public.

TN: Projecting into the future, how do you see things improving? What’s in store for us?

McConnell: I will look into my crystal ball, but that’s a hard question. I would never have predicted where we are at the present especially with the spin-offs from 9/11, so any predictions that I have, I think I will keep secret until they come true.


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