H.R. issues to be on the front burner in Eastern Canada

by Sonia Straface

MONTREAL, Que. — The Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) says going forward in 2016 its focus will turn to addressing the driver shortage problem that is affecting its member carriers.

“Our main issues for the coming year is our human resources issues,” said Marc Cadieux, CEO of the QTA. “The shortage of drivers is great concern for our industry. And it’s not only the shortage of drivers, but the shortage of employees in the transportation industry as a whole. Whether it’s dispatch, mechanics, logistics – there’s a great shortage and we need to fix it.”

To help combat the issue head on, the association put together a special HR committee that looks at strategies for attracting younger people into the industry that severely needs then.

Normand Bourque, engineer and technical advisor for the QTA and GM of the committee, said: “The main project that we’re working on with the government is to try and get younger people into the industry. In Quebec, you can’t drive a truck until you’re 19 so we’re losing a lot of young people’s interest and they’re going into other trades. So we are going to be working with them there to help lower the age.”

Bourque added that ads for jobs in the trucking industry will be going up in places younger people will be exposed to more frequently, like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and at bus shelters in the coming year. The QTA also said it is working with high schools and guidance councillors to help promote jobs within the industry.

“We’re distributing pamphlets to them to give to high school students,” said Bourque, adding that informing high school students about the opportunities in trucking is important because they should know about the industry when they haven’t made a commitment to college or university yet. 

Cadieux went on to say that 2015 was a tough year for carriers in northern Quebec in terms of the economy.

“Certain sectors are doing fairly well, but others are having a harder time,” he said. “In the northern part of Quebec where the mining and forestry is located, they are having tough time. In southern Quebec, things are a little easier.”

Frederick Francois, the association’s economic advisor, predicted that the country won’t see much of a change in the economy in 2016.

“I think 2016 will be equal to 2015 – nothing more and nothing less in terms of the economy,” he said, adding this is good news to carriers who prospered in 2015.

Further east into the Maritimes, Jean-Marc Picard of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA), echoed the views expressed by the QTA in terms of the economy.

“I don’t see the economy picking up a whole lot of steam next year,” he said, adding that business in the Maritimes is steady, and that they are holding their own. “In terms of capacity as well, it’s not tight, it’s well balanced right now, but the rates I mean, anybody should be taking their rates up based on that because there’s not an overflow of capacity, it’s manageable, but any good carrier should keep that in mind and take that into consideration.”

Picard said that 2015 was “an okay year” for Atlantic Canada because of the slow growth experienced by member carriers in the year.

As far as regulatory issues go, Picard said his association is looking forward to the government helping with establishing mandatory entry-level training across Canada.

“E-logs are also a priority for us right now,” he added. “And single wide-base tires have been in discussion as well, though we’re not moving as quickly as we’d like on that.”

“We’re also hoping that the provincial government is not going to raise the price of diesel taxes anymore, especially here in New Brunswick,” he added. “We are at 21.5 cents/litre and that is one of the highest in Canada, not including carbon taxes.”

Despite the busy year ahead, Picard said he is optimistic for the trucking industry in 2016. 

“Here in Moncton, we’ve got a good hub,” he said. “There’s buildings going up and that’s all good because it means it’s busy. We’re holding our own, so we’re happy as well and hopefully 2016 will bring lots of growth and good things for us. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down and everyone here in Atlantic Canada both large and small carriers seem to be doing well, despite the economic conditions we dealt with in 2015.”

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