Human resources practices play a key role in safety programs

by Matt Graveline

Attracting and retaining qualified employees can be a challenge at the best of times, and there is little hope the situation will improve anytime soon. A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada concludes our industry might be short more than 33,000 truck drivers as early as 2020, while other reports suggest individual fleets already struggle to fill job openings. As the average age of a truck driver continues to rise, leaving employers to fill the vacancies created by an increasing number of retirements, fleets also face ever more competition for the next generation of workers as other business sectors scramble to address personnel shortages of their own.

This is hardly welcome news for the industry’s managers. It costs between $6,000 and $10,000 to recruit and retain a new truck driver, and this is on top of the business opportunities lost because of a lack of workers. To compound matters, those who fill any gaps with high-risk drivers face an increased threat of collisions and lost customers alike.

Human resources practices obviously have a role to play in any broader safety and operational plans. That’s why Northbridge Insurance safety specialists tap into a broad library of information when helping customers to develop solutions.

Some of the related support comes in the form of material from Trucking HR Canada – officially launched this month to focus on the human resources needs in Canada’s trucking and logistics sectors. The initiative is supported by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, Glacier Business Information Group (the publishers of this magazine), and Newcom Business Media. And in addition to identifying broader issues and trends, the group will offer a national forum for sharing best practices, while helping to promote career paths in the trucking industry.

For its part, Northbridge Insurance has helped pilot a new self-guided tool known as the HR Circle Check, which will soon be available at, giving fleet managers a way to assess their specific human resources needs and find ways to address any gaps in related company policies and procedures. And we’ve arranged for many clients to attend Trucking HR Canada’s workshops for industry managers.

Existing materials, originally developed through the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council, have already proven to be valuable when developing broader safety strategies that include:

The recruiting process: Advertising for qualified drivers is just one step in the process that includes attracting, evaluating, selecting, hiring and retaining personnel. Support is available through checklists and customizable forms in Your Guide to Human Resources: Volume 1.

Immigrants and Temporary Foreign Workers: Immigrants already account for one in every five job seekers, and some fleets are turning to internationally trained workers to fill severe shortages of long-haul truck drivers. But a welcoming workplace is needed to attract newcomers to jobs in Canada’s trucking industry. Supporting information can come in the form of Your Guide to Human Resources: Volume 2, complete with an orientation guide to offer job candidates an overview of the industry, fact sheets to highlight steps in the immigration process, and an online portal that will inform immigrants and the agencies which help them make a smooth transition into Canada.

A focus on different generations: Have you ever wondered if younger workers are speaking a different language? They are. At the very least, they communicate in different ways than their more experienced counterparts. Information in Your Guide to Human Resources: Volume 3 shows how to manage different generations of people in the same workplace, and address succession planning.

Training for coaches, mentors and assessors: Personnel who are asked to coach newly trained drivers, mentor experienced drivers, or assess any job candidates require training of their own. Each can play a role in helping to prevent driver turnover.

Every one of Trucking HR Canada’s training tools is based on formal National Occupational Standards, which clearly define all of the tasks and skills behind an array of trucking-related jobs. The standards themselves can be a valuable resource for fleets looking to enhance job descriptions, steer training programs, assess hiring guidelines, or guide performance reviews.
It is all help that can be particularly welcome to smaller fleets which may not have the benefit of a full-time human resources team, pulling managers away from decisions made on gut instinct alone. Combined with the focus of a broader safety program, they can make the difference between informed decisions and the costly mistakes which will haunt a fleet for years to come.

– This month’s expert is Matt Graveline, senior risk services consultant with Northbridge Insurance. Matt has more than 20 years’ experience in the trucking industry as both a long-haul driver and an owner/operator. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at

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  • I wish you would all stop listening to all these big carriers and start asking the drivers they cannot keep. Their is not a big driver shotage they over the years have cheated lied to the drivers that did not stay with them or in the industy. These big carriers just want all these foren import drivers so they can keep the wages down in the industry. Why does the goverment not ask this question. Let me guess they do not care about the average CANADIAN driver. They just want it to look like they are right. The goverment keeps coming up with all these rules and regulations and never steped foot in a tfoot in a truck

  • What Don says is true. When I see and hear the horror stories about the way carriers treat some drivers, it’s a wonder there are any drivers left at all. In most cases a driver has to put in 55-70 hours a week to make a modest living, many of those hours are given up in free waiting time due to poor planning by inexperienced (or uncaring) dispatchers. Replacing good solid hard-working Canadian citizens with foreign workers is not the answer. Paying them properly and treating them with respect is what is needed!

  • The carriers have got to tell it like it is to drivers coming on board!! No lying, or saying that the pay is this, then later it’s different with wait time & hidden deductions etc. Home weekends means you might get back Sat. morning but be ready to leave on Sun. This life style doesn’t fit the younger generation & us older guys have had it with all the regulations being “piled on ” the drivers shoulders. I’ve retired & don’t miss it abit, & have talked to friends still driving & they all say “It’s no fun anymore” & they hate going work. When i taught class A at a school here in Durham, as soon as the students found out they would be gone from home for a week or more [if they got hired on] 90% dropped out of the course, wanting to be with their friends & have a life!!!! Do I blame them? NO Not at all,your responsible for just about everything, get no respect, have to battle idiots on the road but your dispatch wants that load delivered on time & it’s up to you to do it, legal or not, just “Get er Done” !!!!

  • Even if the perceived driver shortage was a reality, it’s a sad state of affairs when we can’t even attract foreign workers, who would like nothing better than to come to Canada and do almost anything to remain here, to participate in an industry that we’ve allowed the government and over zealous regulators to completely annialate. In the sixties when I became interested in trucking, there was a line up of guys just itching for the chance to drive a truck. Only when officials come to the conclusion that they’ve created an environment no one can realistically thrive in, and when this situation has an impact om the general economic climate and dollars for everyone outside of trucking start to be affected, will anyone be willing to listen to reason. As for many of us who have made trucking a lifelong pursuit, it’s already too late.

  • In 1950 when I first grabbed the wheel of a big rig the term ‘Human Resources’ hadn’t yet been invented. The industry has changed dramatically sometimes for better, many times for worse. I am hearing impaired largely because one back then had to drive with the windows open in order to have a semblance of air circulation. Heaters provided a little warmth on a cool August night but only noise in January. The defroster was held in one’s gloved hand ready for application when the frost on the windshield demanded attention. A/C also was unknown. The solid, bolted to the floor bench seat did double duty as one’s bed when fatigue made forward progress impossible, with one’s feet sticking out the window or wrapped around the steering wheel. Yes, some things are better. The not so good things: onerous, odious & silly regulations, high cost of just about everything, lack of courtesy both in and out of the vehicle, traffic congestion, prevalence of fast food outlets and the death of the good, old mom & pop truck stop where your coffee mug with your name on it sat on a hook on the wall, and no one else drank out of it…….oh, and unrealistic expectations from everyone except your loyal canine traveling companion, Fido.

    When drivers and owner-operators act in a truly professional manner and earn the respect they desire, and when that professionalism is met with respect & realistic, commensurate wages and revenue, and when the regulations are harmonized on a level playing field across ALL borders, provincial, state and international, and an atmosphere of social cooperation and camaraderie is reintroduced to the work place, the situation might improve. The greatest resource of any trucking company IS its human resource(s). 10-4!

  • As a Safety manager I see it all and hear about it. Is this an industry who takes advantage of it’s workers? “yes”.
    My belief is that the Industry is not heading in the right direction at all. The pay scale is one of the major reasons. 30 years ago I was driving and making what today’s driver is making. When you stop at a driving school it seems that everyone you talk to is asking the same question…”can i be home on weekends” “do you have lots of local work”. Having said that the first question is still “how much will I make”.
    We as an industry can not expect someone to spend 60-70 hours on the road for perhaps less then minimum wage. You do the math.
    Companies will also retain people if they also learn to treat the driver with they respect they richly deserve.
    Is there an answer? Maybe not…………….