Introducing Operation UpGrade

by Steve Laskowski

Driving is a good, rewarding career choice. But let’s not kid ourselves – it’s not an easy job at times.

Drivers face many challenges throughout the day in their mission to deliver loads on time for the customers they serve – dense traffic congestion, inclement weather and delays at busy border crossings, just to name a few.

So, what could be more frustrating for these men and women than enduring hours of these inconveniences only to get mistreated by the customer they worked so hard to get to?

In a marketplace where trucking services are more in demand, combined with a shrinking supply of good professional truck drivers, many fleets have been in a better position to bend the ear of their customers who continually fail to show drivers respect.

Threats of suspension of service for ill treatment of drivers are finally being heeded; some shippers who have not changed their practices or attitudes have had to look for new carriers to service their accounts.

As the economy heats up and capacity tightens further, the ability to find substitute quality carriers will only become more difficult.

Ultimately, though, what really has to happen is that certain members of the shipper community need to be aware of the changing landscape in 2015 and begin to consider adopting some of the policies and practices required to be a shipper of choice from a driver perspective.

Of course, these issues aren’t new or based on rocket science.

For the most part it comes down to a simple golden rule: Treat drivers – and their precious time – with respect.

But like most things in life (and trucking) sometimes it’s the most obvious things that need to be pointed out the most often.

In fairness, some shippers claim that they would love to fix their problems if the industry would just tell them where the problems actually are in the system and how both sides can work together to fix them.

Perhaps this is an all-too-convenient response by some customers, but we can’t deny that it’s a response that may have some merit. So, then, let’s take shippers by their word and their actions.

As an industry, we should take the bull by the horns and create a master list of shippers and receivers that either do a great job – or a poor one – at serving our driver community.

And so, that is exactly what OTA is doing over the next several months. We are launching Operation UpGrade – a survey campaign that will ask the driver community to mobilize around shipper/receiver driver treatment issues.

Drivers will be able to participate in the campaign via their smartphones, e-mail, their computers via the Ontario Trucking Association’s Web site, or fax machine.

Drivers will be able to rate and score each shipper they visit and designate certain customers to the ‘Honour Roll’ if they are treated with respect; or on the flip side, they can send shippers to the ‘Detention Hall’ and explain why.  

Operation UpGrade will last about six months.

It will potentially providing OTA with the opportunity to publicly recognize quality shippers.

Through public recognition, we hope other CEOs of shippers/receivers who for whatever reason are not commended ask themselves: “Why not us?”

To help educate shippers and encourage those who are stepping up their game, Operation UpGrade will also provide drivers with business cards thanking the facility for doing the best they can to respect the driver’s time and treating them decently.

Don’t worry; detention hall candidates won’t be left out.

These companies will receive private correspondence from OTA explaining the issues they are facing and how they can correct the problems. 

OTA will release a public report in Fall 2015 which will summarize the generic findings of the survey.

We’ll also unveil a complementary video message from drivers explaining to shippers what they should be doing to make their facility more driver-friendly.

Carriers will be armed with printed and video material that can help educate their customers and hopefully create positive change.

But in order to achieve change we need all of the trucking industry to get involved. This is your chance – every fleet and each individual driver – to help make a difference. So go to to vote and vote often!


Steve Laskowski is senior vice-president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and Ontario Trucking Association. He has been involved in various files including environmental and cross-border matters, domestic and international taxation of trucking activities and intermodal relations.

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  • Good idea, a number of years ago if I remember correctly, a number of the large U.S. carriers got together to tell Walmart that if they did not change how they treated drivers they would not haul thier frieght suddenly from 24 hrs waiting time we were down to 3-4. If we expect drivers to do the job we need to respect them.