NEW LISKEARD, Ont. - Rather than earning their bones, new truckers in parts of Ontario have simply been hanging skeletons in their closets.According to Ed Popkie, of New Liskeard's 5th Wheel Training ...
NEW LISKEARD, Ont. – Rather than earning their bones, new truckers in parts of Ontario have simply been hanging skeletons in their closets.
According to Ed Popkie, of New Liskeard’s 5th Wheel Training Institute, bogus employment histories are becoming a problem in Northern Ontario.
Rookie truckers applying with disreputable carriers are being told to leave inferior trucking schools off their applications and, in some cases, they are even instructed to fill in three years of fictional experience.
For newly minted truckers, the welcome they receive to the industry can be frustrating.
On one hand, they are lured in with talk of driver shortages and promises of ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.’ Yet once they’ve taken their training, if they’ve gone to a less-than-reputable school, they quickly learn the experience they lack will keep them from finding work with many fleets – especially those hauling international loads.
At the heart of the problem is the insurance industry: It can be both difficult and expensive for fleets to get coverage for new drivers.
Insurance premiums are on the rise everywhere and nowhere is this more true than in the log hauling sector that dominates the oft-isolated areas of Ontario.
“Some of the log haulers I know are expecting a 100 per cent increase in their premiums,” says Popkie.
One way to control coverage rates is to hire drivers with more experience – or at least those appearing to have more experience.
“Our base criteria is three years,” says Old Republic Insurance’s Jeanette Heinemann. She stresses her firm is not so naive to assume there are no good young drivers and at the same time, some older drivers set in unprofessional ways, can pose an even larger risk.
Obviously the industry has to bring in new bodies to turn the ever-increasing number of wheels, so she explains insurers will sign off on grads from reputable schools.
And what makes for a reputable school?
Heinemann explains Old Republic, for example, favors new truckers who’ve attended a training facility with integrity, such as those involved in either the Professional Truck Driver Institute Alliance of Ontario or the Truck Training School Association of Ontario.
For those on the bubble, she says the company has a set of internal standards, which it established to help weed out the undesirables.
“Things like, have they had a chance to experience border crossings, night driving and skid control?” says Heinemann.
Not in the South?
So far, this disturbing trend has only been reported in the North.
Perhaps it’s the increased scrutiny fleets in the south of the province face, but many take great steps to guard against these practices.
“Now there are only a couple of schools we take drivers from,” says Ray Haight, president and chief operating officer of MacKinnon Transport. “There were a couple of cases in the past when we were duped.”
About seven or eight years ago, MacKinnon realized it had an epidemic on its hands.
The fleet’s driver pool was loaded with less-than-honest truckers who had falsified their employment history to get hired.
The resulting internal audit saw the company cut the rank and file to only 67 operators – a reduction of about 33 per cent.
Nowadays, Haight insists the Guelph, Ont.-based carrier is known for its stringent yet fair hiring procedures.
“So we don’t really have a lot of ‘junk’ come through the door,” he explains. “And when it does, we catch it.”