How to make trucking more inclusive

by Shelley Uvanile-Hesch

There’s no doubt that trucking is a tough industry. It’s fast-paced, gritty and at times unforgiving. Truck driving is one of the most difficult jobs, but it can also be a rewarding one. It’s an industry filled with the safest and most professional drivers on the roads. That’s why it is important for carriers, government and drivers to recognize and improve gaps in the trucking industry.

When you throw in the everyday struggles such as traffic, border delays, shipper/receiver delays, breakdowns, weather, etc., that most drivers face on a regular basis, it’s understandable why fewer people are choosing trucking as a career.

As current drivers retire or change careers, it is essential for carriers to remain objective in recruiting, hiring and retaining their existing drivers regardless of race, gender, age or religious beliefs.

The trucking industry has been male-dominated for decades, often referred to as an “old boy’s club.” Women have had to struggle with sexism, name calling, and the inability to find a female mentor.

Women are a valuable and important part of the trucking industry, whether behind the wheel, under the hood or in the office. Let’s face it: the trucking industry isn’t going to disappear any time soon. So isn’t it time we all learned to work together? In order to make the trucking industry a more attractive career choice for both women and men, we need to address a few issues.

A key area is lack of respect and driver image. The media plays an important role in perpetuating a negative image of truck drivers, but drivers themselves need to be more aware of how they present themselves on social media. Too often, all the general public sees is images of truck accidents and fatalities, rather than the positive side of trucking.

Many drivers and trucking companies willingly give their time and financial support to various charities across Canada.

These range from convoys and activities like Trucking for a Cure, Ride for Dad and Wear Plaid for Dad to raise funds for cancer research, to supporting organizations like Special Olympics and Make-a-Wish. The trucking industry is always first on the scene when disasters like the Fort McMurray fires strike, or when food banks need to be filled.
We celebrate these activities in the trucking magazines, but far too seldom in the mainstream media. If all you hear is the negative and never the positive, why would you consider a career in trucking?

Driver compensation can’t be overlooked. Figuring out what truck drivers earn can be mind-boggling. Most drivers are paid by the mile, others by percentage of revenue. Not all drivers are paid for the time they’re sitting still, whether it’s fueling, at the border, on the loading dock or stuck in traffic. Some carriers pay for picks and drops, or hourly pay when doing city work. Some offer incentives for safety or fuel bonuses. But many drivers are short-changed when it comes stat holidays, vacation and overtime pay. So depending on where, what, and how long they drive, drivers can make more than $60,000 per year, which is more than the average working Canadian.

But comparing the workweek of the average Canadian with a truck driver is where things get interesting. A truck driver typically works 60-70 hours a week, with only 36 hours off between duty cycles and is often away from home for days at a time. While access to technology is extending the workday of many Canadians, official statistics peg the average workweek for Canadians at somewhere between 36 and 40 hours.

How is that encouraging to new drivers who want more home time? How are we to attract new drivers into the industry when existing drivers struggle with work/life balance at what many drivers feel is at the low end of the pay scale?

The importance of quality of life – wellness, home time, and security – can’t be ignored.

Today’s drivers want a healthier lifestyle, including better food choices and exercise programs. And it’s not just drivers with children who are looking for more home time. With an aging population, many drivers are caring for elderly parents and need to be home more often.

Although drivers are often referred to as “professional drivers,” the job is not recognized as a skilled trade in the eyes of government. That recognition of driving as a skilled occupation is important to the trucking industry. It could go a long way toward uniting drivers who are often fragmented and divided on issues. It is also important in the recruiting of drivers.

Ontario is implementing mandatory entry-level training for new entrants into the industry by July 2017. But training shouldn’t stop when a newly minted driver walks out the door with Class A licence in hand; it takes a lot of on-the-job training and mentoring to turn that individual into a safe and productive truck driver.

As drivers, we are often told that we’re the front line of the trucking industry, but we’re often the least heard when it comes to issues affecting us. Whatever discussion is taking place, whether it’s recruiting and training, compensation, quality of life issues like wellness and home time, or security and safety, you may just be surprised at the wealth of knowledge and experience that can be found on that “front line.” A lady I very much admire and respect in the trucking industry just recently passed this quote on to me: “Safety brings drivers home, wellness gets them back on the road.” To me, keeping that idea in mind seems like a good place to start.


Shelley Uvanile-Hesch has been a professional driver for 11 years and is founder of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada.

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  • Article was very interesting and well written Shelley. Maybe Truck News can follow up and elaborate further on why companies are getting away, by not paying statuary holidays properly, and overtime after 60hrs, that falls under Federal Labour Laws. It needs to be understood, that most long haul drivers are Federally regulated and that Federal government is turning a blind eye on policing this issue, that you as Professional Drivers deserve.