WINNIPEG, Man. — The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) had the ear of a federal member of parliament recently, taking advantage of the opportunity to address issues in the transportation sector.
Blake Richards, Alberta member of parliament for Banff-Airdrie, was recently in Manitoba where he had the chance to speak with MTA executive director Terry Shaw, touching on several matters, including infrastructure needs, the truck driving profession being classified as a skilled trade, and proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code.
Shaw and Richards discussed how the potential changes could negatively impact the trucking industry, with the government requiring employers to provide shift schedules 96 hours in advance and a minimum of 24 hours for any shift change.
“Everybody wants everyone to have a comfortable, healthy, and safe work environment, but some the changes they are looking to make are absolutely arbitrary and don’t line up with anybody in the transportation field, and that’s not just trucking, that’s aviation and rail,” said Shaw. “So, they’ve been getting a lot of pushback not only from those impacted by those we serve in the supply chain.”
That pushback looks to have paid off, as the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has indicated that the trucking industry will be exempt from the new labor code changes, which took effect Sept. 1.
“CTA supports modern labor standards,” said alliance president Stephen Laskowski. “However, the alliance has always held the position that any new standards that come into place must make sense for the industry and the customers we serve.”
Richards said concerns around the carbon tax were also raised during his conversation with Shaw.
“Terry was rightfully concerned with the impact the carbon tax is having on truck drivers and their families as a result of lower competitiveness and a hurting bottom line,” said Richards. “It is a trend that cannot be allowed to continue, which is why Conservatives are committed to canceling it.”
Other issues Shaw discussed with Richards included the need for more rest stops, improving highway infrastructure, and upgrades at border crossings.
Mandatory entry-level training (MELT) was also addressed.
Shaw said the MTA supports the program, but believes the industry must go further to properly prepare drivers for a career in trucking.
“MELT is an excellent pre-licensing initiative, and we commended the current federal government on that, but at the end of the day, from an industry perspective, our concern isn’t if they are competent to hold the licence, our concern is are they capable of successfully and safely working as truck drivers, and that’s a very different education program outside of MELT,” said Shaw. “We need to go further, not with pre-licensing training, but with pre-employment training.”
Often discussed in unison with MELT is the need to assist those looking to get driver training with tuition costs. This leads to the industry’s desire for the federal government to recognize truck driving as a skilled trade.
Shaw said headway has been made in Manitoba to help aspiring drivers get the training they need to be successful, but the profession is quite different from other trades.
“We train differently than those in the trades. We don’t get a job, work at that job, train for that job, and then get licensed for that job,” he said. “As a truck driver, that’s illegal…I can’t work as a truck driver and then get my licence to work as a truck driver.”
Shaw admitted that it is “incredibly expansive” for people to get driver training because much of the necessary elements involve practical experience and being on the road, as opposed to sitting in a classroom.
“We have great training programs in Manitoba,” said Shaw. “We need to see them funded on a consistent basis, we need to see them promoted, and we to see them connected to an on-the-job training program, which are the connections we’re trying to make.”
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