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Newcomers to Canada need better training on our unique conditions

The driver shortage is on my mind again. I’ve spent a bit of time browsing through the trucking Internet forums and being from another land, I look for those that are specifically for British ex-pats.

The driver shortage is on my mind again. I’ve spent a bit of time browsing through the trucking Internet forums and being from another land, I look for those that are specifically for British ex-pats.

There are quite a few companies conducting recruitment drives overseas right now. The lack of local drivers is sending them much further afield when vacancies arise. In conjunction with their province and the government, it is possible to import workers under a number of different schemes.

This is how I came to be driving over here, so you would think it safe to assume that I’m a big fan of these programs. Well, that is not quite the case.

The biggest problem with going to the far corners of the planet to find drivers is the type of driver you’ll find.

Now, the art of driving is fundamentally the same wherever you are in the world. The steering wheel and pedals do the same thing no matter where you are, but that’s where the similarities end.

Far too many people have come over as truck drivers and then as soon as the residency papers land in their post box, they quit trucking. This is a clear abuse of the system; they came over to truck, so failing to do so should trigger a revocation of their immigration status and they should be sent packing back to where they came from.

Running over-the-road in North America is very different to trucking elsewhere on the planet. It takes a certain type of driver to be able to spend weeks away at a time; someone who has been driving a city truck, home every night and never working a weekend is going to be very disappointed with the amount of home time they’ll get over here.

On this side of things, the ball lies in the court of the company recruiting from overseas.

A licence to drive truck and a pulse is not enough, the ‘get some meat in the seat’ approach just ensures a revolving door of failed drivers.

Driving conditions in Canada are unlike anywhere else on the planet, unless you come from one of the states that parallel the border. If that’s not the case, then a Canadian winter is going to come as a bit of a shock. First of all, there’s going to be snow and ice, but that’s only the beginning because snow in the Maritimes is different than snow around the GTA, around the Great Lakes it’s different again and then you get into the Prairies, where again it’s different, before you hit the rocks and once again find a different kind of snow and ice.

Nowhere in the world will you find similar conditions, yet after a week at driving school you could be running coast-to-coast and finding out for the first time just how difficult things can get. Now, nobody is born with experience, every driver out there has been a rookie at one time, but a Canadian rookie has grown up here and is used to the weather, while somebody from Europe or Asia is not.

There are usually two outcomes from this: the first is that they are totally terrified of the weather and drive at a dangerously slow pace; the second is that they don’t respect the weather conditions and try to carry on as normal, often with catastrophic results. You could say ‘That’s fine, they shouldn’t be over here anyway, it serves them right,’ which is just wrong on so many levels.

It isn’t about racism, it’s about road safety, whether you like it or not, immigrant drivers are here and they’re going to become more common as the Canadian population and economy continue to grow.

What is needed is a different driving test for non-Canadian nationals, maybe even a restricted licence that stops them from running out of province until they’ve put in a certain amount of time and passed a further test to prove that they have the necessary skills to complete a cross-country run in a safe manner – not just safe for them, but safe for every other road user too.

Another alternative would be to send them out with an experienced driver.

This already happens in a lot of cases, but far too often the inexperienced driver is left on his own up front, while the ‘trainer’ takes a nap in the sleeper.

It’s almost impossible to train somebody while you’re asleep, unless you have special powers, so we need to put a stop to this.

I suggest that all team-training operations be restricted to the same hours-of-service as a single driver.

The vehicle could even be placarded to indicate that this is the case, then cops and DoT would know that there should be two faces peering out of the windshield, not just one.

Another huge benefit to a scheme like this would be that the experienced driver could then pass on the other parts of their experience to the rookie, things like how to behave in truck stop parking lots, how not to block fuel islands, how not to abandon their truck in the middle of the yard at the shipper/receiver.

In turn, spending time with newly arrived people from other parts of the world will broaden the knowledge of the trainers and help them to understand some of the customs that they bring with them. This can then be explained to other drivers and we could come close to the point where we all live happily ever after in a trucking fairy tale world.

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