Trucking HR Canada is in the process of developing a National Occupational Standard (NOS) for commercial vehicle operators (truck drivers). The fourth draft of this document was released this past December requesting input from the public.
I was encouraging drivers to review this before the deadline of Jan. 16, by posting links to it via my Twitter feed and through a couple of Canadian trucking Facebook pages during the first two weeks of January.
I know from my own experience that when issues are being discussed amongst the movers and shakers within our industry it is rare to find more than one or two full-time drivers present to provide a driver’s perspective. Getting the word out to the vast driver pool (more than 300,000 of us in Canada alone) on important industry issues is very difficult.
This concerns me because our (truck drivers’) personal health and safety is dependent on the depth and quality of the information and training we receive.
Many drivers – probably a majority – will not be aware that this NOS is being developed and will not review the document. The drivers who do review the draft are going to leapfrog over this first step of developing the standards and get right to the heart of the big issue.
How will this training be delivered and who is going to pay for it? Drivers will jump on this because there is no group within the industry that recognizes the need for standardized and professional driver training more than the drivers themselves.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of training involved in these standards both in a classroom setting and in the workplace. I’m afraid drivers will see this National Occupational Standard as a pie in the sky idea if it is adopted by the industry without the infrastructure in place to deliver the training.
So why do I think drivers will be highly skeptical about the adoption and delivery of a national training standard? Well, let’s take a look at just one of the 29 key competencies of a professional driver listed in the NOS draft: hours-of-service.
You would think with the amount of press and discussion this topic has received, every driver would be an expert on the subject of hours-of-service. Far from it.
Facebook and the CB to the rescue. Most drivers in their first year on the road turn to their fellow drivers to answer their questions about hours-of-service. Let’s remember these are freshly minted drivers right out of school building a new career and they want to get it right.
These drivers are asking basic questions about the rules and often receiving the wrong information or advice from their more experienced peers.
I’ve been working in this business for more than 15 years now and hours-of-service is a standard that drivers have been made responsible to know and they are still not receiving the depth of training they require on this topic before hitting the road.
I recognize the difficulties involved with training a workforce that operates hundreds or thousands of miles away from the home office most of the time. It’s not as if a carrier can pull in a whole fleet of drivers for a weekly training meeting, even though that is obviously what is currently required.
Should a carrier bear the full responsibility for training their drivers to meet a nationally adopted occupational standard? I don’t think so. The financial burden would sink many small carriers.
I think it’s fair to expect an employer to uphold a standard that is adopted for any profession but to make them responsible for delivering all of the training and bear all of the associated costs is not a reasonable option. It’s pretty obvious that an apprenticeship program on a national level has to be adopted by the trucking industry if it is serious about meeting the occupational standards outlined in the draft document.
That means partnerships have to be established between government, training institutions, carriers and drivers.
I don’t see any other means of delivering a program of this depth. This system works in all other trades for companies big and small. Why can’t it work in the trucking industry?
Look at this statement about truck drivers that appears in the very first paragraph of the Trucking HR Canada draft document: “The occupation includes more than 300,000 Canadians – nearly 1% of the population and over 1.5% or the nation’s labour force.”
It is irresponsible to continue on the path that we are on, allowing new drivers to operate on our public roads without the proper training to ensure the safety of the public and the drivers themselves. We need to be honest about the fact that the cost of doing this has to somehow be built into the system. The only fair way to do that is to legislate that change.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.