Reasons for optimism still exist

by Bruce Richards

Collectively, we in this industry have an opportunity, and my hope is that we get to take full advantage of it. Human resource issues are top of the list when it comes to surveys of what fleet managers spend most of their time on. It’s also pretty low on the list of subjects for which there is expert assistance available for those managers, especially in our line of work.

So when Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) changed direction with the Sector Council program, it could also have ended the best source of assistance with people matters that was available to the trucking industry, with a similar affect on all the other industries involved in the Sector Council program.

Instead, HRSDC changed focus and replaced that original program with the Sectoral Initiatives Program, which could still yield some benefits to the industry. If you’re not involved in the trucking industry, you might very well shrug and ask ‘So what?’ to the question of HR issues, but it is not as simple as that. This is an industry that all Canadians depend on. Not just those who derive a living from working in it day to day, but everyone who shops.

We know that whatever is being purchased by consumers, a truck played a big part in making it available.

So when an industry as important as this one has a problem, everyone should pay attention. Not everyone can help of course, but a government ministry that has Human Resources in its name should certainly have a role.

The trucking industry definitely has a number of problems that can be categorized under the heading ‘Human Resources’ and the industry is trying very hard to help itself.

The CTA recently published the results of its Blue Ribbon Task Force on the qualified driver shortage that offered a frank look at the problem and proposed some solutions. Driver demographics, perception of the occupation, lifestyle issues, compensation, and the regulatory climate were all identified as roadblocks to attracting qualified people to the industry.

Openly identifying the issues is a good step towards resolving them.

PMTC, in conjunction with Motortruck Fleet Executive magazine, recently published its Benchmarking Study of Private Fleet Practices. In that report the top four key challenges, as identified by respondents from across the country, were related to personnel. They included attracting qualified employees; driver retention; training of employees; and driver health and wellness.

Another question in the study that was in the same vein, asked fleet managers to name the single most important issue they face. The answer: ‘Workforce Challenges.’

So there is no doubt that the trucking industry recognizes that it has human resource-related issues. There is no ‘head in the sand’ here.

And that’s where the newly formed Trucking HR Canada should be able to provide some of the help we need. Trucking HR Canada consists of key leaders of Canada’s trucking community – PMTC, CTA, and two giants of the publishing industry Newcom Business Media and Glacier Business Information Group – who have come together to form this new organization that will focus on HR issues in trucking. In a news release in late October, Trucking HR Canada identified its role as being a forum for gathering and exchanging ideas and information related to human resources and best practices in training.

As a partnership-based organization, it is expected to collaborate to promote safe, secure, efficient and professional trucking and logistics.

PMTC is a firm believer in the need for exceptional human resource practices in the trucking community. Our members recognize the value of proven training curricula and delivery methods, as well as the bottom line results that can be delivered by superior hiring and retention practices. As such we are pleased to be a part of the new organization in helping bring awareness of high-level HR practices to the forefront of the Canadian trucking industry.

And the new organization certainly doesn’t need to start from scratch. The industry’s associations have already identified the key issues, and through the former sector council program there was a good deal of valuable material developed (see Your Guide to Human Resources for Trucking, the occupational standards and the labour market information as only a few examples), upon which we can build solutions. We have an opportunity to use a fresh and enthusiastic approach to our HR issues and we are optimistic.

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