MONTREAL, Que. - Like buying the proverbial pig in a poke, there is an element of faith in hiring truck drivers without track records that demonstrate their aptitude and taste for the job. Toss into t...
MONTREAL, Que. – Like buying the proverbial pig in a poke, there is an element of faith in hiring truck drivers without track records that demonstrate their aptitude and taste for the job. Toss into the mix youngsters with only a dim awareness of the demands of the gig and stir in poor job descriptions and voila: mud pie.
“The problem,” says Claude Chouinard, Camo-route director general, “is that this is regarded as a long-distance industry, yet 80% of the trips are within 180 miles. Younger people don’t necessarily want to do the long-distance part of it. If they hear that there is a strong possibility they will be hired for short trips, it will increase the likelihood that they will get into the trade. Match a short-distance job with someone who wants a short-distance job. If there is a mismatch, we are both losers.”
This sentiment is echoed by Tanya Theroux, driver services manager and safety manager for Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge, Ontario.
Challenger has a terminal in Dorval, out of which 29 owner/operators and 206 company drivers work.
“Today it is definitely a different workforce. A diverse group of people is coming into the industry, many without a true and accurate concept of what the job requires. When they get on the road they realize the effect of being away from their family or significant other. I find that quite frequently they are unprepared for the reality of the job. We invest significant resources and time in them, so we ask them to bring their significant others, whose support they will need, to the interview.”
Challenger drives its flashy cruiser, code-name Coach 104, up to Quebec on occasion to recruit at ground level.
“We go to the truck stops in Rigaud and Vaudreuil and sometimes to the one in Trois-Rivieres. We do interviews on the cruiser and offer drivers a hot coffee. We start the reference procedure on the bus. The next step is for drivers to come to our Dorval facility for road tests and pre-medical drug testing,” says Maude Huot, the recruiting coordinator for Challenger’s Montreal terminal.
Although the company mainly uses Coach 104 to attract drivers from other companies, it also uses it to scout for new talent from the government driving schools in Charlebourg, St-Jerome and its satellite school in Vaudreuil, which opened last August.
“We interview students and as long as they meet our criteria, they can do their practicum with us. We can evaluate them during our co-op program. A lot of students think it is a two-week vacation, but (they learn that) it is a lot of work,” Huot says
“The biggest thing we struggle with is lifestyle,” says Theroux. “As the workforce ages we are losing drivers with 20-30 years of experience and replacing them with less experienced people who have vastly different needs from our previous generation of workers.”
Huot adds, “A lot of drivers quit or leave the industry because they can’t take the hectic schedules any more. We see young people who don’t want to be away from home for long periods of time and who can’t take the strain.”
Challenger takes pains to accommodate the modern expectations of many drivers, such as using dispatchers who are also driver managers who work to honour drivers’ requests for home time.
“In the past it was not uncommon for a driver to be out on the road for two or three weeks. Now, the expectation is five to 10 days at the most, depending on the length of haul,” says Theroux.
Quebec needs 3,000 new drivers a year, yet the full-bore government schools can only supply 1,500 a year.
Graduates from other schools are typically not as broadly-trained, and therein lies a serious problem, says Chouinard.
“Smaller carriers cannot afford to train someone with a 50- or 100-hour course with a Class A licence. So the poorly-trained and poorly-prepared new driver will get out of the business in maybe a year or year and a half, because the only guy who will hire him is someone who charges low rates to shippers and to the driver.”