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Stop the stupid scorpion

Do you know the story about the scorpion and the frog? That’s the one where a scorpion begs a frog to swim him across the river. ‘No way,’ says the frog, concerned that as soon as they’re in the middle of the river, the...


Do you know the story about the scorpion and the frog? That’s the one where a scorpion begs a frog to swim him across the river. ‘No way,’ says the frog, concerned that as soon as they’re in the middle of the river, the scorpion would sting him.

‘Why would I do that?’ the scorpion replies. ‘I’d drown with you.’

The frog can’t argue with that logic so he lets the scorpion hop on his back and starts to swim across. Sure enough, right in the middle of the river, the scorpion stings the frog.

‘Now we’re both going to die,’ screams the frog.

‘I know,’ replies the scorpion. ‘I just couldn’t help myself.’

To be honest, I never really got the moral of that story. Why would the scorpion be that stupid?

Yet, when you think about it, we have been that stupid when it comes to solving the driver shortage the past 20 years. Can you really call it a driver shortage when driver turnover is so high?

I had to laugh when a few weeks ago the American Trucking Associations published a report indicating the annualized driver turnover rate for large truckload fleets improved in the third quarter of 2013 by two percentage points to 97%. That’s a number we are supposed to feel positive about? The “improvement” still leaves large US truckload carriers three percentage points short of turning over their entire driving staff every year.

I realize Canadian TL fleet turnover levels are not that high but would anyone compare our turnover rate with other competing industries? At what point can we just admit the real problem is not so much a shortage of drivers but a problem with not treating and paying drivers well enough to keep them?

Well, whatever your opinion on the reality of the driver shortage, the industry does have a clear chance to take a positive step.

A new national advisory committee, Supporting Women in Freight Transportation, has been formed to help women find and develop careers in the trucking industry. Trucking HR Canada is the lead organization behind SWIFT, but a broad range of senior managers, directors, presidents and C-level executives are involved as committee members, including our own Transportation Media associate publisher Kathy Penner.

According to figures issued by SWIFT, only 3% of truck drivers, mechanics, transport trailer technicians, and cargo workers in Canada are women. So there is a lot to be gained by attracting women to the industry.

Yet, letters to the editor since we posted the SWIFT announcement a few weeks ago point out that one of the biggest obstacles for the few women already in trucking is the industry’s own attitude towards women.

We have a clear opportunity here to engage a part of the labour pool that has primarily ignored us in the past. Can we stop acting the part of the stupid scorpion?


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