Talking ’bout a new generation

by Sonia Straface

The image of the truck driver has gone unchanged for decades.

Trucking has a diversity problem that it needs to change, and fast. Only 3% of drivers and technicians are women, despite women being close to half of the nation’s workforce. Only 12% of Canada’s truck drivers are younger than 30 years old, while 46% of the country’s Indigenous population is under 24.

These are untapped groups that trucking needs to recruit from if it wants to thrive and combat the driver shortage, according to experts.

“The Canadian workforce generally is getting more diverse, and as a society we are more diverse,” says Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada. “As such, our workplaces need to reflect that, and there are growing demographic groups that we need to tap into more. Indigenous peoples are the fastest growing demographic in Canada right now. We know that they’re largely underrepresented in trucking. We need to find ways to bridge the gap and find some opportunities to reach out to that group. We also know that women are still largely underrepresented in our industry, not just as drivers and technicians, which we know is quite low at 3%. However, even in management level positions women are still largely underrepresented. We need to do more to reach out to women in particular.”

According to a Trucking HR Canada business case for diversity in trucking, the benefits of a diverse workplace include fewer worker shortages, better retention and lower turnover, better employee health, better productivity, and better branding.

Luckily, fleets are recognizing this, and some are even seeing the many benefits hiring outside of one pool has realized and are identifying diversity as one of their competitive advantages.

One fleet in particular that has been looking into hiring more Indigenous peoples is Arrow Transportation Systems, based out of B.C. Last September the company came together to create the Arrow Transportation Systems and Indigenous Peoples Driver Training Program. The program builds relationships between the company and Indigenous groups while developing qualified drivers for full-time employment.

“A few years ago, companies were applying for foreign workers,” explained Lisa Savage, the director of human resources at Arrow. “And no matter which way you slice it, it’s all very costly. By the time you apply and bring a foreign worker into Canada it’s probably between $15,000 and $20,000. So, just looking at it from those perspectives, it made sense to us to use whatever funds we had for recruitment and focus on folks that are already here and looking for employment. And quite frankly, it was a gentleman at Arrow, Kevin Gayfer, who just really spearheaded this. He was working closely with one of the (Indigenous) bands and he asked ‘Why aren’t we hiring your members as drivers? Let’s put a training program together.’”

The program works together with a number of stakeholders, including the band, Aboriginals Skills and Employment Training (ASET) holders, a local driving school, and candidates. The ASET holders are

responsible for assisting and providing direction to band members about the skills and training required to get into a certain profession.

Today, the training program includes 100 hours of driver training experience, with one quarter of the training with Super-B trailers.

“Since September 2017, we have put five candidates though the program,” she says. “Three are still with us and doing extremely well. And as a matter of fact, one of them wants to be a driver mentor.”

The other two drivers who went through the program are no longer with Arrow, after they decided that the territory Arrow operates in was not for them, Savage said.

“But that’s okay because we still view that as a success, because that’s two more Class 1 drivers that will potentially go to other Class 1 jobs, which increases the driver pool in the industry,” she says. “And right now, we’ve got another candidate going through the program.”

The short-term goal for Arrow is to have at least 10 Indigenous candidates go through the program each year.

“They’re local. They live here. They want to be here,” says Savage, on why Arrow is committed to tapping into the Indigenous population. “One of the risks going with a foreign worker is getting them to adapt to the culture and assimilated. It’s certainly a risk. Why wouldn’t we? Indigenous Peoples live here. And certainly, from a stakeholder perspective, I think there’s a greater chance of success. Because we have the bands involved, ASET holders involved. So, it’s got a great chance for success. We’re not going to survive as an industry unless we become more diverse. The Indigenous community is the fastest growing population in Canada so it just makes sense to look outside of what was easy or what the standard was.”

During last year’s Trucking HR Canada’s awards gala, XTL Transport took home an award for its achievement of excellence in workplace diversity. Thirty per cent of XTL executive group is comprised of women, and it thrives on the belief that when it comes to hiring, quality is the most important factor.

“Our philosophy is to be as open to any candidates as possible,” explains Kamilia Baroudi, director of human resources at XTL. “During the hiring process, we don’t look at age, gender, race, whether they are handicapped or not. For us, it’s about quality. We look at their skills. We look at what they can bring to the company.”

Baroudi adds that having so many female executives at the helm is creating a positive domino effect in the office.

“I’ve noticed that having so many women in XTL, has just helped recruit other women,” she says. “People are really happy to talk to women and to be managed by women. They’re very happy. We have a few women drivers and they’re really happy to work for us and to refer women for us. XTL is very diverse and we want to make sure we stay that way for years to come.”

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