The changing face of trucking

by Mike Millian

Readers of industry publications are no doubt aware of the reporting that Newcom Media has done, on the changing demographics in the trucking industry. The stats were reported on in great detail in recent issues of Today’s Trucking and Truck News, and picked up on by other publications since.

Just as a quick reflection, the numbers showed that as of 2016, visible minorities accounted for 24.5% of truck drivers in Canada, up from 3.5% in 1996. South Asian drivers account for 17.8% of the overall truck driving population as of 2016, up from 1.8% in 1996. In Vancouver and Toronto, the number of South Asian drivers is even higher, at 55.9% and 53.9%, respectively. As reported, anyone who has been in the industry for the last number of years will have noticed the shift, and the increasing presence of immigrant drivers roaming the highways.

What I want to discuss is a little more controversial in nature, but something that needs to be addressed: racism in trucking in Canada. I don’t have hard stats that I can point to that will show you the number of racist incidents on the road and whether it has improved or intensified in the last 20 years, but I will report on my own experiences in recent times.

If you follow trucking blogs on Facebook or twitter, you will, no doubt, have seen the racist noise that is spewed by some of the driving and non-driving members of this industry. I receive, on average, two to three personal messages per month via email or social media, spewing views that are racist and not based on facts.

In these messages, new Canadians are blamed for everything and anything that is wrong with our industry. They are called unqualified, poorly trained, dangerous to the motoring public, being the sole cause of any increases in accident rates among commercial drivers, and in some cases called names that I won’t repeat.

I do believe the people who make these comments represent the vast minority of opinions in our industry, and that most people in our industry are progressive, accepting, and adapting to our changing culture and ways. However, any amount of racism is too much, in my view.

Let’s concentrate our views and efforts towards facts, and specific incidents, and not blame every accident or safety issue in our industry on a specific culture or race. Do we have untrained and unqualified drivers on our roadways? You bet, and that is unfortunate, and something we need to improve on. However, unsafe operators do not have a specific skin color or ethnic background – they come in all forms. As an industry, we need to work together to remove all untrained, unqualified and unsafe operators from our highways. We need to improve on and expand mandatory entry-level training (MELT) standards, to ensure we have minimum training standards for all drivers. We need to ensure we monitor and follow up to ensure those providing MELT are doing what they say they are doing and training our new drivers to the standard set forth.

All carriers need to ensure they properly qualify new drivers, continually train them, mentor them and monitor them. If they are unsafe and unqualified, they need to be removed from your fleet, even if this means parking more trucks against the fence.

Drivers need to ensure they practice defensive driving skills, remove distractions from their cab, and continuously work on improving their knowledge and skills, in co-operation with their employers and fellow drivers.

Enforcement needs to find ways to get at more of the unsafe operators on our highways and target them. They need to inspect more vehicles, lay more changes for unsafe and aggressive behaviors, and remove drivers and carriers from our roadways who do not follow and comply with the rules.

As a whole, I am proud of this industry, and the skills and safety of our professional drivers and operators. Professional drivers are some of the most skilled and safest drivers on the roadway. We must never, however, rest on our laurels. If we want to continuously improve not only the safety of our industry, but its image, we all need to work together to make it better. This includes all races, religions and cultures working together. There is no room for racism in our society, or our industry, and I for one am tired of hearing such comments.

If you are unsafe operator or driver, I want you targeted and either forced to improve, or removed from our industry – and I don’t care what race, religion, or cultural background you are. Comply with the rules of our industry or get out.

Have your say

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    • That driver who may or may not speak English up to your standard very likely speaks two or three languages. More likely that you see someone who looks different or speaks with a heavy accent and you assume they don’t speak English and you walk away, losing an opportunity to learn something new yourself.

  • For any trucking company who suffer for a lack of driver it become a need to have some one behind the steering wheel and do transport goods to customers.
    For any of the new arrival in the North American transport world it is imperative that there should be mandatory knowledge of english language, truck and cargo handling,weather condition driving ex; snow extra cold temp,navigation by paper map and gps of course these days it all go with gps.And have a good basic understanding of the rules and regulations in North America. Than you have a descent driver behind the wheel and is making transport safe to use.

  • Not sure how the ability to speak English makes someone a safer driver.
    I agree with the point of this article that collectively the industry needs to invest in training and we should not retain unsafe drivers solely to meet customer demands.
    To continuously improve the safety and image of our industry will require the cooperation of enforcement, trucking companies, drivers and our customers.
    If we can improve the image of our industry we will change the image of the truck driving profession and transform it into a desired career alternative.

    • Speaking [and comprehending] basic English is a requirement under Canadian Citizenship standards 2018. Furthermore, legislation, instructional manuals, HTA & Regulations are written in English. Even road signs [HTA & Bylaw] are posted in English. Need I explain further?

  • Hi- 50 years in trucking and driver training is minimal today, and some new drivers circumvent even the minimum required. Training must be “upgraded extensively” across Canada. Little has changed since the Saskatchewan accident taking 16 young hockey players. The word “PROFESSIONAL DRIVER”DOESN’T EXIST TODAY I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN A CONFERENCE REGARDING THESE ISSUES. Thanks for opportunity to speak honestly regarding transportation today.

    • You are correct, John. There are many ways to circumvent the full MELT training program. In addition, instructors are quite often unqualified and have the ability to apply advanced standing, thereby skirting the rules. Finally, extensively upgrading training across Canada is imperative. Unfortunately, our Federal government doesn’t have the will to make it happen–too busy applying the gender lens to our personal lives…

  • As I remember when I started back in early 80’s driving you needed to speak, read and write English. Our signs are English. I have no problem with new drivers entering the industry as long as they are legal.( not just that they paid anyone to get them a license). The word RESPECT is badly needed out on our roads, at truck stops, at shippers and receivers and where-ever else we go. As a woman trucker, I could not claim discrimination for anything as I entered a male oriented profession at the time. I have seen many changes over the years in the trucking industry and Ignorance is running rampant out there! If you want to drive a truck, do it! But safely, legally licensed and get the proper training you need. It used to be a great profession, but now not so much, as I feel the word RESPECT is gone! I don’t care what race, religion, or type of person you are, just do it properly and RESPECT your fellow people out there. We all have a job to do and would like to get back to our families. It’s not me first, it’s let’s work together and we can all make a living. Everyone needs a chance to learn, but DO IT LEGALLY, and get trained by an experienced driver!, not some two bit school that takes your money (and lots of it) and hands you a license and a truck. If you don’t want to be called nasty names start off on the right foot. Too many accidents are happening and it seems as though they are middle eastern drivers. So what does that say right there? Statistics prove it! TRAINING ,TRAINING, and RESPECT for others and your own life is badly needed. Don’t cry that we are against you, prove you are a professional driver and that will speak for you! There will be no need for discrimination accusations! The rules have drastically changed because of bad drivers out there, and so many trucks today on the roads. We can all get along if we RESPECT each other! Keep the greasy side down, enjoy the ride, and STAY SAFE! I had over 30 years on the road. Safe years till 2012 when someone beat me badly, but I am alive, and still watch, see and hear about the b.s. out there.

  • we don’t need heaver fines. that don’t change anything the likely to get cot is has a much bigger affect on behaver. bring back bring back comradery and pride back to the industry would have an even bigger positive effect on behavior. witch requires less regulation. yes that is true a lot of the people that don’t speech English good or not at all speak 2 or 3 languages witch means there not dumb . the bottom line though is if you are going to be driving in the USA you need to be able to communicate so if you are unable to do so yo should be with someone the can

    I would love to have a conversation on the ways to improve camaraderie and pride in being a professional driver