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.