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Time for a New Approach

The idea of targeted hiring from non-traditional sources is a policy that has seen a lot of criticism for its supposed banishment of the able-bodied white male. Yet where the able-bodied white male al...


The idea of targeted hiring from non-traditional sources is a policy that has seen a lot of criticism for its supposed banishment of the able-bodied white male. Yet where the able-bodied white male always ruled, in the trucking industry, he is now becoming a rare commodity. The industry is recognizing that certain segments of the population — women, visible minorities, aboriginal people and the disabled — have long been overlooked as potential candidates for hire. And so these groups may finally gain greater acceptance into the ranks not just because of who they are but quite simply because they are sorely needed.

“Non-traditional resources is not a very good term because we are actually talking about the majority of your potential recruits coming from those areas,” says Ken Taylor, a team leader in Workplace Equity, Education and Promotion at Human Resources Development Canada. The white Anglo-Saxon male is in fact a minority in terms of recruitment potential. Sheer demographics mean that trucking’s traditional source of driver — young, white, and male — has shrunk.

The average truck driver on the roads is now on the far side of 40. And while those in the industry who are dealing with this problem are a little reluctant to say that certain groups are being targeted specifically as potential recruits, they also acknowledge that many of them are not represented in the ranks of drivers.

According to the latest Canada Census figures, of the 239,000 truck drivers in Canada less than 2.1 per cent are female; 2.5 per cent are of Aboriginal ancestry; and 3.2 per cent would be considered visible minorities. Contrast those figures with the workforce representation across all industries for these groups — 10.3 per cent for visible minorities; 46.4 per cent for women and 2.1 per cent for people of Aboriginal ancestry – and it quickly becomes apparent that, with the exception of the latter group, trucking is not tapping into some key labor markets. And the Aboriginal labor pool itself may offer more future opportunities considering one quarter of 18-year-olds in Canada today are of Aboriginal ancestry.

Taylor has been helping trucking and other industries recruit from non-traditional sources and trying to get them to see that it’s not a question of excluding others in favor of these groups, but of getting at those who may not even have considered the industry. For various reasons, it hasn’t been an easy process. The issue is sensitive enough that many carriers prefer not to comment on their hiring practices in this regard. And even carriers that do embrace the concept of fishing in new labor pools are finding limitations that make recruiting a delicate task.

“Aboriginal communities, and the visible minority communities are significantly younger than the Canadian population as a whole. Not only are you looking at how do you recruit within this smaller wedge of people but how do you deal with the differences within the wedge?” says Taylor.

He adds that First Nations groups and industry have to combine resources to better link supply and demand. “We constantly hear from employers ‘Where are the workers?’ Yet, I’ve been at First Nations reserves and been asked where are all the jobs? I’ve seen situations where companies have a workforce of say one thousand, and they don’t have a representation of Aboriginals. Either none could reach the qualifications, or they’re not linking up. Despite our best efforts, we don’t seem to be as effective as we need to be. Quite frankly I think that’s partly because there’s a tendency on both sides of the fence to see it as a problem of the other group,” he says.

Taylor adds that recruiting has to go beyond word of mouth, another traditional way of sourcing new employees, especially in trucking.

“Contact outreach agencies, and make sure you’re advertising in the community you’re trying to reach, through their newspapers. There are immigrant organizations that help orient new immigrants, and Native Friendship Centers. I suspect there may still be barriers, culturally. But I also suspect at one time there was that feeling about women, too,” he says.

Trucking hasn’t traditionally been an attractive or “appropriate” source of employment for women. Brawny “Survivor”show female trucker Susan Hawk notwithstanding, “the trucking lifestyle, when you’re talking about dropping loads off in New York City or certain urban centres, may not have seemed attractive to many women.

But there are a couple of reasons why that too may be changing. Some fleets are looking to develop a guaranteed “home by” policy, or at least a more flexible hours policy, which benefits, for that matter, not just the demands of mothering but of parenting in general. Home issues have become increasingly important as there are more two-income families leading busier and busier lives and home demands can prove just as, if not more, stressful as job ones. To accommodate these demands some fleets are moving to guaranteed at-home-by policies.

And fleets can offer even more exposure to the industry through non-trucking related events.

“If trucking companies would buy a booth at a women’s event to point out the advantages of a driving career, they would find that women had not considered driving for a career and they would certainly stand out,” says Taylor.

Canada’s considerable new immigrant labor pool is another logical yet underutilized resource from which to draw new employees. The main problem here has been the age-old catch 22 of no job without experience, and nowhere to get the experience if you can’t get hired.

The disabled is another group often overlooked for physically demanding jobs, such as trucking. Taylor says that organizations for the disabled, such as the Canadian Council of Rehabilitation and Work, can direct carriers on how best to accommodate those who have disabilities. He stresses that there are many disabilities which do not and should not preclude driving a truck.

“It really depends on how people define disability. Sometimes it comes down to how you gather information,” says Patti Galbraith, workplace resources and accommodation specialist with the Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work. For example, diabetes is considered a disability, and some diabetics will experience trouble with night vision. “But others may not have that impact. Typically, with disabilities, it’s not one size fits all,”Galbraith says.

She adds that although the Human Rights Commission defines some tasks as “a bona-fide requirement” (for example, a visual accuity test for the police), often, once an industry has a closer look at its requirements, there may be fewer barriers than previously thought.

“There’s lots of gray area when it comes to there. The onus is on the industry to prove that it must uphold certain standards. It’s not generally that they’re malicious, but it’s very typical when it comes to job accommodations that they aren’t challenged, because people often have a mentality of we’ve always done it that way. It’s a matter of being flexible and open-minded while taking the necessary safety precautions,” she says.

“What’s a bona-fide occupational requirement? No one is saying a legitimate requirement should be ignored but we shouldn’t make assumptions about what is or isn’t possible with new technologies (automatic transmissions, for example)” says Taylor. ” In my experience, the new technology is outstripping our ingenuity to use it. Part of that whole thing is that any of us could become a part of the disabled community at any time, and if a company has drivers who are now disabled and could be welcomed back into the profession, the company would probably benefit,” he says.

Speaking of benefit, how can fleets get the best guarantee, no matter who they choose to hire, that the arrangement will work out?

Number one, says Taylor, is constant communication with employees after hiring, whether with drivers who have exposure to the industry but who are still wet behind the ears, or with those who have never considered trucking before.

“These people know very little about the industry t
o start with and they won’t have an appreciation of the challenges of driving once they do get hired. If that’s not communicated to them they may quit prematurely,” says Taylor.

And he thinks that rather than feeling “targeted” because they are considered the “hot group to hire,” Aboriginals and visible minority groups would be glad to be welcomed into the fore as candidates for employment. “I would tend to think the reactions are going to be pretty good. Most people (cross-culturally) are interested in economic security. And all we’re saying with the looming driver shortage that is a fact, is that if you need people, here’s one possible way,” he says.

So not only are fleets faced with the prospect of making trucking an attractive profession in general, they also must make inroads to ensure that trucking can appeal cross-culturally, and can answer the flexibility issues that hiring women and the disabled may require.

TABLE: EMPLOYMENT DIVERSITY IN TRANSPORTATION

Transport Aboriginal Visible
Occupations Total Male Female Peoples Minorities
Truck Drivers 239,000 234,085 4,920 6,005 7,735
Bus, Subway
and Other Transit
Operators 73,050 8,900 24,155 2,360 3,065
Taxi and Limousine
Drivers 38,040 35,220 2,820 1,400 11,560
Delivery Drivers 104,615 94,930 9,685 2,025 10,380
Total 454,705 413,135 41,580 11,790 32,740

Source: 1996 Census of Canada, HRDC


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