‘Work the first two weeks without pay and then we’ll pay you 10 cents per mile while training.’ That was an offer made to a newly licensed driver by a potential employer. This information came to me through a trusted associate.
‘I was told by a potential employer that I had to pay a $100 fee when I did my road test. They would refund it to me if they hired me.’ That was from a thread in a trucking Facebook group posted by a Canadian veteran transitioning to the trucking industry.
‘With over 30 years’ experience, a clean driving record, and loyalty to my employer, why am I being paid the same rate per mile as new hires, some with little experience and a dirty driving abstract?’ Again, from a driver commenting in a Facebook trucking group.
I could go on with comments like these gleaned from social media and fellow drivers I have come to know over the years. The hand wringing about the driver shortage continues, but to those of us who work the front lines, it is obvious where the problem lies. It is all about how drivers are treated. It’s about respect, or rather, the lack of it. For those of us who work for legitimate professional carriers that treat drivers as partners in their businesses, not pawns, we shake our heads in dismay.
I do my best each month when I sit down to write this column to put a positive light on the career I have chosen, not because I feel it is my duty but because I love what I do. My career in trucking has been my salvation both personally and financially. It’s a great way to earn a living. But if I had not cast my lot with J&R Hall Transportation 13 years ago, where would I be today? I am truly grateful to be where I am.
It is difficult to address the negative hiring practices and poor treatment drivers receive at the hands of employers.
Where does a new recruit to the industry turn when faced with a situation they recognize as questionable, but have no knowledge or industry experience to guide them? The fox has been minding the henhouse for a long time but drivers are becoming much savvier in their ability to weed out the shady operators.
Social media groups are not only sharing experiences and rating carriers through their own commentary but are also helping newly licensed drivers to maneuver their way around government Web sites and use CVOR and CSA scores to weed out the carriers with poor safety ratings. If a carrier isn’t taking the time to do things right on the operations and maintenance side of their business, it is a strong indicator they probably don’t take the time to maintain and nurture their human resources.
Training and certification. It is long past time to recognize this truck driving profession as a skilled trade. I know I sound like a broken record; every month I come back to this same theme. But it is the one issue that cuts across all lines of the trucking industry. If we had a system in place with the same approach to training and certification as other trades do, we would be able to tackle this issue of a driver shortage in earnest.
We have to face the fact that there is no shortage of people wanting to earn a decent living but there is a shortage of people that will accept being treated like crap.
Let’s go back and look at the example of the newly licensed driver looking for work. This individual has been unemployed for a period of time, has scrimped, saved, and tried to source funding for the $6,000-$8,000 they need to complete a legitimate training course.
They have been told by recruiters there is an abundance of good paying jobs with on-the-job training. But upon graduation the sharks are circling ready to pick off their victims one by one.
Many of these new graduates are hungry for work, any work, because the bill collectors are at the door, the rent needs to be paid, and their family needs to be cared for.
I have been there myself. Desperation can easily cloud sound reasoning.
So unfortunately many new recruits accept these sub-standard offers of employment and many of them don’t last in the industry.
They end up driving crappy equipment at a poor rate of pay and their expectations of a new and exciting career are shattered.
It is easy to sit back and say that people don’t need to accept to work under those conditions. But that does not fix what is broken.
We need to train, certify, and recognize our drivers as professionals and make sure the wages and benefits reflect those skills and training.
It’s the right thing to do. Period.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall..