How trucking eats its young

by Al Goodhall

‘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 You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall..

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  • IMHO, I dare say that it’s the experts that are so far removed from the realities of a thousand Kms a day that make the rules. Somehow, the “Experts” still manage to wear the results in the high driver shortage and turnover as a badge of honour.

  • Just face it the trucking industry is broken. I agree with this column as it states the truth in many unfortunate ways. I still am in the trucking industry in which I love but have fallen short of what it has to offer. The only respect I get is the respect I create by not taking the crap that is dished out by some trucking companies. The key word is “respect” and it is fallen short may times as the driver is treated like they are bottom of the company but in reality they are at the top and in many case they could show the company a few things. I myself would standup to trucking company in defense of any driver regardless of the drivers background or where they come from. I myself have 37 years of trucking experience and get no more respect than the new driver does. My background consists of 29 years driving in Canada and the United States, 8 years in the classroom either teaching newbie drivers or veterans, developing driver training programs in which I was able to get an approved Alberta defensive driver training course after I left the Company, I have no demerits, no claims, no collisions, No CVSA violations. I know that companies fall short in the driver education and training aspect to train drivers. Even with my proved background and my willingness to teach and mentor drivers, I still only drive a truck because most trucking companies are not looking to improve on what they have and that is because if you have a class 1 license you have all the information you need. Not so. I can offer so much to the trucking industry as it is my love for 37 years and will continue to be until I leave this earth. Trucking companies need to get off autopilot as expand their views on who gives them respect, the driver. Drivers work hard and diligently but get little respect and especially of all a poor pay check for the work they have done.

  • This whole industry is in for a very rude awakening. What other job do you sit for the first hour free? When you had an appointment time, crazy dispatch times. Awake when most people are sleeping. Regulations up the wazoo or you get a $395.00 fine. Companies say oh I can’t wait for electronic logs? Sure they do it’s going to out the industry on its ear. It’s long over due that drivers are paid by the hour from the time they do their pre-trip till they are finely off duty. I don’t know another business where employees suffer as a result of some owners who cant or shouldn’t be in business

  • in respond to you Mark!
    I have worked last year with the E-Log and had to unload after my 14 hours window was up did mentioned it to the cie via electronic tractor calcomm system and guess what silent time no respond.
    So mentioned about potential breach of regulation nothing no respond so logged it on duty and under violation and never heard about it they the cie have way to camouflage the violation and erase it from their own computer.

  • I have been in the industry for over 44 years and enjoyed it for the most part but I have to say that is becoming less true every day.
    I agree with what you are saying about the way drivers are treated and the way they are paid. I have seen dispatchers, mechanics, mangers and even company owners call drivers names and flat out humiliate these people. This does not take place behind closed doors often times it is right out in front of other drivers or even customers. Drivers are promised the money by recruiters and when the first pay day comes they are trying to find someone in payroll to attempt to correct a problem. For some drivers this is a weekly event.
    Yes there needs to be training and you see it out there every day there are people driving trucks that have no right to be behind the wheel of a truck. Interesting today I had lunch with a friend that is getting his registered driving school up and running. He has gone to the government and has been approved to take drivers on through unemployment. The Government will give them the 6 to $8,000.00 to go to a truck driving school. Interesting he told me that he thought he had the world by the tail when he was approved to take on drivers through a government paid program. In his experience this has been a bigger hassle than it is worth. These people do not show up for class, complain about having to go and get a medical and so on. How the heck are these people going to survive in the 60 hour trucking work week world.
    As well I see that somebody is painting a bad picture of this industry to the drivers about what trucking is all about. Is it maybe the driving schools? Drivers are told that you can make 60 or $80,000.00 or more. They do not tell you that you are most likely going to have to break the law to do it or be the senior driver.
    A few weeks ago an owner of a smaller fleet told me that after having a driver go through 6 weeks of in cab company training he abandoned the truck on a Friday in South Carolina and the company owner spent his weekend bringing the truck and load home. He treats his drivers well, promotes a good safety culture and he gets burnt. I have to side with the owner on this one it is a hard pill to swallow.
    I make it sound like there are no hard workers out there that want to be truck drivers or there are not any good trucking companies and that is not true. It is just a matter of finding the right fit for both the driver and the company.
    The truck transportation industry is in a sad state to say the least from every aspect. At one time I would say if I was 18 again and looking for work I would be a truck driver. Today I would not be able to answer that question so quickly and for certain.

  • I have been into the trucking industry for a little over 20 years that became my second trade from a shipping industry ( deep sea merchant marine as an engineer). I had to go true what the younger guys are going true even not getting pay, no money deposit in account while hauling a load from the USA to Canada and having to demand hot water only in restaurant so could have soup if i do mix ketchup with hot water and get a few crackers.
    See i got plenty of horror story to tell and you know why? because the only guys that let you go with their trucks are the shabby one and you get to acquire some hard earn experience.
    All companies should have a training program if they are to hire new drivers. By that I mean on the road training with live loads and all of the use of technology.

  • I own a small trucking company, treat my drivers well and pay my drivers well. Our local drivers earn $60,000 per year, a highway driver in the 80-100 range. All while operating legally, using electronic logs. We are still struggling to find quality drivers.
    While there are many carriers such as myself, there are too many, possibly more, that do not treat their drivers as professionals. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, negative news is passed on and positive news isn’t. These poor companies tarnish the entire industry, making it increasing difficult for the rest of us. How can we get the “Good News” out?

  • I agree with all the comments I started in this industry in 1982 I have done city p and d , dispatched , and operation , worked on loading docks. For the last 3 years have been on the highway I have been fortunate to have worked for good company’s . The last 20 years I have worked for the same company and have been paid very well I would have to say better than most company’s including unionized ones.
    Here are some of the problems as I see them
    Fist change came with deregulation we saw freight rates take a nose dive
    Freight brokers here’s a guy that gets freight from a office in his home has no overhead ie employes, trucks etc takes 30 percent if not more to do what, give us less for the freight we were hauling in the first place and if you are lucky he might pay you in 90 days don’t get me wrong not all are like this guy but most of them are, but still regulations need to be put in place such as they have to have there own trucks or some sort of fleet .
    Driveing schools should train drivers and not be able to issue licenses, that should be the domain of the province or state ,all tests done in English with no interpreture ( for obvious reasons)
    Company’s will have job specific training as is the case now or so we hope.
    Freight rates need to go up dramatically
    Drivers need to be paid a fair rate and for all the work they do.
    This is a touchy subject for some I had the owner of a company I worked for haul me aside one day and explain to me respect is earned not given just because you have position does not meen you have the respect of the people that work for you lose there respect and your dead in the water. I still believe this and with so many company’s there is no respect from office staff to the people that get the work done and it starts at the top, I know this is true because I would not stay at the same company for 20 years if I had no respect for ownership and they had none for me.
    To me the answers are simple but people tend to complicate simple things

  • No need to stress, autonomous trucks are coming. Forget lousy drivers, lousy companies; and let the robots do all the work!

  • I have been a driver for 13 years…a Newby to some of you but I got into the industry yet when women were less than 3% of the total drivers and only 1% of those women drivers were solo. I have had many jobs within the category of truck driver from local to reginal to coast to coast. 1 thing I have noticed is that companies have a honeymoon time. With this I mean that the 1st 6 months…perfect… driver manager answers the phone, loads pay well, detention is paid without alot of string pulling etc. When you get past that 6 mo mark all of a sudden…your dispatcher doesn’t talk to you, you have to jump through hoops to get paid and detention becomes nonexistent unless you scream. I agree truck drivers get no respect….they/we got little to no respect when I 1st started driving and with the new generation of drivers on the road it has gotten so much worse.

  • Very interesting conversation. One thing that most touched on is there are good companies to work for and then there are the ones that are shady operations.
    In the same token these shady operators why are they out there and why do they operate that way?
    The answer is simple because entry level drivers need an opportunity to get experience. Then there are the drivers out there that should not be driving a commercial vehicle and can only get a driving job with the shady fleets. Or the short answer is because they can!
    I think in one of the earlier posts there was a referral to the term Knights of the Road. I just reveal my age on that one.
    Yes the truck transportation industry needs some fixing because we all know that all this leads to some bad collisions on the road.