TORONTO, Ont. – With thousands of driving jobs going begging in Canada, it’s no surprise that some carriers are looking overseas to fill the demand.
Last year the Yanke Group actively recruited drivers in the United Kingdom, taking out ads in newspapers and trade magazines and running job fairs in England and Scotland.
Currently, Yanke has about 80 drivers and families from the UK settled in the Saskatoon area and most of them have bought homes. This year, according to president Scott Johnston, the company is seeking to bring in another 44 drivers from Britain and Scotland to bolster their Alberta operations.
“These are exceptional drivers,” said Johnston. “With the ever-changing U.S. border situation we thought it wise to align ourselves with a country that is a strong ally of the United States, and so far we’ve had absolutely no problems.”
Yanke prescreens the prospective drivers before they arrive in Canada on a one-year work permit. Then they are given an extensive four-week training course which includes community orientation.
With the help of a Provincial Nominee Program (available in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and most of the Atlantic provinces) they are allowed to apply for landed immigrant status within six months.
Friendly work environment
But Yanke isn’t the only prairie carrier to show interest in foreign drivers. A call to Norm Shultz in Winnipeg, chief recruiter for TransX, found James Melia of Warsaw, England in his office applying for a job.
“In England the lorry driving industry is discontented and fed up,” Melia told Truck News. “Here the working environment seems a lot more friendly.”
The UK contingent is an important component of TransX’s driving force. “They’re everything to us,” said Schultz. “Quite frankly, God doesn’t make a better, more thoughtful, or more dedicated driver. They have 10 to 15 years experience and they can park a trailer where our guys wouldn’t even consider it.”
Unlike Yanke, TransX does not recruit drivers overseas. Their UK applicants are referred by immigration consultants who collect a fee from their clients, often around 5,000 British pounds and upwards (CAD$12,000).
TranX has hired drivers from New Zealand and India, but Shultz can’t get enough UK applicants. “Manitoba could use 2,000 drivers,” he said. “I’m looking at 31 coming over right now and I’ll have 90 to 100 by the time I’m done at the end of the year.”
Bison Transport is moving slowly into European recruiting and looking at drivers from another community too, according to Garth Pitzel, director of safety and driver development.
“We’re just getting involved right now, as a trial period,” he said. “It gives us another option to get qualified drivers. We have the ability to bring in up to 20 drivers, mostly from the Germany, Austria, Switzerland area.”
Pitzel thinks these drivers will have experience with mountain and winter conditions. “And,” he added, “you have to be fluent in English to operate in the United States and most of these drivers are.”
Atlantic immigration program
Companies in the Atlantic provinces also appear to be taking advantage of the provincial programs.
Rolf and Annette Sluiter of Centreville, N.B. started Eastern Canada Immigration and Job Consultants after a corn roast they had at their farm a couple of years ago. Rolf, a former potato farmer and Dutch truck driver, got to talking with a neighbour about the chronic driver shortage.
He and his wife, an immigration consultant, researched the subject and quickly realized there was a niche for Dutch truck drivers who wanted to emigrate. In the past year and a half their company has brought over around 60 drivers and is expecting 36 in the next year. Most of their clients come from Holland but there are also a few Belgians and Germans.
“The rate of pay is a little lower but the quality of life here is much better. In Holland we have 17 million people in a country half the size of New Brunswick,” said Rolf Sluiter. “Some people dream of driving a big truck and owning their own home.”
The Sluiters go as far as picking up the trucking family at the airport and loading their refrigerator with groceries. “We are immigrants ourselves,” said Annette Sluiter. “So it is important for new Canadians to know there is someone who can help them.”
One company that is extremely pleased with their Dutch drivers is Donnelly Farms Ltd. of Hartland N.B. According to Ginelle Martin, director of safety and compliance and recruiting, Donnelly Farms hired its first Dutch emigrant driver after her boss watched a presentation that Rolf Sluiter made to the APTA.
“They have been nothing but excellent,” said Martin, whose company will soon have five Dutch drivers delivering frozen food and produce in the Atlantic provinces and along the eastern seaboard.
“We’re looking for extremely qualified Class 1 drivers for insurance reasons,” she said. “All these guys have 10 years experience and no accidents.”