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Viewpoint: One step forward, two steps back

Welcome to the recruitment dance for professional drivers. It's quite the popular number these days, although it's performed more out of desperation than celebration....




Welcome to the recruitment dance for professional drivers. It’s quite the popular number these days, although it’s performed more out of desperation than celebration.

Dancing lead is the motor carrier industry. After years of human resource blunders it has finally learned some enticing steps and is starting to apply them. Its partner is a giant in human resource circles. It has the experience and power to support the most daring of steps the industry cares to make. The partner is government and it repeatedly professes its ability to understand the industry’s needs and its willingness to follow (in these post deregulation days) where the industry leads.

At first glance, they seem a match made in heaven – a young industry capable of moving with the vigour and purpose created by youth and desperation and an experienced government with the resources to support its every move.

Unfortunately, so far the giant has proved more lumbering than nimble, more likely to crush a foot than to support an ambitious new step.

You’ve already read with Ingrid’s column above how Canada’s largest province makes it difficult for trucking to use a resource industries from fast food to retail already consider extremely valuable, the older worker, by insisting on what many would deem unnecessary annual testing.

Here are a couple more examples of governmental clumsiness.

Throughout Canada’s history industries looking to grow have looked overseas for the skilled labour to do so. Why should it be any different for trucking?

In fact many trucking companies are already realizing that seasoned drivers from places such as the U.K and the Netherlands are open to starting a new life on this side of the Atlantic by applying their driving skills.

There’s one problem standing in the way, however: under existing immigration guidelines, foreign truckers are not deemed to be “skilled workers,” making it more difficult for them to earn entry into Canada.

Ontario is considering several significant changes to its Highway Traffic Act through Bill 169, which received first reading this winter. One of the changes is to Section 84 of the Act which deals with unsafe motor vehicles with a proposal to specifically target the driver, holding him responsible if any part of his vehicle or affixed to it falls off while on the highway.

The penalty upon conviction is up to $20,000 and suspension of the driver’s licence for up to 60 days. Yet despite the severe possible penalties it appears that the offence will be one of strict liability. The Ontario government is also proposing that the person who repairs or maintains the vehicle can be charged with this offence if the Crown can prove he did anything that caused the part of the vehicle to become detached.

But as Motortruck columnist Blair Gough and transportation lawyer Carole McAfee Wallace point out, the Crown will likely have difficulty proving that the person who repaired the vehicle caused the part to become detached and, as a result, the drivers are the ones who are most exposed to this new offence. Yet another reason to get turned off the industry.

One step forward, two steps back. Must we keep this up till we break the industry’s back?

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached at lou@TransportationMedia.ca or (416) 510-5142.


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