Weighing the cost of international recruiting

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BANFF, Alta. – For the past few years, the Yanke Group has put in considerable effort to bring professional drivers from overseas to work in Canada, but the endeavor may be more exhausting than profitable.

Scott Johnston, COO of the Yanke Group, spoke to delegates during the annual Alberta Motor Transport Association Management Conference in Banff, Alta. on April 27 and outlined the extensive procedure of international recruiting strategies.

Yanke is one Saskatchewan-based carrier which participated in a pilot project of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association in partnership with government agencies, to bring foreign truck drivers to Canada.

Carriers work in conjunction with Service Canada (formerly HRSDC), and both federal and provincial immigrant departments. Participating carriers are initially required to perform a thorough labour market analysis study, proving immigrant drivers will not be taking jobs away from Canadians.

Yanke has been bringing drivers over from Europe for four years and has a number of Scottish and English drivers employed with the company.

“We have 225 operators currently working in our system,” noted Johnston. “There are another 100 we expect to have here by September.”

The carrier targeted drivers from Great Britain partly because they can speak English, but also because the country’s political alignment with the US would allow drivers to run across the border as well. There are 26 European countries – plus the Ukraine and the Phillipines – where immigrant drivers would be granted entry into the US while living and working in Canada.

“Many are willing to come because of the demographics,” added Johnston. “There’s no jobs over there.”

For the actual recruiting process, Johnston explained it is pertinent to travel overseas to host an information seminar and conduct personal interviews. He also noted it is important to learn a bit of the local lingo before arriving.

“They speak English, but many of the words are different so there are lots of opportunities to go wrong,” he added.

While conducting the overseas recruiting, Johnston stressed it was important to be as thorough as possible. Ideally the process should be conducted in a hotel conference centre and with not just the prospective drivers, but spouses as well to make sure the move is a family decision.

Following an extensive interview process, Yanke held an information seminar for applicants, which highlighted the differences between life in North America and Europe, the cost of living, scenery, challenges of being away from home; as well as some difficulties encountered when moving to North America.

“After a letter of agreement was signed, we went back over there again for a five-hour orientation,” said Johnston. “We were pretty much saying, ‘are you sure?'”

For the drivers who were sure, and decided to move to Canada, further extensive orientation was conducted upon arrival.

“We have to go through a lot of orientation in North America,” explained Johnston. “There are a load of new rules and regulations to cover, logbooks, weights, scales, metro areas, mountain driving…”

As well, to make the process successful a carrier has to put in effort to ensure foreign workers settle comfortably into the community, otherwise there is a chance they will not stay very long.

“This form of recruiting is very costly. On average it’s about $8,800 per driver hired and we expect that to go up to $10,000,” said Johnston. “We lose 34% of those we bring into the country. Once they have landed immigrant status they are free to work anywhere.”

Johnston noted recruiting overseas takes a lot of time and money, and stressed the importance of doing extensive research before pursuing it as an option.

He concluded by noting it is also important to keep the operators currently employed and perhaps look at training new entrants to the industry.

“After you realize it costs $10,000 to go overseas to hire someone, what’s the $4,800 to put someone through a driving school?” he added.

Super Singles

Gaining a larger footprint in the trucking industry has been a task for wide-base tire manufacturers, but they are determined to bring all government jurisdictions around to the new technology.

Ralph Beaveridge of Michelin hosted an information seminar during the AMTA Management Conference on April 27 and outlined a number of challenges facing the wide-base tire.

With only B.C., Ontario and Quebec allowing full weights using super-single tires, it has been difficult for the relatively new product to really get rolling in the industry.

“The only carriers that can effectively run the tires are ones that run north-south,” explained Beaveridge.

“Once you start going east-west it’s tough to shed 3,000 pounds to get through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, to get to B.C.”

Part of the problem in gaining favour with other provincial governments is the road damage done by previous generations of single wide-base tires.

“There is a big difference between traditional single tires and the new generation, like the X-One,” Beaveridge noted. “That baggage goes with it everywhere across Canada because of traditional single tires.”

As Beaveridge explained in his presentation, the new generation of wide-base tires boast full-width steel protection to eliminate casing growth, maximize retreadability and provide an average weight saving of 200 lbs per axle.

For manufacturers it is just a matter of convincing the lawmakers the inadequacies attached to traditional single tires have been eliminated.

“We expect to have all the necessary information delivered to the government, so they can make a decision shortly,” said Beaveridge.

A terror-able situation

Since 9/11 businesses have become the biggest target for terrorists, accounting for 74% of target incidents.

Here in Alberta, Alan Bell of Global Risk Holdings has the oilsands earmarked as one of Canada’s main targets for a terrorist attack.

“If I looked at a map of Canada and thought, where would I go to cause the most damage to the neighbours to the south, it would be the oilsands in Alberta,” Bell explained during a seminar at the AMTA Management Conference on April 28. Bell spent 22 years with the British Special Forces and for the past 14 years has worked in the private sector as an International Business Management consultant, preparing corporations for security risks and how to deal with them.

“We have to look outside the logic box. We always used to look at security inside a box,” said Bell. “When you’re running around your trucking operations in North America, you don’t want to have to think about terrorism.”

One typical error when planning security is the initial feeling that a terrorist attack will not happen in Canada. Although there is no way to identify a terrorist by looks, Bell warned to keep an eye out for certain activities – like a number of trucks being stolen in a certain area, which could all possibly be commandeered to carry out an attack.

“There is a failure to conduct a threat risk assessment in your industry,” he added. “When looking at hazards and security, we need to look at an all systems approach.”

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