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BCTA: We’ll take truck drivers over driverless trucks


News articles earlier this year about driverless trucks operating in Nevada and the Alberta oil sands under restricted conditions set off speculation about whether we’ll need truck drivers within a few decades – and whether autonomous vehicles are an answer to the driver shortage.

National Trucking Week, celebrated Sept. 6-12 this year, is a good time to consider the truck driving occupation and what we can do to encourage the best candidates to enter a demanding and essential career that requires judgment, planning, know-how and a host of other skills. Unlike autonomous vehicles, drivers may be called upon to react quickly to unexpected incidents on the road, bringing all their varied experience about their equipment, the load they’re hauling, and road conditions into play. The question is, is the trucking industry appealing to enough quality candidates to meet our needs today – and in the future?

Planners of large-scale projects in Northern BC are realizing the pool of available drivers is diminishing at a time when they need it to grow. A report developed by a liquefied natural gas (LNG) provincial working group identifies “truck driver” is the seventh most in-demand occupation to complete these projects.

Today, there are about 300,000 truck drivers in Canada – that’s 1% of the population and 1.5% of the labour force.

In BC, most truck drivers are male (96%), and nearly half (47%) are between the ages of 45 and 64.

With less interest in the career from young men, the traditional labour pool for trucking, governments are funding programs to train women and Aboriginal candidates to be competent for the occupation.
The type of training truck drivers receive varies, as there is no training standard for the occupation. Traditionally, driver candidates often started work on farms, as family members or employees, and honed their technical and mechanical skills on heavy machinery.

The in-house training culture that existed during supply and price management of the industry diminished as trucking became deregulated in the 1990s. High school graduation, and sometimes not even that, became the prerequisite to become a truck driver, along with a Class 1 licence. Part of the problem is that truck driving was – and still is, inaccurately – considered an “unskilled” trade because no certification requirement exists. Expert veteran drivers, trainees who’ve invested time and money in reputable, quality training programs, and trucking employers are justified in scoffing at that label.

In fact, a new National Occupational Standard (NOS) for the Commercial Vehicle Operator (Truck Driver) published by Trucking HR Canada in May 2015 puts paid to the description. The list of skills and competencies required runs to 68 pages and includes workplace/interpersonal (“soft”) skills; non-driving job functions and equipment operation; and driving-specific competencies. And these are the core occupational competencies only, not including additional skills and knowledge needed to, for example, operate specialized equipment like the oversize/overweight vehicles that haul heavy cargo, including equipment used at industrial sites.

The NOS is a foundational document, developed with the participation of drivers, fleets, industry experts and trucking associations across Canada; trucking companies and driver training schools would benefit from making it their guidebook.

To seat their trucks with the type of drivers who’ve mastered its competencies, companies must accept that some level of participation in training is required, whether that means through in-house programs to “finish” recent graduates from truck driver training programs or providing mentors to new recruits. Many larger companies are already doing this. The rewards range from better-qualified, safer drivers operating their trucks to improved retention – and a stronger reputation with clients for professionalism, safety and reliability.

Ideally, recognition of the importance of the truck driving profession, better training, and a commitment by companies to investing in entry-level drivers would influence more young people to consider a driving career. During National Trucking Week – every week – we salute those who already have.

Louise Yako is president and CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association. BCTA is a member-based, non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization, is the recognised voice of the provincial motor carrier industry, representing over 1,000 truck and motor coach fleets and over 250 suppliers to the industry. BCTA members operate over 13,000 vehicles, employ 26,000 people, and generate over $2 billion in revenue annually in the province.


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3 Comments » for BCTA: We’ll take truck drivers over driverless trucks
  1. Ted Campbell says:

    The sexy topic “Driverless Truck” catches the attention of everyone involved in the trucking industry. I’ve been in the business since I bought my first 1952 “Big Job Ford” when I was 19. At that time the goal of owning my own truck was followed by a larger aim of owning several trucks and running my own business. I achieved that goal with 14 tractors, 6 tankers and 40 trailers and my own client list I developed by making ‘phone calls, knocking on doors, creating a colour-photo album of my trucks, looking shippers in the eye and promising good service at competitive rates. It was called salesmanship. That evaporated when on-line “load boards” and brokers that don’t own a truck or hire a driver or have a nickel invested in equipment came on the internet. We live in an age of Walmartization where “I can get it for you cheaper” has become the holy (unholy?) grail of trucking. Not many years ago our once-proud industry was a bastion where young truck drivers dreamt of developing skills leading to being middle class business owners. I was a dues paying member of BCTA for many years, this organization would do the industry proud by turning its attention to stronger regulations guaranteeing that load brokers had to post large bonds assuring payment for service. THAT IS NOT THE CASE AT PRESENT.

  2. john says:

    Hi Ted Campbell-THE ONE AND ONLY RECOURSE TO THE CHALLENGES OF THE “LINE-HAUL” TRUCKING IS [MONETARY]! i HAVE VOICE MY OPINION MANY TIMES REGARDING UPGRADING DRIVER TRAINING, ALSO THE GOVERNMENT OR PRIVATE SECTOR ARE CONTENT TO KEEP TRUCKING IN THE “SEMI-SKILLED ” CATEGORY. THIS KEEPS WAGES LOW AND NEW DRIVERS ARE HIRED FROM THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES, WITH LITTLE SKILLS REGARDING TRUCKING OR COMMAND OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE! I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THIS INDUSTRY FOR 50 YEARS AND TODAY COMMERCIAL VEHICLE ACCIDENTS ARE AT AN ALL TIME HIGH IN BC. THE INDUSTRY NEEDS IN DEPTH TRAINING COURSES LIKE OTHER “TRADES” AND WAGES AND BENEFITS TO ATTRACT CANADIAN HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES. DUE TO POLITICS NONE OF THE PERIODICALS RELATING TO THE INDUSTRY WILL PRINT THE TRUTH OF DRIVER SHORTAGE! — JOHN W.

  3. Jeremy Mendes says:

    I was in a situation at work showing a young driver, new recruit, particulars about what goes on in our employers local duties.Nice kid,22 yrs old.His family came here from India when he was 2 and his dad eventually entered the trucking industry within a couple of years.Dads an o/o.This youngster got his licence at 18 but informed dad he had no interest in trucking as a career.His reason for this is he and his siblings missed dad so much while he was constantly out on the road working.This young man, with full support from dad, attends university instead studying some sort of advanced accounting degree.He’s works part time with the company short term for about a three month total duration.

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