The challenges facing the trucking industry are numerous, including vaccine mandates, the electronic logging device (ELD) deadline in Canada, and driver shortages. But the president of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) is optimistic about 2022.
John Lyboldt says with an estimated GDP of 5.5%, which is not far off from a normal year, and the U.S. government injecting $110 billion into roads and bridges, things are looking up.
During TCA’s Bridging Border Barriers transportation association executive roundtable on Wednesday in Brampton, Ont., he said consumer spending can produce a lot of loads and lack of spending can reduce them.
He also warned about headwinds due to driver shortages.
Mike Millian, president, Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) said those that have trucks and drivers will have a very good year. Rates are at all-time high, and he expects them to stay there.
Garth Pitzel, senior director, safety and driver development, Bison Transport said the Canadian market is going to be soft and believes the U.S. market is going to be very strong.
Regarding Canada’s June 2022 ELD deadline, Lyboldt said TCA members have raised concerns and have been advised to have a conversation with their providers about meeting the deadline. He said reaching the deadline is going to be difficult task.
Millan said the PMTC has concerns about the timeline as only seven devices have been certified.
“I am hopeful, but I believe it is going to be hard for most of the industry to be compliant by June of 2022 with the lack of devices currently,” he said.
Millian said it is not the organization, but the device that must be certified. He said to be compliant, the model number and the software version in that model must be on Transport Canada’s website. He said there is a supplier that plans to submit at least 10 devices for certification.
The PMTC president said it takes time for carriers to order the devices and train drivers. “We are looking at the fact that they probably should be considering another delay, but I would not be expecting a long one,” he said.
Pitzel said the software version is an issue, and a lot of carriers are not even close to having an updated version.
“Rushing drivers and operations people is going to sour the process, which means the end user – the driver – is not going to have a great experience,” he said.
With Manitoba announcing it would issue warning letters next month, Pitzel was concerned about consistency across the jurisdictions. He said the mandate could be interpreted differently and it also depends on how enforcement officers are trained and prepared.
Millan said Transport Canada is not enforcing the federal mandate, it is up to each province and territory to decide how to enforce it. He said PMTC reached out to Manitoba officials, but they are refusing to back off. “If you are going to issue warning letters to a carrier that has a 5% chance of being compliant … it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
On the vaccine mandate, Lyboldt said when Marty Walsh, U.S. labor secretary mentioned solo drivers were exempt from the vaccine mandate, the White House said they would not walk it back. He said the TCA was confident that might stick.
He said, “We filed suits in the 5th circuit, the 6th, 8th and 11 circuits also. We got the stay. The court is going to determine next move. We are going to take this as far as we possibly can.”
Millian said cross-border carriers could lose drivers due to the mandate. Customers’ vaccine requirements have already raised concerns.
“If you take the general population and assume the truck drivers are vaccinated at the same rate, it means 20% of drivers are not vaccinated. From 300,000 drivers, 45,000 are off limits,” he said.
Pitzel said this is more than a cross-border issue. He said a lot of customers were saying don’t come on our property unless you are vaccinated. “We are telling our drivers you have to get vaccinated, or you won’t have any work.”
Lyboldt said in the U.S., 20 to 30% of drivers are not vaccinated, and 62% of those said they will not be vaccinated. “That is 37% of 3.7 million, which is 1.2 million drivers,” he said. He added that this situation could change the supply chain.
John G. Smith, VP editorial, Newcom Media, who moderated the session questioned the panel about the underlying causes that need to be addressed to close the driver shortage gap.
“If you couldn’t do your job because of barriers in the way, how long will you stay?” asked Lyboldt. He said frustration was building on detention times, congestion, truck parking and driver pay.
Millian said the industry must get away from paying by the mile to paying by the hour. He said drivers want surety with their paycheques.
He said carriers must start looking at different ways of getting freight from one coast to the other.
“Dad wants to be home and involved with the family, and mom wants to work. The days of dad working and mom staying home to solely raise the kids are long gone,” he said, adding that the biggest turnover is in the longhaul sector.
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