The changing face of trucking in an evolving industry

The changing face of the trucking industry was a hot topic along with the gig economy, need for proper enforcement and calls to fix loopholes in the system during the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario’s sixth annual conference in Brampton, Ont., on July 27.

The trucking industry is two distinct businesses that are competing, said Mike McCarron, an entrepreneur and columnist for Today’s Trucking, with more than 39 years of trucking industry experience.

On one side are legacy carriers – older companies established by Canadian families who have been generational truckers – and on the other are newcomers, owned by immigrants and those newer to the industry.

Picture of Mike McCarron and Manan Gupta
Mike McCarron, left, and Manan Gupta during a discussion at the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario’s sixth annual conference in Brampton, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

During a session at the event, McCarron said legacy carriers are rapidly dwindling as newcomer carrier start-ups are off the charts. In 2021, 40 legacy carriers were sold in Canada.

While most legacy carriers haul loads for customers, they compete against 3PL and 4PL operators for business. Newer fleets haul broker loads and compete among themselves for business. McCarron noted that most legacy carriers have freight brokerage divisions that use newcomer carriers.

Spotty safety records

McCarron said while legacy carriers are the safest on the road and mostly pay drivers as per Canada Revenue Agency requirements, newcomer carriers have spotty safety records according to data, and are connected to driving schools that train candidates to pass the test, not to be safe.

Manan Gupta, general manager and publisher, Newcom South Asian Media Company, said there are shady carriers everywhere. New entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and there are also those looking for shortcuts to success. He added there are not enough checks in place and enforcement is lacking.

“The gig economy is not going anywhere. If something is happening, someone is allowing it to happen.”

Manan Gupta, Newcom South Asian Media Company

The trucking industry is in the spotlight due to the gig economy, where drivers want to be paid as contractors. Gupta said, “The gig economy is not going anywhere. If something is happening, someone is allowing it to happen, there are loopholes and people are using them. If the government and enforcement authorities know about it, why are they not plugging it? If they are not shutting it, who is to blame, why are you blaming end users and not talking about enforcement or policy makers?”

As legacy carriers struggle to fill seats and steal drivers from competitors, McCarron said newcomer carriers continue to attract people to their businesses from within their communities.

Immigrants filling gaps

Canadian-born millennials are shying away from the industry and new immigrants are filling the gap, Gupta noted. Many of the hundreds of thousands of foreign students who flock to Canada every year, enter the industry after finishing their studies because they see an opportunity to succeed here.

He added that immigrants who cannot find jobs in their fields as foreign credentials are not recognized, and are also attracted to trucking because it has fewer barriers. The industry is so popular, he said, that the Region of Peel in the GTA has about 100 truck driver training schools.

McCarron touched on the underbelly of truck training schools that give immigrants a bad name, where “one can get a licence one day and be a trainer the next.”

Lack of enforcement

This is a product of the system that is allowing it to happen, Gupta countered. He called on the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to hire more inspectors and conduct more enforcement. “Why are they allowing more truck driving schools that operate as private career colleges. They should name and shame the bad schools and shut them down.”

A driver who should not be on the road and was trained by a shady school could kill someone, McCarron warned. The statistics are alarming. In the past five years fatalities involving trucks are up 2%, and per 100,000 miles traveled crashes are up 4% and injuries in crashes are up 6%. He added that this coincides with newcomer carriers and training school scams.

Gupta agreed that highway safety numbers are alarming and cited OPP data that revealed there was a 40% year over year increase in commercial motor vehicle collisions.

Sharing data

But, he added, the carriers involved are not known. He called out insurance companies to come clean. “Trucks involved in collisions must be insured by someone,” he said.

Gupta also took a swipe at politicians, noting their absence at the conference. “They should be here; data should be shared with them.” He said policymakers need to see the facts, or else solutions will not be found.

Looking toward the future, Gupta said in 10 years, the influx of new immigrants will continue, and resources are required to promote the ethics of the industry, or else things will return to square one.

McCarron said businesses that want to flourish will have to adapt to the changing of the guard. The issues will be the same, but a much different looking industry will be the trend going forward.

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca


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  • More enforcement without a way for drivers to get back wages or money owed will not work. Proof is the numbers of homeless drivers from large older companies.

  • Regulate truck licensing as a skilled trade – make apprenticeship mandatory with real world training only with qualified companies and “real” schools and colleges – MTO road test is a joke – this will stop the licensing mills overnight – need to train drivers similar to the training of pilots / the days of your “uncle” teaching and learning driving as part of trucking family are over – unless we change the system more deaths and costly crashes will continue. Unfortunately I fear the damage has been done and only increased safety and compliance will weed out the rot. Our political system is too weak and lacks the will, it seems that it will fall to insurance industry to correct our mess. Yes, this means a major overhaul of transportation much like deregulation did – perhaps going backwards before looking ahead is something to consider.