Doug Ford visits Challenger

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – Drivers, technicians and office staff at Challenger Motor Freight had a big surprise Dec. 17, as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and other provincial officials visited the company.

The visit was kept secret from most employees, due to security concerns. However, the Premier walked through the entire facility, shaking hands and posing for pictures with staff. He even got to climb behind the wheel of a truck, smiling broadly from behind the wheel. The Premier was accompanied by Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek, and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Todd Smith.

Challenger founder Dan Einwechter takes Premier Doug Ford on a tour of the company’s facility.

Ford was a guest of Challenger Motor Freight executives, who then had the opportunity to brief him on key industry issues. Ontario Trucking Association president Stephen Laskowski, and chairman David Carruth of One for Freight, were also present.

The skilled labor shortage was the main topic discussed during the meeting that followed the tour, and specifically the Driver Inc. employment model that has become widespread in Ontario. The model, now condemned by the federal Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada, has provincial implications as well, as the loophole is thought to protect employees and employers from federal and provincial tax obligations.

Dan Einwechter, founder and chairman of Challenger, told Ford that trucking companies that have adopted the Driver Inc. model are skipping out on WSIB payments to the province. He estimated the model is costing the federal and provincial governments $600 million to $1 billion per year across the country.

“Some of that is federal, but a lot of that is provincial,” Einwechter explained, noting one 1,000-truck fleet he knows of is saving about $12 million in tax payments by exploiting the loophole.

In addition to calling for a crackdown on Driver Inc., Einwechter also appealed to Ford to allow the trucking industry to tap into immigration to address its dire labor shortage. He would like to see the Ontario Foreign Worker program re-opened.

After the tour, trucking officials briefed Premier Doug Ford on key issues facing the industry.

“It’s hard to get drivers to move trucks,” Einwechter said. “In some ways, that’s good for us, because that’s a restrictor and our rates go up. But as a citizen, it’s not good. We are out of balance right now in terms of supply and demand. We need more drivers because we need to get grocery store shelves stocked, we need to get food on the table and we need to get computers for kids at school and hospital beds for grandma at the hospital.”

Einwechter said Challenger has had success with the foreign worker program in the past, and at one time about 80 of its 1,600 or so drivers were recruited through it.

“They were wonderfully skilled people,” he said. “Some federal decisions were made and they got shooed away.”

Einwechter invited Ford to create a trial program, and volunteered to participate.

“I’m extremely proud of what we’d do here and how we’d administer it,” Einwechter said.

Laskowski agreed, and called on Ford to extend the foreign worker program that’s available to the construction industry, to trucking.

“That pilot program in Ontario right now that’s working for the construction industry – we want to be a part of it,” he said. “We also need to protect people coming into Canada, to ensure they’re not going to an employer that is not going to give them the rights they deserve as an employee. We need some labor. I have a member in Northern Ontario that has 20 trucks parked on the side of the fence, not because he can’t get the loads to move, he can’t get drivers. That’s not good for Ontario, it’s not good for the economy, and it’s not good for our sector.”

Carruth said even small carriers would benefit from the program.

“For us, we’re always looking for five drivers,” he said. “A program like this, although it’s only five drivers, would help us as a small carrier to bring in Canadians who want to be here.”

And they’re high-paying jobs, Carruth added, noting One for Freight’s local drivers earn at least $75,000 a year and longhaul drivers a minimum of $85,000.

Ford said the labor shortage is not unique to trucking.

“We are hearing this in every single industry, everywhere we go,” the Premier said. “I’ve heard it at my own company in the printing business. It’s a lack of qualified people and retention.”

Trucking officials at the meeting also called for more enforcement across the industry.

“Our main message to the government is, we want to help,” Laskowski said. “We don’t expect handouts, all we expect is a level playing field…how to level the playing field without costing you a dollar.”

He pointed out every restaurant in the province faces health inspections, yet more than 90% of the province’s trucking companies have never been audited. Einwechter reiterated that the province shouldn’t have to shoulder the cost of increased enforcement.

“We are asking for something, but as an industry, we have to be committed to doing the training ourselves,” he said. “We have to throw money at it – we can’t just say ‘We want, we need,’ we have to show…we’ve done it here. We spend a ton on training and we’re prepared to do more.”

Laskowski agreed: “We want to see everyone get some form of (inspection) and the industry pays for it, not the taxpayer. This is a for-profit industry and the cost of it should be borne by the industry.”

Ford listened attentively throughout the 30-minute briefing, and promised to get back to the industry with some solutions in the new year. He also called on the industry to help the province identify red tape and redundant regulations that can be eliminated.

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Dan knows and so does the OTA if you want to attract people you have to pay, stop bidding contracts low if it’s cheap leave it on the dock. There was a recent study that showed in today’s dollars if you added the cost of inflation drivers should be making north of 110,000. Maybe you don’t need a 1,000 trucks when you lose the cheap freight.

    • Drove for his brother doing special yransport,just the Gov thought everybody can drive a 168 feet truck.
      So i had to leave the company and move to a other province to get into the PNP program.
      If ON. Had a PNP program i would still drive ad Challenger, great company and awesome people to work for

    • My father drove with Challenger for 12 years. As long haul. Saying Longhaul drivers make minimum 85,000$ is a flat lie. He most he made was 60,000k back when he first start.

  • Ya, figures. Go talk to a mega carrier that hires immigrants and gets their trucks and fuel at half the price anyone else can buy it.

    How about you go talk to all the owner operators and small businesses that are going broke because of the over priced fuel and emission motors that are putting us bankrupt.

    Why is it all over the news that fuel is at it’s lowest price in years ($48.83 a barrel today) and yet we are still paying $1.329 at the pumps in northern Ontario. It has not come down at all.

  • Along with the shortage of drivers, there should also be the consistency in the rates as well. Every industry has some standardized rates except for the trucking industry. One Broker is paying to one carrier like around $2000 for a load from point A to Point B and the same broker is giving the same load to another carrier $1500 and when the question is asked to the broker, then the broker blacklists the carrier. Also many instances, the one load is brokered like at 3-4 levels before it reaches the actual carrier who is hauling the load, so the rates are at the lowest for the Carrier and all the brokers in-between are surviving because of the Carrier. There should be some transparency as to how much the Shipper is paying to the Broker and how much the broker is paying to the Carrier. I am in this industry for more than 20 years now and for the trucking industry every cost has increased except for the rates. The rates is the ONLY thing that has come down in this market. There are tons of Brokers in the market and the brokers are raising big buildings whereas for the small carriers, it is even getting harder to survive because of :
    1. Driver shortage and retention.
    2. Increased cost of trucking due to high insurance and Fuel prices
    along with all the higher operating costs.

    • start by regulating the load pimp. The middle man that has a desk and phone with no investment in trucking. At the end of the day the broker is putting more bottom line in his pocket that the trucker that did the job.

    • I will say that there forgetting the little guys that only have 1-10 trucks and the owners still have to work 80 hours a week to keep everyone happy to make the least money and pay for good drivers so the dont feel like there #’s. We work really hard and then the insurance companies can turn around and triple our insurance without explaination (we know why tho) and then fuel goes up 10c/L just cause. Its affecting alot of ppl and small buisness.

      • The insurance situation in Ontario is a mess. We to take care of small companies with under 10 trucks for insurance and assistance with bunk heaters and more parking with 20 amp plugs before we bring in more than 2 employees per year per company. Any large company with 50 plus company trucks or more than 100 trucks including owner-ops need to show that in the previous 12 months they farmed out freight with no more than 10 percent taken off the the top to outside trucking companies equal to the number of people they are approved for plus 2 people.

  • Did Challenger mention to Doug that the $75000 for a local driver is only if the driver works 60+ hrs a week.
    The reason people don’t do this job is wages vs hours out. A lot of us sitting in traffic not making anything.
    Don’t seem right a job that requires you to work 12 to 14 hrs / day and only make $75000 a year.
    If your not out there doing the job, then you have no idea what most of us have to deal with in a day.

    • So true Mark truckers sit for hours and do not get paid maybe Ford should make a note of that. Truckers sacrafice alot of Family time and do not get paid enough there life is in jeopardy daily when on the road.

  • There isn’t a driver shortage… there’s a shortage of drivers who are willing to be away from home for pay that’s marginally better than what a 7/11 clerk makes… also companies that advertise a sign on bonus and then find all sorts of crappy ways to avoid paying it… penalties for being late on the driver’s but no standby time for drivers who have to wait to get their loads or wait to unload…

  • The problem with the trucking industry is that the big trucking is cheating the drivers the ones who’s taking all the life chances out there on the road .it make no sense dispatcher is making 30 times more then the truckers who’s away from home who risk they lives every day while they sit in those safe offices. The averages company driver bring home 1100 a week .from running 5500 miles so why would anyone want to drive otr it makes no sense

  • M.E.L.T. is a good start, Driver trainer certification if handled correctly will be another step towards safer roads. There are other factors behind the scenes however that need addressing in my opinion, such as the lack of MTO audits being done. Take for instance the company that employed the individual responsible for the Alberta tragedy, of which they are not alone. There was a lot of media coverage on that, rightly so, but fatalities and injuries happen far too often and all over North America, that are never heard of by the general public and greatly affect lives. MELT needs to be delivered by qualified instructors in the class, truck and yard with more emphasis on backing and road safety maneuvering. At its core, if delivered properly, the MELT program should be considered the “basic training” in the industry, with mentorship by again another qualified instructor at the carrier. Accolades to the Carriers that have taken this on, further instructing their new hires and then assigning them mentors to hone the skills in real life situations and advising them of how to handle the day to day tasks such as logs, vehicle inspection, boarder crossing and company specific paperwork to just name a few. At this point I would also like to stress the importance of recognizing transport drivers as trade professionals and implementing graduated licence classes for at least the classification of the “A” licence apprenticeships. Automatic transmissions are here and most are evolving to them however manual transmissions are still around. At the drive test centres and at truck driving schools it is common to be taught how to drive on an auto transmission and be tested on one. The problem arises when one such taught takes a carrier road test on a manual transmission truck and is incapable. As I am led to believe this is not settled in the MELT program and could cause ongoing problems. A few years back there was talk of the Ministry hiring TPA’s (Third Party Auditors) to achieve more audits, I’m not sure how that panned out but more audits need to be performed, with training holding a more weighted importance than it does.

  • There is no shortage of drivers , rather a shortage of good companies that do not take advantage of drivers , I have been driving over ten years , know what I’m talking about , also insurance is ruining the industry too .

  • Bringing in migrant drivers is an easy way to take advantage of drivers , they need People with little or no resistances , shape up the industry , make it respectable , some companies are but the minority of them are , been doing this over 10 years and very disappointed with it on a whole .

  • Once again these huge carriers boast about what they need, how about this industry paying drivers what their worth and recognizing trucking as a profession. Should be one of the highest paying jobs out there, danger, away from family, sitting hours on end and not getting paid.
    Guarantee that if the truck is sitting due to the shippers or receivers they are getting billed. But the driver doesn’t see any of that money.
    As well fuel surcharge needs to be regulated and paid on top of the load bill. Instead of the carrier keeping it to themselves.
    Sad that we made more money 20 years ago then we do now.
    Get more involved Mr Ford see what’s really going on.
    Not listen to these huge carriers that don’t care about anything but their own bottom line!

  • Used to be a lot of young guys would come up to me and asked how they could get involved in trucking not so much anymore especially when you have to tell them that if you work four days during the week hard long hours that for something as small as being over weight on an axle not over gross on a pre-loaded trailer with nowhere to go and scale it before you hit the government scale you’re very likely to find that the $600
    fine comes out of your paycheck and off the dinner table you’re trying to raise three kids on you’ll have no help from the company that you’re working for I’m all for safety and compliance but you’re taking a lot of food off of table of a man’s children when he turns around and going to lose a week’s pay or something like that. So driver shortages could be improved greatly but in the meantime they’re going to work in factories and other places. Be nice to hear a little more about these type of a situation and while you’re thinking about it maybe you could tell me what other profession I could get into and be treated that way

  • All great point here! The owner of this trucking company is so rich it not even funny! And Ontario truck drive everyone of us should just be on salaries for a $100,000 with bonus! It’s sick how horrible our pay is for our hours! I just run local because the pay isn’t even worth the overnight trips! Anyway Mr.Ford get our wages to where they should be! I also feel ever truck drive should have a pension fund paid by the Government just like Government employees! With out us you lazy people can’t have anything!

  • Make AZ driving a skilled profession and pay the drivers accordingly. Make a mandatory standard for training coast to coast.
    Make the cost of the trucks and insurance especially, affordable for people to buy and operate their own trucks.
    Until these things are addressed the industry will stay sorely lacking drivers and there will be more and more trucks left empty.
    If there is such a huge shortage of drivers it would seem to me that we drivers have the upper hand and the leverage to demand and receive higher wages. It’s simple, pay us or we don’t drive

    • You are 100 percent right now I got my first job with a trucking company out Cambridge. After having had mistakes in my pay and being forced to drive when tired as a new truck driver. It is no wonder we have young people looking at other options. Right now is very hard in Ontario for a small company to insure new truck drivers. Truck drivers need better training and know after working a year as new truck driver they will be making $25. To $30. CD per hour for all hours worked. Any company that brings in offshore truck drivers or other workers should have to provide housing plus a fair wage. No company should be able to bring in more than 4 workers per year.

  • It may not connect for some, but connect this to the Humboldt Broncos tragedy; along with data projections showing trucks to be largely autonomously driven within 8 years; and then share how Mr. Ford has any clue how capitalist economics is creating a precarious underclass. Sad.

  • Hi-once again-upgrade COMMERCIAL DRIVER TRAINING and classify driving as a “TRADE” and monetary upgrade will attract young Canadians. Please Derek, quit playing politics allowing more Commercial accidents and carnage on our highways, eg: Humbolt,Saskatchewan. 50 years in the trucking industry,I am speaking honestly.

  • I’m not seeing any empty shelves. There are so many trucks on the road that’s it’s making everything really dangerous for all drivers. Why not talk about something important like idling trucks that are ruining our environment!!!!

  • Not in the so distance future there will be autonomous vehicle’s “truck and buses” so we better start looking at that industry changing and its coming fast .

    I am a fleet Maintenance Manager for Durham Region Transit and that’s all the talk right now.

  • I under stand there are a lot of problems in trucking . we chose this job for reasons not being told . do people know there’s only one bridge that connects eastern canada to western canada . how about doug ford addresses that one

  • No one forced any of you to take this job in the first place. It was your choice. As my husband pointed out, there is only one bridge connecting eastern and western Canada. That bridge broke 2 yrs ago and truckers were sitting upwards of 3 days to cross. There needs to be another bridge built. As for the dispatchers…all of them should be made to go out for a month to see what truckers actually have to deal with, before they are allowed to argue with the drivers about time. When a driver says they don’t have any time left, the dispatchers need to LISTEN. There is room for improvement all across the board. From training, to wages. As for safe roads….that’s another story. Too many videos of careless passenger vehicles being the actual cause of some of the major accidents that have happened. Infeasible to make separate roads for trucks and cars. You can’t deliver new cars in a downtown dealer without a truck. Or supplies to the hospitals in remote areas. Even restaurants have TRUCKS delivering goods. Mr. Ford said it all in one sentence, truckers are what keeps the economy moving. Park the trucks and the economy will suffer greatly.

  • Governments (provincial and federal) have done virtually nothing to address truck parking on our pathetic highway system in Canada. There are fewer truck stops than ever because truckers have all but stop eating (supporting)their restaurants. Trucker only stop to use the washrooms and bring their own food now. If you’re tired and need to nap, good luck finding a spot.
    I have been a professional truck driver for 38 yrs and have noticed that in the last 10+ years our highways have become increasingly dangerous due to new foreign workers who seem to follow to close and drive along the center line to say the least. Now, add distractive drivers to the mixed and ya. I have never seen so much carnage on highways, especially in Northern Ontario.

  • Haha that’s funny a minimum of 85,000$
    my father worked there in 2016, he was receiving barely 55,000$ You’re telling me in 3 years they’ve raised the pay 30,000$ that’s Hilarious. Yes he was a long haul driver doing 2500-3000 miles a week.