TORONTO, Ont. – A new year is on the horizon. Given that, we thought it was a good time to choose the trucking industry’s Top 10 Newsmakers of 2018.
- Humboldt Broncos
No trucking-related story dominated headlines this year more than the tragic Saskatchewan crash between a truck and Humboldt Broncos bus that killed 16 and injured 13. The country mourned. Charges were laid against truck driver Jaskirat Sidhu and fleet owner Sukhmander Singh, owner of Adesh Deol Trucking. And broader changes began. Given the truck driver’s limited experience at the time of the crash, calls emerged for mandatory driver training. Alberta has also ended 60-day temporary safety certificates and is looking to mandate compliance reviews for new carriers. But there were also stories of support to be celebrated. We were drawn to work by Trucks for Change, which helped transport a donated wheelchair to one of the injured hockey players.
- Mandatory Entry-Level Training for Truck Drivers
As 2018 comes to a close, Ontario is still the only province to have mandatory entry-level training (MELT) for those who want to become truck drivers. That’s about to change. Saskatchewan and Alberta have both announced plans for training programs of their own. Manitoba has scheduled related consultations, and B.C.’s auditor general has made the case for a similar driver training regime in Canada’s westernmost province.
- Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)
This was the first full year of a U.S. mandate for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), and Canada inches ever closer to a mandate of its own. (Proposed rules have been published in Canada Gazette Part 1.) But Canada is expected to take a different approach when it comes to the replacements for paper logbooks. Discussions are ongoing in the search for a uniquely Canadian process that would require any ELDs to be approved by a third party. In the U.S., suppliers certify their own equipment, some of which has shown to be prone to hacking.
- The Driver Shortage
The shortage of Canadian truck drivers continues to intensify, even as wages rise against the backdrop of higher freight rates. This is a double-edged sword if ever there was one – the rates that have been rising are pushing higher because of the capacity crunches caused by a shortage of trucks and drivers. Reports continue to emerge about trucks parked against fences in markets like southern Ontario, not because of a lack of freight, but because there’s a lack of people to turn the wheels. As our Changing Face of Trucking research indicated, any solution will continue to involve immigration channels.
- The Hot Truck Market
It has been a good year for those manufacturing trucks and trailers. Equipment sales continued to surge ahead at a record pace, and they aren’t expected to slow down in the months to come. One of the few things to limit the pace in any way includes shortages of the underlying components, as individual suppliers struggle to keep up with the demand. In the meantime, order boards have been inflated as buyers race to reserve spots on truck assembly lines. If all of today’s truck orders were filled, the North American market would absorb more than 500,000 Class 8 trucks in the year to come. Manufacturing executives openly admit that such numbers won’t be reached but expect the first three quarters of 2019 to be healthy.
- The Black Mark of Driver Inc.
Late in October, Canada’s federal government announced plans to crack down on fleets that are misclassifying employees as independent businesses. The practice that the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) came to dub Driver Inc. sees fleets avoiding source deductions and other employee-related obligations, and leave employed truck drivers to mistakenly believe they are eligible for business-related tax deductions. The alliance has been arguing that the empty promises give some fleets an advantage when recruiting, too.
- Don’t Smoke ‘em If You Got ‘em
It was a few months later than expected, but Canada legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Little changed for truck drivers, though. Traces of the drug will still ground cross-border truckers during mandatory drug tests, and roadside drug tests don’t require probable cause, either. One of the challenges domestically is that nobody can tell exactly how much of the drug would push an individual driver’s readings above allowable limits.
- Congratulations. It’s a Trade Deal
Call it a trade deal by many names – whether it’s NAFTA 2.0, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement. It depends who you talk to. But the yet-ratified deal will in some ways reshape the flow of goods across the Canada-U.S. border. In the meantime, there are still prices to be paid because of steel and aluminum tariffs. Victims of those include the likes of Canadian-based heavy-equipment manufacturers, which have few options to look elsewhere for their specialty materials.
- Canada Post Parked
Annual Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases were officially on the books, but some Canadians wondered if their goods would arrive in time for Christmas. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) began a series of rotating strikes which – depending on who you believe – stranded hundreds of trailers. The union, which says workers are paying the price when it comes to delivering swelling e-commerce purchases, claimed Canada Post exaggerated the situation to push back-to-work legislation. Canada Post responded with pictures.
- Setting the Stage for the Year of the Electric Truck
Yes, Elon Musk and Tesla dominated headlines in late 2017 when he rolled out the prototype of an electric Class 8 truck. But established truck manufacturers will play a big role in making 2019 the Year of the Electric Truck. Some of the related announcements came as 2018 came to a close. Daimler Trucks North America handed over an eM2 to Penske, just days after Volvo announced plans for its North American test fleet. Other familiar brands have plans for the months to come as well. (In a somewhat telling sign, the first trade show our team will cover in 2019 is the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where presentations have been scheduled by Daimler and Peterbilt.) In the meantime, emerging manufacturers like Nikola and Chanje are making inroads of their own.
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