A united trucking industry is a stronger trucking industry

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Making New Year’s resolutions is not my bag. Never had much interest in dealing with my most undesirable traits. This year, though, I’m making a resolution for the Canadian trucking industry.

We need to get more inclusive. Being inclusive is to embrace everyone irrespective of race or gender. Like any resolution involving self-improvement, it takes commitment and there is no finish line.

Ironically, inclusion was the theme at the recent Ontario Trucking Association Executive Conference. It’s a big problem for our industry, especially among trucking executives. It’s also an opportunity. Here’s why.

(Photo: iStock)

Trip to Ottawa

In my column last May, I was crystal clear about where the Driver Inc. juggernaut gets its momentum. Last spring, I was invited to Parliament Hill to meet with prominent MPs from the Liberal caucus.

Our group met with 15 MPs, including those responsible for the employment, diversity, and inclusion portfolios. Here’s the skinny straight from the horse’s mouth; the message truckers deserved years ago: They said immigration is the only way our economy grows. The gig economy is here to stay.

In fact, H&R Block recently released a study indicating 28% of Canadians – or 8.75 million adults – work in the gig economy. That number more than doubled from 2022.

It’s time to pivot from expecting politicians to lead a change. Time to stop fighting ourselves and start working together.

Change the narrative

There are good and bad carriers throughout the industry. Legacy carriers need to start acknowledging that their trusted business partners (more on that later) aren’t all criminals.

The good newcomer truckers are also embarrassed by their community’s growing underbelly. They see the labor abuse, sham training schools, and immigration scams rampant in their postal codes. They know their peers make the roads unsafe.

But it’s time they speak out. Time to use this influence to change the narrative in their community. Doing nothing about the travesties is also a travesty.

Billion-dollar partners

The good news is we are more inclusive than we care to admit. On the surface, it appears the old guard and the newcomers hate each other. I’ve seen friends foam at the mouth at the mere mention of the other side.

Yet they do billions of dollars in business together. Legacy freight brokers are the engine of this billion-dollar partnership. And they feed the same gig monster they want to slay. They’re inclusive on the front line when it’s convenient, but not in the boardroom where it matters. Still, partnerships are a start.

Weakening lobby

A strong, unified voice lobbying politicians is far more potent than two diluted competing messages, and only one seems to get through: The 25 or so MPs of South Asian descent are far more receptive to their community’s voice – and to hearing about trucking industry issues – than the other 300-plus MPs combined.

Most MPs aren’t listening to truckers. This industry needs more voices that can get heard. We need to stick together if we want to take on our biggest threat: Ottawa.

Mixed messaging

Lack of inclusion also sends mixed messages to our employees and the people we are trying to hire. Case in point: the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s ‘Choose to Truck’ image campaign. I thought they knocked it out of the park. But in the end, it may hurt more than it helps if the industry isn’t consistent with how it treats its people.

Imagine a kid looking for a job who sees a video on TikTok bestowing the virtues of our industry. Full-time income, benefits, stability…

To most people, a trucking company is a trucking company. They start applying for driving jobs wherever they can. During every interview, they learn they won’t be an employee, will get zero benefits, and should also drive for Uber to throw off the scent. They proceed to tell their pals to forget trucking. Truckers promise you one thing but deliver the exact opposite.

Not keeping promises is really bad for our brand.

Speaking of mixed messages, newcomer carriers are sending them to their legacy customers and their employees. On one side of the terminal, their dispatchers take loads from legacy broker customers.

But the brass encourages their sales reps to chop their customers’ trucking rates or worse, back-solicit them. The mixed messaging of this lack of integrity is a barrier to inclusion.

It’s a new year. Let’s make a fresh start. Time to suck it up. Time to stop looking past each other.  Time for best-in-class carriers to band together regardless of where their owners were born.

Time to focus on the real enemy, because it ain’t each other.

By the way, wish your next Uber driver a Happy New Year. He did a great job picking up that load in Delhi, N.Y., for you last week.

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Mike McCarron is president of Rite Route Supply Chain Solutions and a partner in Left Lane Associates. You can reach Mike at [email protected]

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  • Well said the C T A needs to have much lower membership fees with those fleets with under 20 trucks and to get owner ops to join
    When I and other people pushed for improvements for truck drivers and lease ops we were sending one message and the C T A seemed to be sending a different message
    I have seen to many people come in as foreign ( students) become truck drivers or lease ops without proper protection when they get sick or injured or try to get their pay that is owed to them in their opinion
    .I know we need to work with health care workers and the truck drivers to make truck drivers safer and live longer. As for bringing in immigrants we need to be careful unless a plan is in place to figure out how to solve the shortage of truck parking and short term housing
    When covid hit homeless shelters started to turn away sick truck drivers and I see too many truck drivers without housing many are here on work permits. I have seen over 20 lease ops walk away from the lease to purchase that was co signed by the companies they were leased to and go are going back to India. These are good people with young children that are going tell everyone they know to not come to Canada to drive truck

  • There is a major problem in trucking the pay is pretty much the same for over the road long haul TL driver as it was 25 years ago with more time in the truck better pay structure needs to happen to much free time given to carriers and customers only job I know that is allowed by law for that to happen @@@ if you do the math most don’t make minimum wage!!! There is no trucker shortage just a need for drivers to flood the market for big carriers to keep their trucks moving at low wages!! The media sends false information about trucking to keep new drivers flowing to the industry and most don’t stay 98% turn over rate it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is a major problem and scam society in this industry created by greed and big corporations and lobbying politiics!!!