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.
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.
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.
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.
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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