The image of the Professional Driver has changed, and the Industry needs to take advantage of that!

Large semi truck hauling freight on the open highway in the western USA under an evening sky.

The image of the Professional Truck Driver has taken a hit over the last 20 plus years. It has long been considered a job of last resort, or a second career. We have all heard the statement “Can’t do anything else, you can always drive a truck”. There are many reasons for this perception of the industry, from those who are outside of it.  First off, almost all skilled trades have taken a hit over the last decade or two.  Society has placed a higher importance on academics and moved their focus away from seeing skilled professional trades people as a respectable profession.  This has pushed everyone to move towards a certain educational stream and led to a shortage of skilled trades workers across the board. Somehow, somewhere along the line, society started thinking of anybody who worked with their hands as people who were just not smart enough to do other jobs, which of course is simply not correct. We have almost shamed hard working, intelligent, and skilled workers away from this field and into University.  We all played a role in this, as parents, educators, guidance counselors, government, and many others. Trucking is not even listed as a skilled trade, which is a travesty, but as a result of this, we were even hit harder by the shortage of young people wanting to enter our industry.

I started in this industry as a driver at the age of 18, 30 years ago. I was not alone, but we were in small numbers for sure.  However, many people, especially those who grew up in rural communities with time and experience around heavy machinery, thought of this profession as a job of first choice.  Driving professionally was respected and viewed as an opportunity to make a good living right out of school. Those possibilities and realities have not changed, but the awareness of the opportunities within the industry has diminished. It may be harder to drive now at 18 as a result of insurance and, depending on jurisdictions, it may not even be legal for you to drive until 19, 20 or 21, but roles in this industry are still there.  Many different positions are open and can lead people on a path to becoming a driver, shipper, receiver, safety professional, warehouse personal, mechanic, owner and so on, the opportunities are endless.  Successful careers are open for the taking, but nobody knows it but us.

The pandemic has been a terrible thing that has affected all of us in one way, shape or form. However, I always believe there is a silver lining in every dark cloud.  The silver lining in this case is the upgraded public perception of the professional truck driver and our industry as a whole.  It took the visual impact of emptying shelves and the publicized urgent need for delivery of crucial PPE’s to elevate the importance of professional driver to a level of respect that the public has not shown them in my lifetime. When the world shutdown, drivers kept going, and kept our essential services functioning and supplies available.  Of course, this has always been our role, but finally everyone became aware of it. Politicians from across the world starting thanking drivers on a regular basis at their press briefings. Services that were closed at the start began opening and providing drivers with free meals and access to showers and washrooms. Groups of people standing at the roadside with signs thanking truckers and asking for the air horn grew. This is great to see, and it is about time drivers received the respect they deserve, and as an industry, we MUST take advantage of this! This public adulation will not last, as with everything, when we return to normal, this too will be forgotten. Right now, however, kids know who we are and what we do, and even more importantly, so do their parents and the school guidance counselors.  Now is the time to reach out to elementary and secondary schools and provide them with information about our industry, the jobs available, and highlight career paths that a student can take. Currently we are in their minds, so we have a chance to have the conversation, whereas before we could not even get the door open. We must share our success stories, as the general media only shares the bad ones. Fill up social media with positive info about the industry, inform your local papers and radio stations, your local school board, your communities.  If we do not act to collectively build on this swift positive change, it will quickly be forgotten and a lost opportunity to build awareness of the greatness of our industry.

Funding is now available!

We have long complained funding is not available to help people enter our industry.  In this current time when fleet budgets may be tight, there is great support for industry through a program by the Federal Government called “Career Expressway”.  Managed by Trucking HR Canada, this program will provide $10,000.00 in funding for the training of qualified people under the age of 30 years old.

For Private Fleets, I think this is a no brainer. This is an opportunity to gain funding for an employee that may be working elsewhere in your company with hopes of becoming a driver and advancing their career. Through this funding, you could get that individual upgraded while having nearly the entire cost of the course covered. The additional wage subsidy will provide as much as $15,000.00 in subsidies for people under the age of 30. This funding is not just for driving positions either. It could be for a dispatcher, warehouse worker, load planner and many more jobs in the Transportation and Logistics field. Both programs are open now and expire by March 31st of 2021.

Additionally, a wage subsidy program is available for persons with disabilities.  The funding is available in the Transportation field, is up to $15,000, and open now until June 30th , 2021.

For theses program to be a success and have potential for consideration of continuance, we must ensure we utilize these funds, make the program a success, so that perhaps the government will look at expanding it in the future. For more information, go to https://truckinghr.com/hr-training-resources/wage-subsidies/ and review the program details.

Trucking HR Canada is conducting a webinar on September 30th for PMTC Members to explain the details of the program further.  If you would like to join this webinar, please reach back to trucks@pmtc.ca to be forwarded the details, even if you are not a member. The goal is to ensure this program is utilized by anyone in the industry who can benefit from it!

We have never had a better opportunity to recruit people into this industry then we do know, lets ensure we take advantage of it!!

Mike Millian
Mike grew up on a beef farm in rural Southwestern Ontario in Huron County and began his career in the Trucking Industry in 1990 at the age of 18. Mike spent three years working for a local carrier Hauling Livestock and bulk agriculture products. At the age of 21 Mike went to work for a long Haul Refrigerated and general freight carrier and spent 5 years hauling freight in all 48 US Mainland States and 6 Canadian Provinces. The Carrier then opened a Certified Driver Training School in 1998 and Mike came off the road to become one of the Schools First Certified Driver Trainers. In 2000 Mike Transitioned into Safety and Compliance for the Fleet, while still working part time as a Trainer for the School. In 2002 Mike moved over to a Private Fleet and became the Safety, Compliance, Maintenance and Training manager for the Hensall District Co-operative’s Commercial Trucking Fleet. Mike spent the next 12.5 years with Hensall and oversaw the Fleets as it grew from 40 Trucks in 2002 to over 160 in 2015. In January of 2015 Mike moved into the Trucking Association business and was named the President of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, where he remains in his current role.