The Canadian trucking industry employs about 320,000 commercial vehicle operators across Canada – the vast majority of whom work for fleets that have excellent training, fleet management and health and safety programs. Although the vast majority of the professional men and women who work in trucking have excellent training, fleet management and health and safety programs and have made successful careers while enjoying the benefits of living and working in the greatest country in the world, there are, unfortunately, some carriers throughout all of Canada – from every culture – who do not follow all the rules governing the trucking sector, such as health and safety, environmental, and equipment maintenance regulations. These non-compliant carriers are the same companies that are abusing drivers – robbing these hard-working individuals of the rewarding career experience enjoyed by thousands of Canadians (as highlighted by the growing number of fleets in Trucking HR Canada’s Top Fleet Employers Program).
As a national body, we at the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) are embarrassed by the actions of a small element of our sector that engage and build a business model around violating and circumventing rules governing our sector. CTA believes we must change the enforcement dialogue to address such carriers. Work is ongoing with various levels of governments to bring about this change – but change cannot come fast enough for the CTA membership and, no doubt, the Canadian public who share the road with these fleets that show a complete disregard for public safety and the human dignity of the hard-working immigrants looking to make a better life in Canada.
So, what can we do? The answer is not to stop federal/provincial immigration programs. There are too many commercial drivers going through various programs that are employed by legally compliant and ethically responsible carriers who are facing a driver shortage. The reality is that Canadian demographic rates can no longer sustain our economy – 71 per cent of our population growth and over 90 per cent of labour market growth is due to immigration. As the dominant freight mode and the backbone of Canada’s economy, the trucking and logistics sector has, worryingly, one of the highest job vacancy rates at 6.6 per cent. Currently there are more than 20,000 unfilled truck driver positions in Canada – more than double the vacancies just three years ago, in 2016. If the trucks don’t keep moving, the economy will simply grind to a halt.
When it comes to the future of immigration programs, the Government of Canada needs to continue working with the trucking industry and other sectors to create trusted and effective employer programs. The immigration programs currently in place must ensure participating companies have the required standards in place for training, environmental, equipment, and health and safety before they can take part in such programs. To protect workers from abuse, while also supporting the Canadian economy, it’s imperative our valued new immigrants end up with the majority of compliant, responsible fleets operating in Canada.
As for the fleets exhibiting grossly unsafe operating behaviour, which is typically a strong indication of illegal labour practices, CTA has developed a plan. Following the Humboldt tragedy, CTA developed a Ten Point Action Plan to address ensure that the small underbelly of non-compliant carriers get the regulatory attention they deserve from provincial and federal enforcement officials. Part of that plan included improved regulatory oversight of trucking firms entering the sector as well as those already operating on our roadways. Simply put, it’s far too easy to start a trucking company in Canada; and once in the sector, it’s hardly complicated for these unscrupulous carriers to coast under the regulatory radar and avoid enforcement and sanctions.
Transport Canada and CTA have formed a working group to develop actions that would improve provincial trucking safety regulatory oversight. However, it is important to keep in mind that the provinces have the responsibility to monitor federally regulated trucking fleets. Consequently, we will require political fortitude from all levels of government to implement effective safety enforcement changes coast-to-coast. CTA expects to have a final industry-government regulatory work plan in place in early 2020. With stricter entry requirements and better monitoring of existing carriers, unsuspecting drivers would be far less exposed to the trucking fleets with a complete disregard for compliance and labour rights.
While road safety is the enforcement domain of the provinces, the federal government can immediately take the bull by the horns to assist abused drivers by focusing their enforcement resources on an industry labour misclassification scam known as Driver Inc. This driver abuse perpetrated by the bottom of our industry has allowed unprincipled fleet owners to rob truck drivers of their health and safety rights along with exposing them to significant tax penalties. CTA remains hopeful that both Employment and Social Development Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency will begin a significant targeted campaign that is focused on Driver Inc.
CTA will continue to work with the Government of Canada and all provinces to ensure that gross violators receive the enforcement attention they require and that our immigration programs grow to meet the needs of responsible and accountable fleets so future truck drivers coming to Canada for a better life never have to experience abhorrent treatment from a safety and labour perspective. Operating a commercial vehicle on a public highway is a privilege, not a right. Carriers that build a business model on circumventing labour, tax, safety and environmental regulations have no place in our great industry. CTA is committed to working with all levels of government and all supply chain members to rid ourselves, once and for all, of carriers who come into our proud sector with no intention of following the regulations that make commercial vehicles the safest vehicles on the road and the labour rules that attract thousands of Canadians to work and thrive in our sector.