By David Bradley
One of the good things of sitting in my chair as long as I have is the benefit of seeing how far things have come.
When I came up with the idea of National Trucking Week (NTW) all those years ago, I had no idea how things would go. It is most gratifying to see how the industry has embraced the idea and made it their own. What started as a simple idea in the late 1990s, NTW spotlights the contributions of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who keep the country’s freight moving, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, such as drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and anyone else who keeps our economy moving. Even in tough times NTW remained a fixture on the industry calendar and is still going strong. NTW 2014 runs throughout next week (September 7-13) and it is worth celebrating.
They say hindsight is 20-20. I don’t know about that, but I do know the past, even the recent past, wasn’t always pretty and at times it seemed there may not have been much to celebrate. Not too many years ago, for example, the industry was grappling with the advent of one of the worst recessions in Canadian history. Freight volumes dried up and a cloud of uncertainty hung overhead. To survive carriers had to respond accordingly. It was not an easy time.
Today, with that storm in the rearview mirror, the industry today is for the most part leaner, smarter and more adaptable than ever before. It’s been a long time coming, but with freight in both Canada and the U.S. trending upwards and capacity tightening seemingly by the quarter, there is more equilibrium in the marketplace and the winds appear to be shifting – finally — to the truckers’ advantage.
This is not only good for the companies but for the people who earn their living toiling every day to keep the freight moving. The industry is more acutely aware of its human resources challenges than ever before and real efforts are underway to recruit and retain the qualified workers – drivers and all occupations – the industry needs now and in the future.
Admittedly, change can be slow and choppy. It will be resisted by some and too eagerly embraced by others. Regardless, I am convinced the future of the trucking industry is bright. But, we should never be complacent. The CTA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) on the Driver Shortage held a mirror up to the industry and highlighted the challenges the industry itself must rise to. It prepared a list of core values designed to guide the development of human resources policies and practices of individual carriers. While focused on drivers, these are relevant to all the various occupations that exist in the industry. The BRTF is not going to solve all the problems or find solutions to all the challenges. But it has built a freeway that the industry can catch a ride on.
There’s still much work to be done and it’s not too late to get on-board. If your company has been considering making some changes that are consistent with the BRTF’s core values, could there be a better time to implement them during NTW.
Various events across the country will bring the trucking community and others together to celebrate a job well done, to recognize those who make it happen, and to promote the industry’s dedication to Canada’s economy, to environmental enhancement and as always to the highest standards of safety. Every company has its own unique way to show drivers and their families how much they’re appreciated.
This year, with the industry’s pulse beating stronger, I hope the celebrations will be bigger and better than ever. And you don’t have to stop there. Don’t be afraid to show and tell everyone in your community how great our people are. Invite your major, local MP or provincial legislative representative to your company event, host ride ‘n drives, or take out an ad and write a letter to the editor at your local newspaper. By telling your story, you tell the story of the entire industry.
As I’ve said many times in the past, trucking is more than a job to most people in the industry. It is a way of life. It’s what makes this industry so special. I would like to personally thank all the remarkable men and women in trucking for a job well done. Know that you make us all proud.