Commercial driver training is once again in the public spotlight as a key to improving highway safety and avoiding catastrophic motor vehicle collisions like the Humboldt tragedy.
Improvements in commercial driver training is an important element of driver and highway safety – one advocated by the Canadian trucking industry through the introduction of Mandatory Entry Level Training. With the implementation of MELT, the Government of Canada, provinces, and industry groups like the Canadian Trucking Alliance took a significant step in the right direction towards further improving road safety.
While mandatory entry level training is one of many improvements the industry and governments have made over the last few years, an even bigger opportunity to significantly improve truck and highway safety is to focus federal and provincial enforcement resources on the main identifiable threat to highway safety – carriers that sidestep all regulations as a business strategy.
These unsafe fleets – referred to by the industry as Driver Inc. companies – target ill-prepared and inexperienced drivers who, without much knowledge about industry rules and regulations, are easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous trucking companies. The growing number of Driver Inc. fleets are fueled by the underground economy; abuse their labour by not paying payroll taxes, workers’ compensation or employees vacation/overtime payments; and force drivers to work without regard to hours-of-service rules. Some of these drivers may also be new to Canada and the abusive operator they work for often take advantage of the fact they are unknowledgeable of Canadian labour and safety laws. These Driver Inc drivers are then provided trucks which are likely not properly inspected for safety, are uninsured or covered by fraudulent insurance; and in many cases, have had their emissions controls removed.
Through a safety analysis, CTA has found that Driver Inc. companies that abuse labour, tax and environmental rules also routinely have poor safety records, showing a direct correlation between non-compliance and public risk. Driver Inc. companies, says CTA, threatens the existence of safe and compliant operators as well as the well-being of the motoring public. The lesson learned is that Driver Inc. companies can be identified and removed from the road before a serious collision occurs. Enforcement at all levels of government must be focused on Driver Inc carriers, says CTA. This enforcement has begun in Ontario and now must be vigorously expanded across Canada by provincial and federal governments, including tax, labour, workers compensation and highway safety agencies.
To protect new arrivals to Canada who want to make Canada their home and work in the trucking industry, CTA is advocating a Trusted or Known Employer Program. These workers should only be permitted to work for compliant fleets that uphold Canadian labour and safety standards so they and their families can thrive and enjoy all the benefits of our great nation, says CTA. The Liberal Government’s policy platform is committed to a Trusted Employer system to streamline application processes for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers to fill labour shortages.
CTA will be working with the Government of Canada to ensure that Driver Inc. companies no longer have access to any foreign labour and that the Trusted Employer program is expanded to all immigration programs related to trucking. CTA never wants to see another new arrival to Canada abused by a Driver Inc fleet again; there are many excellent and compliant trucking fleets that want to employ these new Canadians and would assist them to thrive as professionals and members of Canadian communities.
An immediate opportunity to improve truck safety, which is contained in CTA’s Ten Point Action Plan to improve commercial vehicle safety, is to ensure all provinces provide full enforcement of the electronic logbook (ELD) requirement for trucking companies by June 2022. This enforcement action will end a significant aspect of the Driver Inc. business model of ignoring hours of service rules, which puts all road users at risk.
CTA is calling on the Government of Canada, provinces, and major private and public sector buyers of transportation services to continue working with CTA in improving truck safety by targeting enforcement resources where it matters most – eliminating the practice of Driver Inc.; implementing a Trusted/Known Employer Program for all trucking immigration programs and ensure the ELD mandate is fully enforced by June 2022.