In the wake of controversial changes made to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling for a shift in the way the government categorizes truck driving, saying it’s a skilled trade that shouldn’t be equated to burger flipping and other low-wage jobs.
In light of the job shortage of Canadian truck drivers, which could reach 33,000 in the for-hire trucking section by 2020, the CTA sees the classification as restricting the industry’s capability to fill part-time, temporary or full-time positions.
“Obviously, those companies that utilize the program in order to fill truck driver vacancies will be impacted, whereas those who do not are less concerned,” said CTA president Bradley. He also added that the program may be discontinued altogether.
According to federal employment minister, Jason Kenney, the changes to the program have been put in place to reduce the number of foreign workers in Canada and, by raising fines, reduce further incidents of abuse.
Whether a trucking company uses the program or not, the issue of most concern for the TFWP is amending the category of truck driving from a non-skilled job to a skilled job, Bradley says. The change in classification would open the doors to those seeking to enter the trucking industry as drivers.
“On the one hand, the government wants the TFWP to be a last resort or perhaps disappear altogether,” said Bradley. “On the other, because truck drivers are lumped in with unskilled, low wage jobs like burger flippers, younger or displaced Canadians are unable to access programs like the Canada Jobs Grant, which would help them with the costs of the training they need before obtaining a commercial licence and becoming employable.”
“This is a real disincentive for people who might otherwise consider a truck driving career,” he added.
One strategy in changing the policy may lie in comparing the wages of truck driving to the median wage in a province. The difficulty lies in the inconsistency between various types of truck driving occupations.
“It’s not a homogeneous occupation,” said Bradley. “The wages and the demands of the job for local pick-up and delivery drivers, for example, cannot be compared to those of long distance over-the-highway drivers, where wages tend to be higher and the shortage is felt most acutely.”
Bradley added that the CTA and the rest of the transportation industry does not presume or expect that any level of government will solve the driver shortage issue.
“However, governments do have an important role to play – they determine which occupations are eligible for shared training funds; which qualify for immigration; and they set licensing standards and oversee the training institutions,” he said.
“We must continue to work together. Trucks move 90% of all consumer products and foodstuffs in the country so it’s essential the industry has a sufficient supply of qualified drivers.”