But first, while I have your attention… I’m going to hammer a tired old nail here: the driver shortage. And whack a new one too — overtime pay for drivers, even if they’re paid by the mile.
First off, I’m tired of getting angry, sometimes abusive emails accusing me of being in the pocket of the trucking associations and big fleets every single time I raise the fact that there aren’t enough people to pilot Canadian trucks.
Listen, I’m in nobody’s pocket. Listen again, the driver shortage is real. Yes, the reasons are clear. I know, I know.
They have pretty much everything to do with the increasingly difficult nature of the job and the fact that drivers are still treated as a commodity by too many fleets.
Simple demographics also play a role — the working population is getting older and just about every industry is having a tough time attracting people to the fold. I’m not even sure that trucking is worse off than some others.
As far as owner-operators are concerned, you can add the cost of compliance and the extreme difficulty of managing that load alone. Plus the joys of trying to keep a truck on the road with all its unreliable emissions equipment. You and I know many owner-ops who have come very near ruin — or all the way there — because their trucks were in the shop way too often.
Believe it or not, some of our industry’s big shots — otherwise known as “the suits” — do understand. The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) formed what it calls the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) on the Driver Shortage a couple of years ago, comprising 11 CTA board members. In a recent press release it suggests that “…the introduction of an electronic onboard recorder (EOBR) mandate in Canada could be a game-changer by forcing some carriers to start dealing with driver issues.”
Much as I hate the EOBR idea and hours-of-service rules in the first place, they have a point.
“In the current environment, where compliance with the hours-of-service rules is dependent upon the easily manipulated paper log system, the fallout from inefficiencies caused by delays, paperwork errors, and other issues have too often been pushed down to the driver,” says the BRTF.
By putting drivers in the position of not being able to earn income from all the time they spend on the job, “…some drivers feel pressured to take action to try and make up for it in other ways rather than the carrier intervening on their behalf,” the Task Force goes on.
That press release finishes by noting that “The Conference Board of Canada study, ‘Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap and Implications for the Canadian Economy’… highlighted the need for improved wages and working conditions as well as a reorganization of trucking activity and supply chains in order to reduce pressures on long haul truck drivers and make better use of their time.”
OK, so what about overtime?
When reader Roger McIntosh shipped me an email saying he thought drivers like him were entitled to earn overtime pay but were too ignorant of their rights to claim it, I first wrote back saying I’d look into it but didn’t hold out much hope of finding a clear answer. Then I asked Joanne Ritchie of OBAC (Owner-Operator Business Association of Canada) what she thought, and her response was similar. She mentioned Garland Chow’s “Labour Standard Issues in the Inter-provincial Canadian Trucking Industry” report for the Federal Labour Standards Commission, reviewing Part III of the Canada Labour Code. It doesn’t offer any conclusive comment on overtime as far as I can see.
Roger had looked at the Code too and concluded that in all cases it states that [federally regulated, meaning inter-provincial] truck drivers “…are to get overtime and I’ve seen no provision to allow an employer to get around that.”
He’s well aware, as am I, that this opens a sizeable can of worms if it’s true. And apparently it is. I wasn’t able to do the same, but Joanne talked to a Labour Canada representative at the recent Atlantic Truck Show who confirmed that a provision for overtime does exist, even for drivers on mileage pay, for anything over 60 hours a week and up to 70. A calculation is done to convert miles to hour equivalents.
As I’m sorting through this, remember that the Canada Labour Code only applies to federally regulated carriers, ones that cross borders. Provincial laws are another kettle of weird fish altogether.