Why go back on the road ?
Well I guess the simple answer is because I want to. I want to see whats changed in the past ten years. I want to understand why, in my opinion, the most under valued job is taken for granted by most and its value to the economy ignored by all ? Why is the shortage of truck drivers a real threat to economic growth in Canada today?
Like most things in Canada, trucking companies are very much linked to our large neighbours to the south. Second only to China, Canada is a major trading nation for the States.
As there is such a shortage of drivers, finding a job should not be a problem. This proved to be the case. Through a contact of mine I talked to a company based in Toronto, but with trucks working out of Calgary. Following a brief interview over a cup of coffee, a job offer was received, followed by numerous forms to be completed in full, all to satisfy the US department of transport.
So off for a drug test I go ! Part of working in the States, requires all drivers to be drug tested and screened as part of their employment requirements. Calgary has many labs, all studying people’s pee to see if they are drunk or stoned at the time of their test. In a country that is about to legalize the use of cannabis, I can only imagine this number will increase in the future. Probably the first reason why there is a shortage of truck drivers, everyone is smoking pot and cant pass the Pre employment drug test! No such problems for me, fill the cup up to the line, sign the forms and the results are forwarded to the company within a couple of days.
The whole hiring process is completed by a test drive and then forwarding all travel documents to Toronto head office. Within a few days I had managed to get myself hired as a truck driver. Although I have held a licence for over 30 years, I hadn’t actually driven a truck much at all in the last 10 years so clearly the driver shortage has made the whole process very easy and there was almost a sense of desperation in many of the local companies I contacted. I got the feeling that they would hire anyone who had a license and could donate quality pee to the Lab.
However, I decided to go with my first choice of the companies I contacted. Firstly, I wanted a company that only ran south to the States. There are a number of companies that only do Canada work. This is fine weather wise for around 5 months of the year and for those who cannot travel to the US because of a wide range of offences prevent them doing so. As you may have heard, winters here can be a little on the chilly side and as we are already at the time of year when temperatures are dropping daily.., winter is not far away. Other reasons for this choice include roads in Canada are terrible ( apart from the tourist sections around Banff, Alberta) Most are full of potholes, bad repairs and many are still gravel. Now given the fact that the majority of drivers here get paid by the mile (something that’s not legal in the UK ) your wages can take a serious hit in the winter. Parked waiting for the latest snow storm to pass or waiting for the snow ploughs to finally clear the roads. On the mountain roads of Alberta and British Columbia, even the main highways can be closed on a regular basis during winter months, snow storms, avalanches and ice storms all mean regular travel disruption. Things don’t improve that much in the summer. Construction and tourist having a similar result .
Truck stops in Canada, while improving in recent years, are generally sparse, poor quality, dirty and somewhat limited in choice of food on offer. As most drivers are on the road for at least a week, a place to have a clean hot shower, do some laundry, watch a movie, get a haircut, with a large selection of food choices as well as reliable wi-fi connection( useful for those of use who blog on a regular basis ) and even get any required work done on your truck, becomes important. All of these basic services are available at regular intervals throughout US road network .
I think I may have come across more reasons for the driver shortage. Strict border crossing requirements to the US and poor roads in Canada contributing to the problem. Maybe all the new taxes received from the newly legalized pot industry could be spent on improving the roads and installing basic road side services?
My choice of company run refridgerated or frozen goods south to California and return to Western Canada with produce. The weather here also contributes to the fact you can only purchase fruit and produce grown locally for around 3 months of the year .
Now running reefer ( refrigerated trailers) is not my first choice and is not without its issues thats for certain. Most pick up and delivery points involve a long periods of sitting around waiting, even if you arrive on time and obviously you don’t get paid for this delay. I would have preferred to run flat deck truck, more money in general and way more interesting work. However, certainly to start with, reefer will do just fine.
So there you have it. After ten years absence, I am once again heading back out on the road. Back in the saddle. What an idiot ??