Criticism of government oversight in the trucking industry doesn’t come as a surprise to Manitoba truckers.
A 65-page report issued Wednesday by the province’s auditor general said oversight of the industry is inadequate, due in part to infrequent inspections and improper checks before operators are certified.
Trucker David Henry, with REK Express, told 680 CJOB he’s been driving for more than three decades, and said the province’s lack of oversight puts more responsibility on individual companies.
“The report doesn’t say that the industry is unsafe, but it highlights some of the oversight issues which we’ve all known about,” he said.
“Basically, it’s up to the companies that operate whether they want to operate according to proper guidelines or not follow that.”
Henry said the company he currently drives for collects real-time data on his driving, but that’s not the case across the board. Smaller trucking companies, he said, may be less focused on safety, as they don’t have the resources to collect data and hire more experienced drivers.
“They can tell us everything about how we’re driving during the day. They can watch everything, but there’s some key points that they keep an eye on, and we get a safety bonus based on how those data metrics come back to the company.
“When I started driving back in the ’80s, I couldn’t get on with a big company. Back then, you have to have five years experience, be 25, etc.
“It was really tough to get into the industry, so you go to work for someone who is less than ideal, and once you get enough experience, you go work for a carrier that cares.”
Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association, told 680 CJOB companies have a responsibility to make sure drivers are properly, safely trained, but obviously there are some slipping through the cracks.
“Whether or not there’s a legal requirement, just as best practice they do pre-employment road tests with these drivers,” he said.
“Part of the gap in the system, though, is if that driver doesn’t engage in that pre-employment road test to the satisfaction of that company, that company simply doesn’t hire them, and then the driver goes (to another company) next door and next door and next door.”
Shaw said the auditor general’s report highlights some of the gaps the industry has seen with provincial regulations as well as with private companies.
“There’s layers of responsibility, and as an industry, we certainly accept ours and we have systems in place to manage them,” he said.
“Where the gaps are, and what we’re seeing through (the report), is with Manitoba Infrastructure and the provincial regulators as well. Industry is road-testing people pre-employment that have provincially-issued driver’s licences.
“What do we do with that when we see somebody that we question their ability and their skill set, despite the fact they have a licence?”
Shaw said there are ‘absolutely’ people driving big rigs on the road that he wouldn’t personally hire, and there needs to be oversight to make sure that attention is paid to that ‘bottom 10 per cent’ of potentially unsafe would-be drivers.
“Is there a company making a living hiring the unhireable? If so, they should show up on someone’s radar,” he said.
“They should be subject to oversight and sanction and they should be managed to compliance, or improved, or managed out of the game… and we don’t see that right now.”