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Friday, June 21, 2024

Home Work Life Balance- By Ray Gompf

There are several iterations of the trucking business. First, there is the local operation, where the driver doesn’t exceed 100 kilometers from his or her home base. Secondly, there is medium haul, where the driver doesn’t exceed 800 kilometers from home base. In both of these situations, establishing some semblance of home life isn’t all that difficult with proper planning. For the most part, a driver isn’t going to miss important familial occasions – with proper planning and co-operation with dispatchers/employers, necessary home time can, and is often, achieved. Often, a driver can even count on weekends off.

It is the third type of operation that makes a good home & work life balance almost impossible; yet, proper planning and co-operation can change the words from almost impossible to almost possible. This third type of trucking is, of course, the long haul.

There are several types of long haul: the first is the dedicated route where the driver leaves one city and is bound for a distant city on a regular basis along the same route over and over. Often times, this type of operation involves taking a load from close to home base, reaching a destination, unload, and returning back to home base. These types of dedicated routes often lend themselves to the team type operation where two drivers work together so they can achieve 22 hours of travel in each 24-hour window. The other type of long haul is where the driver follows the load and reloads as close to the original deliver point as possible, bound for another location not necessarily in the direction of home base. These long haul situations are generally over the 800-kilometer mark and sometimes, well beyond. Often, this type of operation involves coast-to-coast travel and it’s a situation where the driver could be away from home for months at a time. In this type of work, there has to be clear planning so that there is quality in the home life of any description.

With your employer, establish the important dates for your family well in advance.   Birthdays, graduations, religious holidays, statutory holidays, anniversaries, personal vacation times and the like don’t just surprise you.  They are usually known years ahead of time so are fairly easy to reach some sort of compromise with your employer to achieve these.   It’s the parent teacher interviews that are next to impossible so if these kinds of issues are important to you, then instead of working out the compromise with your employer, then perhaps it would be easier to work out a compromise with the school.  Often times the school will work out specific arrangements because of the lifestyle of trucking.

Just because somebody may want you to do something at a specific time and that specific time isn’t convenient for you, doesn’t mean you have to just be accepting.  You need to learn how to negotiate properly so you are able to achieve those things that need to be accomplished.   For the most part, people understand that you have an important job that doesn’t fit the mold of the majority.  So, learn to negotiate effectively.   Life is about compromise and life is about negotiation.  Learn both of these skills.

Employers that dictate every detail of your life and never allow you to negotiate to meet your personal and familial needs are those employers with whom you do not want to be associated.   If your employer doesn’t work with you to achieve your goals and objectives, then find one that will.  There is a shortage of quality, qualified drivers in this country.  Therefore, drivers of quality and qualification need to exercise some backbone and ask for what they want.

The government rules and regulations over the past several years have made life much more difficult to achieve much of a personal life.   Many of these rules and regulations have been sold as assisting in making the highways safer.   The reality isn’t a safer highway but merely exercising more control over the driver pool effectively putting the driver into virtual subservience.

Many of our homegrown drivers have just given up on trucking because of these new draconian rules and regulations and as a result, the governmental changes exacerbated an already fairly serious driver shortage.   The answer to the driver shortage has been to import drivers from overseas.  Our newly imported drivers from outside North America, in the minds of the employers, are just happy to be employed even at less money than would be acceptable to homegrown drivers.

Recently, I noticed a sign on the back of a trailer, while I was on an intercity drive, that bragged this particular company was paying drivers 34 cents a mile and that one should call their special 800 number to become employed.   I was paid 34 cents a mile but that was 25 years ago.  How can today’s wages be the same as they were two or three decades ago?

The lifestyle of trucking covers many factors for individual’s lives both family and work related.  There is a definite requirement for companies to work with drivers to achieve a reasonable home work life balance, but more so, companies have to find a better way to compensate drivers.

The new government regulations, that have been industry driven, have eaten away close to 20% of the driver’s potential income over the past several years.  There is no sign this downward slide in potential income of drivers is abating.

If being paid by the mile is the one and only way to encourage productivity, then there must be some recognition for the driver’s non-productive hours, which he or she must work and earn zero.   Being paid by the mile means that if the wheels aren’t turning the driver doesn’t make a nickel even though they are being forced to perform in many cases heavy labour.  Also, with the new government rules and regulations, downtime isn’t always done at home.  When a driver is forced to take down time away from home, there must be some compensation.  The entire pay structure of the industry is definitely in need of review and revision especially in light of these new draconian rules and regulations that have had a negative effect on driver’s income.

Some of these necessary modifications may be negotiated with progressive employers.  It’s not just about negotiating adequate, necessary home time, it’s also about negotiating adequate, necessary pay for all work performed, not just that time when the drivers is actually moving.  If an employer isn’t willing to negotiate terms and conditions, then move on to one that will.

About thirty years ago, the industry broke the union hold on the work force, reducing the unionized portion of the workforce down from virtually one hundred per cent to about ten per cent.   Because there is almost no ability to collectively bargain within the industry, then drivers must learn how to effectively negotiate their own employment contract.  Do not just accept the employment contract set up the employer.   The employer needs your services and you need the employer.   In the absence of collective bargaining, it is your responsibility to negotiate with your employer.  If the employment contract doesn’t meet your needs, then negotiate a deal that will.   Never just sign the employment contract without reading it at the very least, take that employment contract to a qualified lawyer to ensure it meets your needs.   Employment is a two way street, especially when the driver has to sacrifice so much of his/her personal life.