An Obligation to Train and Learn

I had some incredible feedback on last month’s article regarding how truck drivers seemingly ignore pushrod travel, ABS lights, the ABS system and generally do an incompetent pre-trip. The feedback led to a discussion with one of the readers, and they pointed out how some companies are compliant but not safe.

What does that mean – compliant but not safe? The reader pointed out that many drivers when applying for a new position fill out a ‘mountain’ of paperwork. This paperwork may include dangerous goods training and other signed forms so that they can occupy their correct spot in the driver qualification file.

Completing a document, signing, and dating it, is only compliance. No training has taken place. Do you know that training is required for all employees? And drivers, as much as you might hate another ‘New Hire Orientation’ program, at least this carrier (if done correctly) is abiding by the law. That is a good indication as to how they will treat you.

Each Province or Territory has its own Health and Safety rules, and they generally mirror or mimic the Federal rules. So, in this way, it doesn’t matter whether you are Provincially regulated or Federally covered. The rules are the same, at least in principle.

What are some of the training topics that are in the regulations? The main principle is that the employer alert you to ‘known hazards of the job.’ Do you interpret that to mean things like speed and following distance for a truck driver? I know that I do.

And supervisors are required to be trained and know the hazards of the job. When was the last time you were trained to know about ‘what is sexual harassment?’ Unfortunately, not many trucking companies train their drivers on this topic.

Another area that is supposed to be dealt with is ‘workplace violence.’ Many truck drivers sign a document saying that they have been trained on the ‘Anti-Workplace Violence Policy.’ In fact, they have only signed a paper stating that they read the policy and understand the policy. All without even reading the policy. What kind of training is that?

And while I’m on a rant about training or the lack thereof, how about the ‘Joint Health and Safety Committee?’ (JHSC) which companies with 20 or more employees are required to have. I can’t tell you how many companies that I visit that will say to me that they don’t have a JHSC! Most fleets with 15 trucks or more would have at least 20 employees. That would be the 15 drivers and then the support workers, the office staff, dispatch, and dock workers. I recently conducted a Certified Director of Safety course. Among the attendees, all with more than 50 power units, not one had a JHSC set up and functioning correctly as per the regulations.

Why are trucking companies not correctly training the drivers and other employees in their employ? I partially blame ‘Driver Inc.’ Some employers have told me that because they use Driver Inc. and that Driver Inc. drivers are not employees, this means that they don’t have to train non-employees. And having less than 20 employees means that they are not required to have a JHSC. I would love to hear from a labour lawyer and have that lawyer give their thoughts about this. If a Driver Inc. operator gets seriously hurt, what are the obligations of the company? We all know that not abiding by the regulations doesn’t mean much until someone gets hurt or loses their life. Now, suddenly, the family of the injured or dead worker is looking for restitution or compensation.

My message in this article is twofold.

One. Employers have an obligation to train employees regarding the hazards of their work.

Two. Truck drivers should take the training with a smile on their face knowing that employers are following the regulations and doing their due diligence in training them regarding the hazards of the work.

I hope you all stay safe and never need to rely on the regulations.

Stay safe out there.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.