A look at race relations in trucking

TORONTO, Ont. – Trucker
Ahmed Issa still remembers the testy conversation between two of his former Hyndman
Transport colleagues, one white and the other African-Canadian, a few years
ago.

Ahmed Issa
Ahmed Issa says the situation has improved “a lot” over the years. Photo: Ahmed Issa.

Apparently angered by the white driver’s attitude toward immigrants like him, the black man said, “You will soon be working for immigrants.”

“And, guess what
happened!” Issa said.

“Hyndman went bankrupt last year. Now both of them are working for a company owned by immigrants.”

The Somali-Canadian has been driving trucks in Canada for 25 years, and he believes the situation has improved “a lot” over the past few years.

It is not just workplaces
where minority drivers encounter problems.

Julius, who
doesn’t want his full name to be used, said he had been harassed by a white police
officer during a routine truck inspection because of his color.

“But my colleagues
treat me well,” Julius said.

Munroe
Munroe Thompson says his experience has been “pretty cool”. Photo: Munroe Thompson

Happy driver

Each driver’s
experience is unique.

Jamaican-Canadian Munroe Thompson said he never faced any discrimination in the 26 years he has worked at Erb Transport, and that he “gets along very well” with his colleagues.

Thompson, however,
said he had heard about problems at other trucking companies. He said his
friends were turned away when they approached some companies for jobs.

“I am just going
to be honest with you. My experience is pretty cool,” Thompson said.

“If I say there is a problem in my company, I would be lying. There is an open-door system, and all companies should be like that.”

Tragedy sparks
debate

Last month’s police killing of an unarmed black man in the U.S. has sparked a fresh debate on racism there and in Canada, with many activists arguing that the situation is not much better here.

The latest poll on racism in Canada showed that 61% of those surveyed
believe there is systemic racism in the country.

The Abacus
Data-CityNews poll was released last week amid continuing global protests over George
Floyd’s death.

It also showed
that more than two-thirds of Canadians think discrimination is common in the
country.

Len
Chaplain Len believes truckers need to socialize more. Photo: Abdul Latheef/Today’s Trucking

Building
bridges

What about the
trucking sector?

Today’s
Trucking
asked Len Reimer,
who drove trucks for 15 years before becoming the lead chaplain of Transport
for Christ mobile church in Woodstock, Ont., in 2002.

“I would like to
think that they are getting along well, but we do hear some negative comments,”
Reimer said referring to friction between immigrant drivers and white truckers.

“I wish that was
not the case,” he said.

Chaplain Len
Chaplain Len Reimer. Photo: Abdul Latheef/Today’s Trucking

Reimer attributed
the problem to a number of reasons including fears about job security and a
lack of socialization.

Reimer suggested
truckers should put their differences aside and work on becoming socially
friendly.

“I have spoken
with young immigrants. They were looking for personal friendship, and they were
having difficulty acquiring that.”

And he said, the
reason for that was white Canadians were “not necessarily accepting the
immigrants.”

“We (white
Canadians) need to socialize and build a bridge with them,” he said.

But socializing
goes both ways.

Issa, the trucker referred to at the beginning of this story, said he often finds people of all backgrounds staying in their own comfort zones, without interacting with each other.

“People don’t
socialize that much.”

Sikh Festival
The face of Canadian trucking has changed over the past two decades. Here, truckers at a celebration in Toronto last year. Photo: Abdul Latheef/Today’s Trucking

Changing face

The demographics
of trucking have changed dramatically over the past 20 years, with immigrants
from all over the world taking jobs traditionally held by white Canadians.

A study published in 2018 by Newcom Media, the parent company of Today’s Trucking, revealed that South Asians accounted for 43.7% of immigrant truck drivers in 2016, up sharply from 8.7% in 1991.

There were 22,000 driver positions open in Canada as of October, and pre-pandemic estimates suggest that the country would need close to 50,000 truckers by 2024.

Diversity and inclusion

With young Canadians not exactly flocking to the career, an increasingly common option is hiring more immigrants, which also means companies need to embrace diversity wholeheartedly.

Trucking HR
Canada has published
a range of material on diversity and workplace inclusion.

Trucking HR Canada
Angela Splinter. Photo: Trucking HR

“People come
to today’s workplace with different backgrounds and different needs and
expectations,” said CEO Angela Splinter.

“As employers look to manage a more diverse workforce, a review of recruitment and retention approaches is needed, along with a review of workplace practices, protocols and policies to ensure an inclusive workplace. “

Splinter said diversity is the mix, and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

Diversity is the
hallmark of Canada’s largest trucking company, TFI International.

“The proof is in
the people. We have got people from all kinds of backgrounds – different
countries, different religions and different perspectives,” said David
Saperstein, chief financial officer at the Montreal, Que.-based conglomerate.

U.S. protests continue

Protests over the death of Floyd have continued unabated in the U.S., and in Minneapolis, Minn., where the tragedy occurred, a truck driver was arrested May 31 after he drove into a large group of peaceful demonstrators.

Officials believe the driver’s action was not intentional. He has since been released, and the investigation is continuing.

The incident has prompted the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other industry lobbying groups to issue warnings to truckers about potential problems.

They urged the drivers to take proper precautions and avoid areas of social unrest.

Published at Fri, 19 Jun 2020 13:02:20 +0000


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