No shortcuts for aspiring truckers, Sandhu says

A few bad apples ruin the reputation of an entire industry, said Sukhraj Sandhu, vice-president of the AZ Canadian Truckers Association (AZCTA).

Sandhu said some people are using loopholes in Ontario’s MELT (Mandatory Entry Level Training) program, to obtain their commercial driving licences without undergoing proper training.

He was reacting to reports that Ontario and Quebec police collectively laid 11 charges in May in the wake of a multi-year investigation into driver training schemes that allegedly involved unlicensed training schools, interpreters completing knowledge tests for students, and more.

Sukhraj Sandhu, vice-president of AZ Canadian Truckers Association. (Photo: Supplied)

Sandhu said the AZCTA encourages those who want to join the profession to follow the rules and undergo proper training. He said some people go about this in the wrong way and his association will always report any wrongdoing to the authorities.

Sandhu has been a professional truck driver for more than two decades and has encountered many problems during his career, including bad policies and wage issues.

He was keen to raise awareness about these challenges and in the process came across like-minded drivers. After holding many meetings in private, a public gathering was held in Brampton, Ont. in July 2021, attended by about 600 professional drivers. “We were surprised by the number of drivers who showed up,” he said.

Public platform

They decided to form AZCTA, a public platform to raise their concerns and problems, seeking strength in unity.

In March this year, Ontario’s South Asian trucking associations took the first step to provide a common platform for the community’s drivers to air their grievances and seek solutions to the challenges they face.

Members and leaders of the AZCTA, Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA) and Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association (OATA) met to discuss the need for a united voice.

At the time, Sandhu said the main agenda is to stay within the system and address its shortcomings. “The community is divided by groups – longhaul, local, dump truck drivers, aggregate haulers. We are all truckers, and when one has a problem, we can come on one platform and voice our issues together,” he said.

When asked if the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process was being abused, Sandhu said yes, some people were trying to make money from this in the trucking industry.

A positive LMIA shows there is a need for a foreign worker to fill a job and that no Canadian worker or permanent resident is available.

Sandhu said it is a good program for people to start their career in trucking, but it opens the door to unprofessionalism. He added the AZCTA has asked the Ontario government to put an end to this practice.

‘Election lollipop’

Reacting to promises by political parties to removing tolls for truckers on Ontario’s Highway 407, he called it “an election lollipop.” The AZCTA has continued to raise the issue of ending tolls on this highway for commercial vehicles, he said.

Sandhu said building infrastructure is key for economic growth and he supports the construction of the 52-km-long Highway 413 in the province, that will connect Highway 400 in the east and Highway 401/Highway 407 in the west. “The highway will help reduce traffic congestion and save time,” he said.

Sandhu said the AZCTA will continue to raise truckers’ voices against poor policies, work with authorities and organizations to solve issues and educate drivers.

By Leo Barros