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Trucking is as vital to Saskatchewan as it's ever been

"Throughout COVID-19 … that has proven to be true," said Jordan Ewart, who is the manager of policy and government relations with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association. "Trucking has always been an essential service. It's how we get our food, it's how we get our medicine and it's how we get our clothes."
trucking week
Trucking remains a vital part of Sask. economy

Saskatchewan residents have long known about the value of the trucking industry to the province and the country, but it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of the contributions of this essential sector.

Sept. 5-11 is National Trucking Week. It's a chance to pay tribute to the trucking industry, the role it plays in the economy and the importance of truckers in getting so many goods and services to market.

Jordan Ewart, who is the manager of policy and government relations with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, said this province relies on truck transport to keep the economy moving.

"Throughout COVID-19 … that has proven to be true," said Ewart. "Trucking has always been an essential service. It's how we get our food, it's how we get our medicine and it's how we get our clothes."

But Ewart believes that it wasn't until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that many in this province started to see the crucial role that trucking plays in keeping the economy moving, and ensuring that individuals' needs are being met.

At the height of the pandemic, there was one national campaign, in particular, #ThanktheTrucker, in an effort to lift up the truck drivers' voices and the work they've been doing.

"There are companies out there that are moving the vaccine as well. These are things that people are depending on."

The STA is active in lobbying on a number of fronts, including electronic logging devices. Federally regulated carriers are now mandated to use electronic logging devices, which essentially track hours of service and take that paper logbook out of the equation. 

"The STA and its members would like to see a provincial mandate to track hours of service for provincially regulated carriers. We know that there are a lot more provincially regulated carriers operating in our province versus federal carriers."

For that reason, Ewart said the STA wants to ensure drivers aren't being told to run two log books or being told to run longer hours. Drivers should stop, sleep and rest when they're supposed to. 

Rest stops are also still an important piece that's missing, Ewart said, particularly on the Trans-Canada Highway.

"When you have to stop, you have to stop, so having a safe place to park is important," he said.

There has also been a large uptake in training at the STA through the professional driver improvement course, where employers will send drivers for freshers on what it means to be a professional driver, what are good professional driving habits or what to do in an emergency or bad weather.

"There are a number of different types of educational pieces that really do go along with being a professional truck driver and understanding the regulations. We do provide training to our members so they can haul long combination vehicles, that's the two trailers that you see on the road," said Ewart. 

They also help drivers understand hours of service, cargo security and transporting dangerous goods. 

It's important for truckers to keep the highest standards of security within their workplaces, Ewart said. 

The association is also seeing more trucking employers work towards a trucking industry certificate of recognition.

"Safety is becoming right up at the forefront of the industry. Employers are conducting business a lot differently, and that's by adopting safe practices." 

The STA won't be able to host its annual Trucking Week barbecue that it has been doing to thank drivers and show appreciation. But they will be issuing a release to pay tribute to truckers. 

Ewart said the association has about 210 members split between affiliates, who are suppliers to the industry, and 150 carriers who are for-hire trucking companies operating provincially and nationally.

"We certainly have a really good reach into the trucking industry in Saskatchewan, and some insights into what's happening and what the industry is up to." 

The trucking and warehouse sectors are among the top occupations in Canada, employing hundreds of thousands of Canadians. In Saskatchewan, Ewart said over 22,000 of Saskatchewan's 1.1 million residents are directly employed by the trucking and warehousing industries.