Manitoba firm hires Jamaican truckers

By Jasminee Sahoye

A Manitoba transportation company is recruiting Jamaican men to work as truck drivers due to the shortage of truck drivers in Canada as a result of the aging driver population and a growing industry.
This is the first attempt to recruit drivers from the sunny island according to Rob Wensel, director of Driver Services and Safety of Arnold Brothers Transport, a company that also operates a driver’s training school in Manitoba.
He says his company has hired drivers from Eastern and Western Europe and South Africa, adding that the good thing about the Jamaican drivers is that they speak English.
Wensel explains his company is working with a recruitment agency and Jamaica’s Labour Ministry to find the best candidates.
Those who are recruited must have been truck drivers for more than three years. The applicants are assessed by the labour ministry in Jamaica to ensure they meet the criteria.
He told The Camera that the company has so far hired six drivers from Jamaica who are recruited through the temporary foreign workers program. The new recruits are exposed to weeks of training before they could drive for the company, including two weeks of driver’s school and four weeks of training with the company. Their driving capabilities on the roads are also assessed while driving with a more experienced employee.
“They come on a one-year visa and are eligible to apply for permanent resident status. After that they allowed to bring their families and live and work for as long as they wish,” Wensel said, adding that “they are treated no different to a Canadian driver.”
He said the company has developed a manual for the workers as to places of worship, Caribbean groceries, banking, bus routes and how to survive in the community.
There is a shortage of truck drivers across Canada with about 16,000 to 18,000 drivers needed according Wensel.
Part of the problem is an aging driver population and a growing industry.
The industry may be forced to increase wages to attract people to the job.
Andrew Ryan arrived in Manitoba three months ago to drive for the company. “I came here in the winter and had never driven on ice before,” said Ryan. “That’s a big difference,” he told CBC.