Truck Driving in Canada
 Issues to consider
 The way the system works
 Some companies recruiting from the UK
 Immigration formalities
 Company Driver
The best starting place is to be a company driver getting paid to drive the company' equipment. As a company driver, a man is paid in one of two ways, by the mile/kilometre, or by the hour, while behind the wheel. Rates for a company driver start at about the equivalent of 28 cents a mile, or around the equivalent of 800 dollars a week to start. A further free company benefits package might include supplemental dental and prescription insurance for you and your spouse, and an annual set of free safety shoes/boots and safety glasses and company uniform.
Each province has its own medical insurance plan, similar to the UK National Health plan, and the monthly premiums are taken out each pay day, usually every two weeks on a Friday. Most firms have a "automatic electronic payroll cheque" to your bank account by computer program.
There also are payroll deductions for federal and provincial income taxes, Canada Pension Plan premiums, and the Employment Insurance program that pays you if you become unemployed through no fault of your own. All of these are standard deductions in Canada.
 Solo versus Team
Drivers may be "solo " or a two-person team (with an experienced Canadian driver). Short local trips are solo in a "day cab" that has no sleeper berth, while anything over 400 miles is probably going to be a sleeper cab.
A team is set up so that each man gets his turn at the wheel, usually in a 10/11 hour stint. Each driver keeps his own log book, and the maximum time of being "behind the wheel " is limited to 13 hours in any 24 hour period. So, with a team of two, the truck is rolling along constantly, except for fuel and food stops.
 Communications with head office
A phone call to "disptach " isn't mandatory at each stop, usually when load has been offloaded. Many trucks now also have rooftop satellite antennas and a screen and keyboard in the cab for direct communications with the company offices. This also lets the driver send e-mail to his home for free, depending on the company.
 Scale houses
Scale houses are mandatory stops, even if the trailer is empty, and Provincial Transport Officers, and Police Officers can also stop any commercial truck at any time, to inspect the log books and the safety of the unit.
 Inspection and cleaning
Drivers must complete a vehicle inspection every 24 hours during a run, and that includes air brake adjustments and cleaning all lights and reflectors, even the ones at the top of the trailer. The fuel stops have movable stairs like they use to service aircraft, and 10 foot long squeegees to wash them clean in the winter.
 Fuel stops
The company may have their own fuel depots across the country, or they may issue "fuel cards " to the drivers. The fuel stops have restaurants, lounges, phone booths, showers, coin laundry equipment, and stores that sell just about anything that you can want.
 Safe driving
Safe driving is expected, and most trucking firms have a "reward program " for drivers who don't have accidents. They also have "fuel miser" programs that reward drivers who use less fuel than others in the company by keeping their speed down. A very few firms have installed speed readers in the cabs, that can't be fooled/tampered with, and they have to be handed in at the end of each trip to show actual speeds and average speed for the entire trip.
Driving distances in Canada are huge. From southern New Brunswick to Lethbridge, Alberta, in a loaded 18 wheeler, with 44,000 kilos in the back, will take 5 days (about 120 hours of driving ) to complete, with a two driver team. At some points going up the steep hills in Northern Ontario, the truck will be down to only about 40 kph, for a few miles, working up the grades. Once the prairies are reached, it is dead flat and you can literally see for 30 miles in all directions. Top gear running.
 Driving to the USA
Most Canadian based trucking companies run into the USA with loads, and come back with return loads too. Canadians cross back and forth easily, provided that they have the proper identity papers, which is not yet, a passport but a current driver's permit. Commercial entries require US Customs paperwork, but that is not the driver's problem, except for faxing the paperwork to the broker at the border for customs clearance and filling in the inward cargo manifest. Most trucking companies will do a "training day " about border crossing rules and procedures, as a part of their "new driver intake process."
Safety is a huge concern, and the firm can be fined if workers are hurt on the job, so they spend money on safety training and yearly refresher courses too.
A new driver is sent out with a experienced driver, who watches what he does and how he does it. A new driver is not be expected to "know everything" at first. But he is expected to pick it up without having to be told over and over again.
Lots of stuff to read and learn, such as the company's policies and rules, as well as the Provincial Highway Traffic Act, as it applies to heavy trucks. Remember that each of the 10 Provinces and 3 Territories have their own rules about commercial vehicles and their use.
Fire safety while fueling, how to safely lift things and how not to get hurt at work are all important subjects that are included in the training process.
 Hazardous materials
Hazardous materials. Very important to know this stuff. It is taught over and over again. Everyone should know it, and be able to demonstrate what needs to be done in a emergency situation on the road. One example would be having to place "Hazmat placards" on a trailer carrying Ammonia in barrels, when picking up the trailer at the loading location. Warning placards, the driver has to know what specific ones to place for a given material in a load.
 Ask questions
It is really important to ask questions at all the stages of the interview process, and then during training. No one expects a UK driver to "know it all," and certain things will be really new and different from previous experience in Europe. Having an open mind and a positive attitude are very important. So is a good sense of humour.
 Independent contractor
A driver who has driven for a company and feels confident about his knowledge of North American conditions may want to become an independent contractor.
One driver, now retired, reported to this website that he had hired out his services, along with his own one ton Ford Van, to carry freight that was "high value and time sensitive," such as engine parts for urgent commercial air craft repairs. He would get paid when only when his van was loaded with cargo. He was paid by the mile, from departure to delivery, by the agreed "computer miles program." He would get paid (convered to UK pounds) from 2 to 3 pounds per mile. So if he went, say, 700 miles, he might might get between 1500 and 2000 pounds for the trip, less his costs, such as fuel, insurance, plates, food and lodging. He ran flat out without any need to stop at scales, because his van was "too small to be weighed," and he didn't have to keep a "log book " either.
He reported to this website that it was not unusual for him to drive across the continent (about 4,000 miles one way) in 3 days. Sleeping for only 4 hours at a time, a trip like that would pay him over 4,000 UK pounds. After getting to California and delivering the load, he would sleep and shower, eat and rest for 24 hours, then return east, hoping to "get a load " that would take him home to Toronto. He drove over 150,000 milers per year. I did that for about 5 years, then retired.
 Big truck
Owning your own "big truck " costs more than 60 thousand UK pounds to buy. Then there is the cost of insurance and all. So being an owner-operator of an 18-wheeler (the equivalent of an HGV truck and trailer in the UK) is a huge outlay, but they also make the "big money."