It has become increasingly attractive for farmers to own a semi to haul their own grain to market rather than relying on custom truckers.
Everyone, including farmers, seeking to get a Class 1A driver’s licence to drive big trucks needs MELT, Mandatory Entry Level Training. As Susan Ewart, executive director of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association explains, MELT has resulted in fewer people obtaining their Class 1A.
“Prior to March, 2019, SGI had been working on a standardized curriculum for the driver training schools to teach to Class 1A drivers and then obviously we had the tragedy that happened in Humboldt and it got made to be mandatory at that time. So that was late 2018, and then between March of 2019 there was a surge of people wanting to get their licences before MELT came in, so we had a lot of people get their licences in that short time period and then it dropped off after March 2019 because the cost was set by driver training schools. There isn’t a maximum price that can be charged, SGI didn’t mandate that. So that’s what happened prior to MELT happening.”
Ewart also said there were fewer people getting their Class 1A driver’s licence because it’s expensive.
“There’s not a lot of new people coming to the industry. We’ve got an aging driver population who are retiring. Covid really did push a lot of people into retirement because the average age of a driver working today in Saskatchewan is about 55, but that’s actually trending upwards, so there are more people working in trucking today that are 65-plus still driving a truck.” she added.
The Saskatchewan Trucking Association promotes careers in trucking and they’ve had some success attracting female drivers. However, a large number of job vacancies remain. The median wage is just $25 an hour. Ewart notes that farmers doing their own trucking have a number of competitive advantages over the commercial trucking industry.
“They do especially if they are registered as an “F” plated power unit. The cost of insurance is less, they are not subject to the periodic motor vehicle inspections twice a year. They can obtain a permit for a very reasonable cost to turn their truck into a for-hire so now they can go and haul their neighbour’s goods. Plates are reduced. No cargo insurance requirements. A lot of different things in there.”
Farmers are also exempt from carbon tax and excise tax on diesel fuel. Semis are becoming standard equipment on many farms and some farmers are retaining a full-time employee by having that employee deliver grain through the winter months.