By Maureen Latta
Log truck drivers are a hardy, independent breed. Hauling trees out of the bush in blistering heat and blowing snow is demanding work.
“Finding good, qualified people is one thing that’s plagued the industry for the last few years,” says Torey Wightman, Manager for A. Byrne Trucking Ltd.l He says financial incentives to train new drivers are helpful in a sector where training is an expensive process.
“There are plenty of people with log truck experience, but we run self-loading log trucks and there’s a lot of training that goes into that. Not just anyone can jump on there and load wood onto the truck. You do need to be able to think a couple of moves ahead of yourself.”
Owned by Andy Byrne, the contract log hauling company has 14 drivers and mechanics and a large fleet of self-loading log trucks. Truck driver Dennis Rubboli was hired with assistance from Career Link’s Wage Subsidy Service (WSS). The business qualified for the wage subsidy provided by The Employment Program of BC to employers who hire and train eligible job seekers.
Rubboli was eligible for WSS placement because of his Employment Insurance (EI) status. He started off in the shop for a few weeks until a position came available.
“There is a lot of training that goes into getting guys familiar with the trucks,” Wightman says. “It’s not something you can teach them in the yard. They have to be out in the field to understand it.”
Rubboli agrees. “There’s a lot to learn, especially safety-wise.” He started in November 2012 and successfully transitioned off the WSS program to full-time work in March 2013. Born and raised in Powell River, Rubboli had experience driving logging trucks but never a self-loader. The WSS allowed him to gain new skills. “I’m really happy. It got me off EI. I appreciate what it’s done.”
The WSS is particularly important in the volatile forest industry. “Everything has tightened up financially in the forest sector for the big companies all the way down the line to the contractors,” Wightman says. “So having something that gives you a little bit of financial assistance to train new guys and make sure that they are capable of doing the job and competent to do the job definitely helps.”
The company’s drivers haul primarily in the Stillwater and Goat Lake areas. The work day starts as early as 5 a.m. Drivers haul until between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. It’s a job where you can park your truck and go home to your bed at the end of the day.
Hiring Rubboli has been a big success, says Wightman. “He’s eager to learn and to better himself, and he’s quite interested in the challenge of whatever we put forward to him. It’s nice to have someone who enjoys the job.”