Home Truck News Young P.E.I. drivers embrace trucking careers - Truck News

Young P.E.I. drivers embrace trucking careers – Truck News

Commitment and determination have led two Prince Edward Island residents to careers behind the wheel.

Tanisha Tawil and Bar Bareng “showed up every day willing and wanting to learn,” says Alvin Smith, owner of ASTA Safety and Commercial Driver Training, who supervised their training. “I’d love every student to be like them.”

Tawil and Bareng are graduates of the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council’s Find Your Drive (FYD) program that provides money for training, funded by the province’s Skills P.E.I. division of the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture.

A woman and man stand in front of a truck
Tanisha Tawil and Greg McQuaid in McQuaid’s Mobile Storage facility in Charlottetown. (Photo: Leo Barros)

Greg McQuaid, owner of McQuaid’s Mobile Storage says Tawil had spent a couple of summers working at the company doing general labor. “She is talented. She can weld, turn her hand at mechanical jobs, she’s an all-rounder,” he says.

Shunting trailers

McQuaid has employed 21-year-old Tawil as a junior driver where she delivers 20-foot storage containers. Her primary role is shunting trailers in the company’s yards. McQuaid says the job entails maneuvering in tight spaces and that he does not want to set her up in a situation where she is going to fail and have her confidence crushed.

“Running trailers back and forth and shunting them is still tight work, but she doesn’t have to worry about someone yelling at her,” he says.

Tawil says that when she shunts containers, she tries to work out angles and positions to do the job efficiently and safely. “If I can’t do it one way, I got to find a different way to do it,” she says.

Picture of Jonathan Ball
Jonathan Ball outside SFX Transport’s headquarters in Charlottetown. (Photo: Leo Barros)

She embraces the challenges that come with the job and likes meeting new people. “You never feel like you are doing the same job, even though it may be the same route, there is always something a little bit different about it,” she adds.

SFX Transport has hired Bareng as a longhaul driver. Jonathan Ball, the carrier’s chief operating officer said driver-trainers evaluated him as one of the best students they’ve seen.

Bareng has been working for the past two months and there has been positive feedback from dispatch drawing praise for his attention to detail.

The carrier is waiting for another student’s U.S. visa, so they can begin the four-week internship that includes cross-border work.

Smith says the advantage of the FYD program is that trainers know where students will be employed and tailor training toward the work and tasks they will have to perform. They also receive more driving hours at the school.

Picture of Alvin Smith
Alvin Smith (Photo: Leo Barros)

The mental aspects of the job are also built into the curriculum. Smith says they discuss factors like traffic, the vehicle, regulations, dispatchers, customers, and home issues that could lead to mental fatigue.

SFX Transport’s Ball says students go on four cross-border trips with trainers during the internship. The trainer does most of the driving during the first trip and students observe. Each trip lasts between four and five days, where they learn and get used to the company’s processes.

Marlene Pearce, human resources supervisor, SFX Transport, says during the internship, students receive training that includes picking up loads, paperwork, border crossings and delivering freight.

Once they are hired, the new drivers also undergo orientation for a week-and-a-half. This is followed by a shadow drive, where two trucks run together. Ball said the student follows the trainer, each hauling their own loads. This provides an extra level of comfort before they head out on their own.

Vetting employees

McQuaid says the internship helped Tawil find the balance between being confident and being too confident. “We wanted her confidence up but didn’t want her to get cocky.” Joe, who has been with McQuaid’s for 40 years, helped mentor the young driver. The company has another young driver, Cain Nunn, in the FYD program. He has also worked with McQuaid’s during the summer.

McQuaid says the best part about the program is that he has already vetted the employees. “I know their decision making, I know that if I put them in a situation where they don’t feel comfortable, they will tell me.”

Tawil says the job was a little nerve-wracking at first, but as she kept driving it got more comfortable. She loves the positive feedback she receives from women who see her operating a big rig.

“Not every girl thinks about going into a trade. Bite the bullet, if you are thinking about it, go try it. If you don’t like it, it is something to fall back on, but if you love it, keep going with it,” Tawil says.

And if she does end up in a sticky situation, Tawil calls her dad Darren, who also drives for McQuaid’s. “I call him saying ‘Dad! I don’t know what to do,’ and he helps me out with suggestions. He wants me to figure it out and says I can call him back if there’s a problem.”

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