When Mark Magee lost his welding job last January, he thought he’d picked a sure-fire second career.
“I’d get up every morning and there are trucks going by my house. I thought that should be a good job,” said Magee, 37, who lives in Norwich.
Now ready to graduate from the Ontario Truck Driving School and his unemployment insurance about to run out, Magee is stuck in jobless limbo — he can’t do his road test because of a strike by Ontario’s driving examiners.
Without the road test, Magee can’t get his trucking licence. Without the licence, he can’t get a job.
“There are people here who have jobs lined up and ready to go but they can’t work because of this. A couple of people I know are close to losing their homes because they can’t pay their mortgages,” Magee said.
In fact, some instructors have been giving students — for most trucking is a second career — money for groceries and gas to help tide them over, said Ron Baker, an instructor at the school on Exeter Rd.
“They’re playing with people’s lives here. There are people here who just don’t know what to do.”
The Ontario Truck Driving School has a backlog of 200 student drivers ready to take the road test and get into a rig.
DriveTest estimates that 4,000 people per day haven’t been able to get their driver’s licence. Almost 600 workers have been out on strike since Aug. 23.
Don Rose, 57, lost his job with Therm- O-Disc in St. Thomas and thought trucking was the safest bet, especially in the hard-hit manufacturing city.
“I’d like to do short haul, but I’ll take whatever’s available,” Rose said.
“I could take the test in early November but even if the strike ends tomorrow, it’s going to be after Christmas before I’ll be able to get in there, with the amount of people they have backed up.”
The strike has also put a strain on driving schools such as the Ontario Driving School, who do road tests for all age groups.