MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — There will be many factors limiting capacity growth in the Canadian trucking industry, but chief among them will be a lack of qualified drivers.
That was the message from Doug Harrison, CEO of Day & Ross Group, when speaking to a full house at the 2012 Surface Transportation Summit, hosted by Motortruck Fleet Executive, Canadian Transportation & Logistics and Dan Goodwill & Associates. Shippers on-hand heard that trucking capacity is likely to remain tight, due to the rising cost of new equipment, forthcoming regulations, increased consolidation and a reluctance among the carrier community to add trucks in an uncertain freight environment. But Harrison added “One of the greatest capacity issues we have going forward is talent.”
Citing numbers from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Conference Board of Canada, Harrison said the Canadian transport industry is short 27,000 people today, with that expected to grow to 74,000 people by 2015.
“I can order trailers, I can order power, I can buy fuel, but I can’t manufacture people,” Harrison said. “To me, the greatest constraint going forward will be the people side of the equation, not the equipment side or the fuel side.”
Day & Ross is looking to position itself as a “preferred employer” in hopes of attracting more drivers and support staff to its operations.
“It’s people that deliver the value that you provide,” Harrison said. “For us going forward, we’ll be spending more time on our culture, focusing on how we bring people in and how we look at succession plans to ensure we’re a place people want to join.”
Harrison also said the company will be developing relationships with post-secondary schools and First Nations groups to raise awareness of the career opportunities available at the company and within the industry.
Even if drivers were readily available, Harrison said Day & Ross would be cautious about adding capacity in the current environment.
“As an industry, we’re all watching very closely for when is the right time to invest in capacity?” Harrison said. “We certainly have to invest in renewal, but when is the right time to invest in capacity? The pragmatic view is caution as we move forward.”
He also warned shippers in attendance that simple supply and demand will put upward pressure on trucking rates. So too will infrastructure deficiencies, he added.
For its part, Harrison said the trucking industry will need to continue to innovate, whether it be through the adoption of alternative fuels like natural gas, or the deployment of technologies such as for the remote monitoring of equipment.
“I think the summary is, this is certainly a period of change and evolution and like most industries, leading providers will be required to focus on cost management, people and innovation, along with understanding and anticipating customer needs,” Harrison concluded.