Could prejudice be another factor in driver shortage?

Underlying prejudices tend to be a subject no one particularly enjoys talking about, but it’s something that needs to be discussed, including within the trucking industry.

That’s not to say trucking is full of bigots. In fact, the vast majority of those I speak to in the industry welcome those from all cultures with open arms.

But as is the case in many sectors in our society, discrimination does exist. On rare occasions, I have been contacted by a reader who exhibits prejudice against the growing number of immigrant drivers.

But could this be a reason why we are seeing a changing of the guard with truck drivers, resulting in a diminishing number of Caucasian male drivers entering the industry?

Traditionally, truck drivers in Canada (and the U.S.) have been white males. Our own research at Newcom Media proves this, showing how as recent as 1996, there were only 4,655 visible minority truck drivers in all of Canada. By 2016, that number had risen to 44,490.

The majority of immigrant drivers come from South Asia. Between 1996 and 2016 the number of South Asian drivers increased from 2,355 to 32,260 – nearly 30,000 in two decades.

According to a National Household Survey, there were 283,185 truck drivers employed in Canada in 2011. So, even if using Newcom’s 2016 stats, immigrants make up 15.7% of truck drivers in the country. Compared to 1.6% just 20 years earlier, this is a significant jump.

But has immigration had an impact on why more young white males are not choosing a career as a truck driver?

On one hand, you could argue it has had no impact at all. The number of truck drivers needed to haul freight has only gone up since 1996, as had the population and demand for goods. So, 20 years ago, there were plenty of white, Canadian males to fill those driver seats.

I use the term Canadian white males rather generally because traditionally, Caucasian males were by far the most common image in Canada, same for females. Canada has always had large numbers of immigrants coming into the county, but not until recently have they primarily been from countries like India, the Philippines, and China. During the early 1920s, people moving to Canada were predominantly from European countries, with those from Britain given the highest priority.

Since the early ’70s, however, those moving to Canada have been described as visible minorities.

According to the Canadian Immigration Newsletter, between April 1 and July 1 of 2018, Canada’s population grew by 168,687, 82% of which was due to immigration. That’s a lot.

With this trend poised to continue into the foreseeable future, one could argue that the traditional Canadian truck driver (Caucasians) has presumed a new reality in the trucking industry. A reality that without immigrant drivers, specifically South Asians, the industry will suffer immense shortages, and therefore the influx of drivers who are visible minorities will carry on.

Is the increase in immigrant drivers enough to steer some potential drivers away from the industry? It could be in some cases, and would reveal how prejudice can have a negative impact on an entire industry.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • The fact is that prejudice does exist everywhere and Transport drivers are not exempt. In particular the bogus driving schools and lack of substantial training and mentorship make the traditional caucasian Male shy away from driving with wages and working conditions stuck in the past also putting up roadblocks

  • The trucking industry has been scapegoating reasons for the shortage of drivers for several years. The trucking industry should take full responsibility for low paying, increasing responsibility, putting unprepared drivers behind the wheel, pushy dispatch, unrealistic delivery and pick up times and extremely bad work/life balance.
    It’s time for the trucking industry to stick their heads out of the sand and start thinking outside the box by making the truck driving a desirable profession again.