Fleet recruiters could find some answers in lost truck drivers

Much has been said about Canada’s shortage of truck drivers and the ongoing search for candidates to fill vacated seats. The process can seem as futile as efforts to refill a bucket riddled with holes.

But the answers may not be limited to finding, training, and recruiting an entirely new generation of drivers. Look no further than licence holders who abandon trucking in the search for better pay or more favorable lifestyles.

Not everyone who holds a licence is fit for a driving job, of course. Some drivers are fired for poor performance. Others discover the work simply isn’t for them. There are also people who secure the licences to support other career paths that just happen to involve heavy equipment.

magnet attracting people
(Illustration: istock)

But consider those who never had the chance to work with an employer who aligned with their core values. Or the truck drivers who left to pursue different careers and discovered that life was not much greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe the family dynamics that led to them to hand in the truck keys have changed as well.

When Camo-route surveyed Quebec licence holders between October and January, it discovered 84% of non-active truck drivers could return to the profession if certain conditions were met. An equal share of those who were surveyed had left trucking within the last five years, so they might be able to polish their skills more quickly than a brand-new recruit.

Attracting them back to trucking would involve addressing the reasons they left in the first place. The top reason most of them changed jobs included poor pay, but driver wages have been rising in recent years. The second challenge involved a search to balance work and personal lives, but fleets are now testing evermore flexible scheduling models to meet demand. Rounding out the Top 3 issues was the frustration around unpaid waiting time, which a growing number of fleets are addressing.

The would-be candidates said they could be enticed back to trucking through models such as hourly pay — a structure that is more plausible with modern-day telematics. But such a wage would need to hover somewhere between $27 and $30 per hour, with $23 per hour being the bottom of the range.

This is more than a matter of enticing people out of retirement, too. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed were under the age of 55, leaving plenty of time to explore a new career.

When the U.K. was facing a fuel shortage because of a lack of truck drivers – triggered in part because of barriers introduced after leaving the European Union – it sent letters to about 1 million licence holders asking them to return to jobs in trucking.

“Your valuable skills and experience have never been more needed than they are now,” said a joint letter from the minister for roads, buses and places, and executives with the Logistics U.K. and Road Haulage Association trade groups. The letter highlighted changes including better pay and more options including flexible and part-time work.

“If you are no longer working in this sector, we would like to take this opportunity to ask you to consider returning.”

Canada may not be facing a crisis of the same magnitude. Not yet. But maybe that makes this the perfect time to reach out to some of the truck drivers we’ve lost.

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.


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  • My A license was downgraded to a G during the start of Covid. I am a diabetic and have been for 30 years and sending in diabetic reports as requested over the years. Sometimes it was difficult in that you had to be over 7 or 8 and under 12 before you could drive. So having a normal blood sugar of 5 or 6 meant that I had to eat something I normally wouldn’t just to get my blood sugar up to drive and hope it didn’t go over 12. In the meantime testing to see if it was rising enough. But I persisted through all that and the last physical was the best one I turned in. They said you are a diabetic and must get a doctor to fill out a diabetic assessment. Wellin Covid you couldn’t get an appointment and they downgraded my license

    • Same has happened to many other drivers. Some that use oxygen or C pap machines. I have a list of of 300 truck drivers in ont affected. Some with covid side effects. Some who ended up homeless about 60 . The trucking industry and ont gov needs to try to protect these drivers. We also need to look at why truck drivers leave trucking for jobs like costco or construction in large numbers

  • When I first began driving a T/T almost 50 years ago there was no shortage of drivers as many were Teamsters. As those jobs began to disappear and were replaced with Driver Service and Truck Leasing Jobs the pay and lifestyle started to deteriorate. The present situation is being aggravated by an influx of foreign nationals that are enticed to come here in search of jobs that turn out to be Pie In The Sky. Once they have been hoodwinked into this work it is very difficult to leave as they have often borrowed the money to get here. In addition many of them have ended up working for their own countrymen that brought third world labour practices here such as Driver Inc. and use every scheme possible to scam paying taxes. The benefits we enjoy in this country require people to underwrite them. That`s what taxes are intended to do. The system we enjoy is being abused by these tax cheats and cannot go on much longer.