Canadian Truckers Losing Regular Workplace: Stats Can

by Harry Rudolfs, On-road Editor

Canadian truckers are getting older, getting a tan, working harder than most people, working longer hours, making a little more money and getting smarter, according to new statistical data recently released by Statistics Canada.

Most strikingly, they’re also less and less likely to report to a single workplace on a regular basis.

The info comes from new data released this March, as a follow-up to a report released in February 2003 called the Changing Profile of Canada’s Labour Force, which looked at developments in the industry over the last two censuses, in 2001 and 1996.

What’s new about the recently released tables is that they give a more accurate picture of Canadian truckers, beyond just their numbers and how many are men or women.

The biggest surprise was that tens of thousands of truckers no longer reported to a regular work address in 2001. In 1991, only 5,615 drivers had no fixed workplace. In 1996, 58,585 had no fixed workplace. And in 2001, 84,900 drivers were rolling around without a home base.

The tables also revealed 2001 figures which showed an increasing amount of visible minorities in the profession. In 1996, visible minorities comprised only 3.1 per cent of the driving force, but this more than doubled to 6.3 per cent in 2001 (up from 7,235 to 16,660 in that time span). Although the 6.3 per cent (2001) visible minority representation comprises only half the national workforce average of 12.6 per cent visible minorities (in 2001), clearly the days of truck driving as the almost exclusive domain of the white European male have ended. (The 1991 census showed 5,985, or 2.9 per cent of the truck driving work force consisted of visible minorities.)

Just about every classification of visible minority increased its share of transport drivers between 1996 and 2001, with significant increases coming from the South Asian, Latin-American, South-East Asian, Filipino and Arab/West Asian communities – each have more than doubled their numbers in five years.

Interestingly, the 2001 census found no Korean or Japanese females were driving truck in Canada, although women had a foothold in every other classification and category.

According to Statistics Canada, driving remained the most common profession for Canadian males (and has been since 1996) with 255,990 in 2001. A total of 263,510 men and women plied the trade in 2001. Women drivers constituted about 2.9 per cent (7,520 in 2001). But the presence of senior women was up dramatically by 500 per cent: there were 70 senior females trucking in 2001, as compared to only 12 in 1996.

On the whole, the report found senior drivers were becoming an important resource for trucking companies. In 2001, truck driving was the tenth largest profession for seniors across Canada: 4,705 drivers over the age of 65 kept their wheels rolling in 2001 (2,000 more than in 1996).

Young blood in the industry was found to be getting progressively thinner. The number of young people driving trucks dropped between 1996 and 2001, from 13,935 to 13,610. Even more telling is the drop over a 10 year period from the 1991 census, when there were 16,690 20-24 year olds employed as truck drivers. The 2001 census saw a net loss of 3,080 bodies (most of these were straight truck drivers, as insurance regulations make it practically impossible for anyone under the age to operate a tractor trailer) over a 10 year period.

The next category, 25 to 34-year-olds, didn’t fare much better. In 1991, 63,345 drivers of this age group were jamming gears, while in 1996 the number had dwindled to 60,515, and by 2001 it had shrunk further to 57,000 drivers.

As well, the age gap between truck drivers and other workers continued to widen. The average age of the Canadian commercial driver jumped by 1.7 years between 1996 and 2001 to 42 years of age, as compared to 39 years of age for other occupations.

Financially, the bottom line for commercial drivers got a little better as the century rolled over. Truckers’ earnings were up in 2001 by an average $2,000 over 1996 incomes. The average driver earned $33,954 compared to the average annual salary of $32,123 for other workers.

But to make that kind of money drivers also worked more weeks per year and logged many more hours than other Canadians. Truck drivers booked 44.4 weeks against the national average of 43, and more significantly, spent 51 hours on duty per week compared to the 39 hours average clocked by other occupations.

Also according to the census, truck drivers appear to be getting more education: 25 drivers in the 2001 census had their Doctorates (down from 30 in 1996), but 3,340 had Bachelors degrees (compared to 1,885) and 615 had their Masters papers (215 in 1996).

The number of drivers with trade or college diplomas or certificates was also found to have spiraled upwards. In 2001, 45,430 truckers had trade certificates and 17,845 had college diplomas, while in 1996, 34,595 trades and 13,795 for college certificates.

Be that as it may, truckers overall had less formal education compared to workers in other fields – 46 per cent (120,985) did not have a high school leaving certificate in 2001.

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