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CTHRC Study Aims to Address Driver Shortage

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. - A new initiative by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council aims to provide fleet managers with research that will enable them to better recruit, train and retain dri...

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – A new initiative by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council aims to provide fleet managers with research that will enable them to better recruit, train and retain drivers.

The research project made its debut at the annual Private Motor Truck Council Conference in Niagara-on-the-Lake June 19 and 20, in a presentation by CTHRC executive director Linda Gauthier.

Gauthier makes no bones about her conviction that the information contained in the CTHRC’s ongoing study is essential to the survival of fleets.

“If companies just look at this and say ‘Yes, that’s nice,’ but don’t do an internal assessment of operations based on the findings and don’t implement action plans to deal with the issues identified, I think these companies will find themselves experiencing major problems in the next five years.

“In fact, I think some will be out of business,” Gauthier said in an interview with Truck News.

Gauthier’s presentation at the PMTC conference was somewhat more diplomatic, but she managed to drive her message home with data nevertheless.

Included in the presentation was an introduction to the scope of the CTHRC’s study and highlights from two reports that are already complete (see information on how you can obtain the reports at the end of this article).

As for the scope, the research includes: a profile of the current qualified driver shortage; the expected additional demand for the next three to five years; a profile of driver turnover; a profile of unemployed drivers; an assessment of government programs, an inventory of driver training schools and requirements; and a comparison of truck driver licence tests.

Unsurprisingly, there is no mandatory training requirement in any province, which means knowledge and practical on-road testing varies widely. Schools therefore, do not have across-the-board requirements, in terms of hours of education or cost of classes. Nor is attendance at a school mandatory for licensing purposes.

A report on government funding and employment assistance is to be posted on the CTHRC Web site.

The upshot of the information is that federally-funded training programs are meeting licensing, but not industry requirements.

Training schools, with a few exceptions, are in the same boat, according to another report, a review of truck driver training schools, also to be posted on the CTHRC Web site.

Both can be downloaded for free, said Gauthier.

More shocking perhaps is that according to the CTHRC’s findings, while 660,000 Class 1/A permits were issued in Canada in 2001, there are only 263,000 active commercial drivers.

And even more striking are the findings on the number of commercial drivers receiving unemployment benefits at any one time. A soon-to-be-published profile of the unemployed driver shows that in 2001, nearly 61,000 commercial drivers collected EI benefits at some point during the year. Approximately 10 per cent of drivers are on EI at any time.

The figure prompts the question “If there’s a driver shortage, why are these drivers out of work?”

According to research conducted with 1,000 drivers, many of them do not remain unemployed for very long – 78 per cent of those unemployed in 2001 were re-employed by fall 2002. Seasonal work (agriculture/fishing, logging/forestry, and construction) takes a high toll, with 45 to 50 per cent of the new EI claims occurring during the last three months of 2001.

But many of the unemployed (10 per cent) also had medical problems keeping them home, Gauthier pointed out. And an even larger portion just plain quit (22 per cent).

The profile on unemployed drivers, which has yet to be released, also lists reasons for which drivers looking for work are not able to find it. A further report, currently in the works, will profile the much-disputed driver shortage, driver turnover and demand.

But already research would seem to indicate that, driver shortage or no, the demand for drivers will only get higher in the next five years. And whether drivers who are qualified to meet industry standards will be there to fill the demand is unknown.

In the end, the availability of adequately trained drivers and a company’s ability to recruit and retain them is up to industry itself, Gauthier concluded.

“Carriers ask ‘Why should I spend the money to train a driver when he or she may just end up going to work for somebody else?'” Gauthier said.

“But if everybody contributed, they wouldn’t have so much trouble finding qualified drivers.”

Gauthier took the opportunity to give a brief sales pitch on the CTHRC’s own e-learning products.

Available on the Web site currently are three courses: Dispatcher Interpersonal Skills (20 hours); Dispatcher Professional Skills (20 hours) and a course for O/Os titled Owner-Operator Business Skills (40 hours).

All of these courses are available at the CTHRC Web site and include interactive exercises, Excel spreadsheets and assessment to industry standards, so that students can learn at their own pace.

For more information on the CTHRC’s research initiative, available reports and its educational programs, visit the CTHRC Web site at

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