Driver shortage? Look at the numbers

Angela Splinter

“If I had a dollar for every time I heard the term, ‘truck driver shortage,’ I wouldn’t be here today.”

Those are the words of Kristen Monaco, associate commissioner at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, speaking to a conference of fleet managers and business analysts last month. She’s extensively researched the labor market for truck drivers, and challenges claims that a shortage exists. Just pay people more, she asserts, and you’ll have more applicants than you can handle.

Personally, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the term ‘driver shortage,’ I’d be on a beach somewhere, too. I’d be living even larger if I had a dollar for every overly-broad statement or sensational narrative I’ve heard about this topic.

Things like, “If fleets only increased wages…” or, “There are a million people in Canada with a Class AZ/1 licence, shame on the industry for not being able to attract them.”

Finding qualified people to drive trucks is a complex issue, and clearly we need more information before we can reach any conclusions. Let’s first address some of the common points:

Wages

Because of the sheer number of truck drivers, and the varying nature of their work, it’s hard to capture accurate and timely wage data.

We’ve done several recent studies into the issue. Our Labor Market Intelligence (LMI) research shows an upward surge in driver compensation. Our youth research says that millennials considering a career in trucking think they can make a good salary. And our Top Fleet Employers survey says one of the keys to reducing driver turnover is a clearly communicated pay package.

All of this research tells us that competitive wages are important, but so is ensuring that drivers understand their compensation. Additionally, our most recent youth research, Millennials Have Drive 2 shows that younger workers value work-life balance, respect for the job, and training as well as wages and benefits.

Possession of a licence

The vast number of Class AZ/1 license holders in Canada is often used to indicate a large pool of potential truck drivers.

But there are many jobs that require an AZ/1 licence, from utility workers, construction workers, and more. This statistic is not an accurate reflection of the number of people who are attracted to the type of work and lifestyle that truck driving entails.

Labor data

Our interim labor market information, compiled with input from the Conference Board of Canada, tells us the industry’s job prospects are better than ever. The trucking industry employs 318,000 drivers and has the highest job-vacancy rate among all Canadian industries, averaging 6.6% in 2018 with some 22,000 vacant positions. That’s more than double the national average.

The face of the Canadian driver is older. Only 28% of truck drivers are younger than 40, compared to 45% of the entire Canadian labor force, and 32% of truck drivers are 55 years or older. Nearly 7% of truck drivers are older than 65, compared to 4% of all Canadians of that age that are working.

The high vacancy rate, combined with employment growth, low unemployment, and an upward surge in wages, provide compelling economic evidence of a labor shortage.

Additionally, with 6.6% of our transport truck drivers being 65 or older, that is another 20,000 or so truck drivers that could potentially retire and leave the industry (this is on top of the current 22,000 vacant positions).

It’s clear that there are numerous job opportunities available. And the fact remains that competition for workers among all industries is intensifying.

What we need are solutions, and positive messages that speak to the economic opportunities the industry offers. And we need government officials to be working with us, not against us.

Angela Splinter

Angela Splinter leads Trucking HR Canada, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing the human resources challenges and opportunities in the trucking and logistics sector. Angela is a frequent speaker at industry events sharing innovative HR best practices, trends and insights. As a respected leader in HR, Trucking HR Canada works with various associations, government departments and industry professionals to ensure employers have the skilled workforce needed for today and in the future. Feel free to learn more at truckinghr.com, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us @TruckingHR for the latest tips, practical resources and more. You can follow Angela directly at @AngSplinter. And we can be reached by e-mail: info@truckinghr.com.

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  • The driver shortage problem is no brainer to solve fincial compensation actually pay the driver for all time by hour.Throw these paid by the mile ton and percentage wage packages away they may sound good on paper but only work under perfect conditions.Stuck in traffic road conditions and delays at shipper/receiver are some root causes that these don’t work.Wlhen that fine delegation went to Europe to study speed limiters they failed to tell us the way drivers are paid over there by the hour and I think this was without on purpose Truck drivers are the engine of the economy not auto workers they can’t even function without truck drivers no parts no job simple.We on the other hand have a higher chance of dying on the job spent days weeks away from home.one ticket can not only costs a week’s wages but can also affect ones personal auto insurance stress due to job related pressure can shorten a drivers life.We must take no yearly medicals paid out of our own pockets.The general public view trucks and drivers as a nuisance,but just remember that truck maybe carrying the gas for your car life saving medication the list is endless.Company executives whine and moan rates are
    Too low to pay drivers higher wages.Well who’s fault is that I would say the executives sure ain’t drivers fault raise the rates quit cutting rates.Jimmy Hoffa was headed in the Rite DIRECTION A SHOULDER TO SHOULDER CROSS COUNTRY UNIONIFED INDUSTRY.Unfirtunataley government knew if this came to be true they would loose control.

    • The problem is truck driver pay and treatment and insurance companies. When young people who volunteer see people like me living in homeless shelters. They see many truck drivers with no place to go when they get hurt. In Ontario Canada with the cut backs by the Ford government. The trucking companies solution is to bring in foreign truck drivers instead of medical care for hurt drivers already here.

  • Been a driver for32 years , wages are getting lower and lower, they used to pay by mile, now by PC miler, it went up to 53 cents but …. it’s as the crow flys.you loose 30% ,so that milage is free.not played for.. depending on PCmiler some are close to actual mile, now from last year to this year same job pays 10 cents less, and no holiday pay but expected to work. Like Christmas.

  • I’m tire of hearing truck driver shortage.Companies need drivers.Everything we used or need has to get move in a truck.as simple at it sounds start paying drivers more money.Now the most pay I seen for truck driver and that’s for being OTR over the road,across 46 states is .50cents per mile.Thats minimum wage by the hour in my state California.Im just saying pay the drivers more.

  • Drivers are making the same as they did in 1999 when I started! The cpm may appear higher, but we pay much more for lesser insurance now than we did and get less miles. The hours of service rules stink, the home time stinks, the food on the road stinks, the treatment at the customers stink. We are so essential, but treated like the lowest form of life out here. There were many, many weeks my son made more stocking shelves at a liquor store than I did running 70 hrs a week. It isn’t what it is made to be

  • There’s not a driver shortest there’s a shortage of companies willing to pay a fair rate for wages for the drivers that’s all it is when you are u guys going to wake up

  • Treat your Drivers right pay needs to keep up with the times don’t pay me the same wage I was making in 1987 please don’t Lie to driver just to get you in the door home time very important

  • Hi I totally agree with your comments, I’m a truck driver and looking for work, which I’ll find the issue is as you say they pay good operators peanuts and short cut you whenever they can E.G. Flat rates no Super don’t say they can’t I’m telling you the do,let me give you an example.Today I received a second phone call from a company looking to employ a MC truck driver you would have to take up residence in Clermont now Clermont is a lovely town to work their for $32.00p/h Flat no Penalty rates what so ever, Now this particular company has just won a major contract with the Ardarni mine as well as a large rail contract being built from the mine to the wharf for shipping and this person is starting to panic why??? Because he can’t get drivers, you see the point I’m trying make they win these contracts and make millions which is great and thats what their on business for,but their greedy and won’t pay a decent wage and wonder why they can’t get people to work for them.MC truck driver’s can easily get $35.00 p/h in brisbane plus penalties plus super weekly and they cry; why would you bother even considering it, just so he can make more and just be plain greedy. Thanks. Paul.