Driver shortage takes centre stage at APTA meeting

by DanIela Piteo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I–The ongoing driver shortage obstacle was addressed in a session at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) conference.

A discussion panel was assembled at the October 23 afternoon session to discuss both problems and solutions to the prevailing shortage issue.

Moderator Kelly Henderson, the executive director of the Trucking Human Resource Sector Council Atlantic, welcomed Angela Splinter, CEO Trucking HR Canada and Paul Easson, president of Eassons Transport to the discussion.

“I think it is vital that driver shortage is one of the topics that kicked off the conference,” said Henderson. “It shows that people understand that this shortage is a serious issue.”

Henderson reported that by 2020, the industry could face a driver shortage of 33,000 truck operators.

Angela Splinter echoed this statistic by adding that the numbers do fluctuate from 25,000 to 33,000, but could realistically be higher.

“These numbers don’t include private fleets,” said Splinter.

In the past, well-documented research has been conducted that suggests a shortage is imminent, but numbers required quantification.

“We need to look at demand and productivity,” said Splinter, noting that in periods of higher demand, shortages will peek.

Trucking HR Canada, with the Canadian Trucking Alliance, has created a Blue Ribbon Task Force to tackle operational concerns, chiefly the driver shortage.

“We are working together to address the driver shortage,” Splinter said. “We are trying to do our part at a national level and while some people don’t believe there is a shortage, we absolutely see that there is a decrease in workers.”

“We keep hearing about the perfect storm or the demographic tsunami,” Splinter said. “We are facing pending retirements, a workforce with 20% of drivers over 54 years old and 12% under 30.”

Additional concerns the Blue Ribbon Task Force contend with are image and attraction issues.

Currently, only 3% of drivers are women and another 3% are immigrants.

“We need to start recruiting from non-traditional sources: women, immigrants and aboriginals,” said Splinter.

The task force has also developed a call to action, which has been dubbed BRFT.

First, the “Basics”, such as compensation and benefits, are reviewed. Second, “Respect” is addressed – the image of drivers needs to shift so it is recognized as a professional occupation. Third, “Training” needs improvement and last, “Family” has to be taken into account as drivers deserve a fair work/life balance.

“We really need to amend the NOC code,” said Splinter.

A NOC code, or the National Occupation Classification, is a system that authoritatively ranks occupations in Canada.  At present, truck driving has one of the lowest NOC code scores.

“We need to raise the bar,” said Splinter. “We can achieve this by updating these national occupational standards.”

Mandatory entry-level training, or an apprenticeship type model, according to Splinter, can improve the current standard.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force also initiated an inquest with young people and guidance counselors looking to understand what needs the upcoming workforce require.

“Youth are looking for occupations with environmentally friendly work practices, continuous learning opportunities and high-safety standards,” said Splinter.

Paul Easson joined the panel to also address the issue.

Easson shared anecdotal evidence to support the current shortage issue concerns.

“I knew a driver who always said, ‘if you can’t tell me what the mission is, I can’t prepare for it,’” said Easson. “Drivers live in a short mission world and they need to know where they are going.”

According to Easson, the job can be demoralizing when truckers are forced to wait for their schedules or left idling at a shipper’s facility waiting for their truck to unload. Rearranging operations so dispatch plans are forward looking will aid wait times.

The issue of time was stressed when Easson addressed the conference attendees.

“Take long haul trips and break them up so drivers aren’t on the road and away from their family for a week or more,” said Easson.

Easson’s other suggestions to help build a stronger workforce with less turnover include maintaining a fleet with better equipment and rewarding the positive in the work environment.

“We need to celebrate good news, “ said Easson.

At Eassons Transport, employees are given the chance to reward coworkers with the Better Safer Easier reward.

“Employees can recognize their coworkers that help make their jobs better, safer and easier,” Easson said.

These simple steps, Easson said, will help alleviate subsequent shortage problems.

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  • This nothing but a smoke screen to bring in foreign workers to replace Canadian and American drivers. Check the DMV files there is more than anough drivers. We have just retracted our services due to poor:
    Working Conditions
    Hours with no pay
    Corporate Greed
    Lack of respect for drivers and there families

    Industry needs:

    Recognized apprenticeship program Min. 5 year graduated

    2 years small P & D
    2 years in town combination units
    1 year mountain training with qualified driver that is certified for traing drivers.

    All pay to be paid by hourly rates with overtime penalties after 8 hours of service.

  • You mention that only 3 percent are immigrants,i would dispute that as it is rare to see white people drive semis.And the driver shortage just forget about it no longer matters,rates and wages rarely goes up,when the freight starts to pile up with no trucks let the shippers start buying trucks and trailers,spending billions and paying the truckers what they want.The system
    is broken thats all.27 years ago i got paid 25 cents per mile and 12 bucks per hour work time,in Calgary its 20 bucks per hour the last 10 years and 40 to 42 cpm.That my friend is what you get for your big carrier in trucking.So let immigration take it all as they will work for cheap for ever,and the shippers will rake the cash in.Paying truckers for what they are worth is an idea long past its time.

  • Victor Mitchell

    I do agree with you, but until the end consumer is ready and willing to pay double or even triple what they pay now for a loaf of bread or bag of milk this will never happen. The end result will be that no one will be able to afford their current living let alone just the truckers. The increases the would get would still then not be enough. It is one large circle that will repeat. I do sympathize with the truckers as i come from a family of truckers but more needs to change than just driver wages.