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Human resources study:

KENTVILLE, N.S. - While almost half of the 4,770 businesses in Nova Scotia's trucking industry hope to expand within the next five years, a human resources crisis is already creating an "urgent requir...

KENTVILLE, N.S. – While almost half of the 4,770 businesses in Nova Scotia’s trucking industry hope to expand within the next five years, a human resources crisis is already creating an “urgent requirement” for new drivers to fill existing jobs.

That dire conclusion comes from Nova Scotia Trucking Industry, Study 2000 – a recent report drafted by the Nova Scotia Trucking Human Resource Sector Council to measure the size of the province’s trucking industry and offer a picture of the workers it will need.

“Among the businesses studied, those anticipating growth outnumbered those expecting decline by a factor of 17-to-one,” the report says. “The industry is in a crisis situation with regard to the availability of qualified personnel … Especially in the case of tractor-trailer drivers, training and recruitment of new industry entrants is an urgent requirement.”

Fifty-two per cent of surveyed businesses said they already have trouble finding tractor-trailer operators, while 40 per cent have trouble finding straight-truck drivers.

Among a litany of recommendations, the report notes a need to increase training efforts and to identify “non-traditional” sources of workers. “Without on-going renewal of its human knowledge and skills, no industry can thrive,” it warns.

It’s time for the trucking industry to educate students – including those working toward a university degree – about the potential for work in the trucking industry, says Steve Corbett of Kero Enterprises in Dartmouth, N.S. And for its part, the Trucking Human Resource Sector Council on which he sits is beginning to develop an education campaign to promote careers.

“I don’t think we’ve done a real good job of promoting what we can offer,” adds Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. “And it’s a fact when you reach secondary school and are making a choice, the thrust today is not into the blue collar labor force.”

The secret to recruiting new truckers, Boyd believes, is to present driving jobs as only the first step into a career that can include the life of an entrepreneur (a.k.a. owner/operator) or a role in such thing s as a safety department.

But so too does the industry need to re-structure the way it handles long-haul loads if it wants to attract these new workers, Corbett says.

“We have to create the right environment,” he explains. “They (entry-level workers) want to have a career and a home life at the same time. But to get the experience they need, they usually have to go on long haul, and it’s somewhat discouraging. They (carriers) have to find ways of getting the drivers home on a daily basis, or at least on a weekly basis.”

That, he says, requires the trucking industry to begin delivering long-distance shipments in a relay-style fashion rather than leaving the trips to single trucks. (For the record, that’s something his company arranges.) “It’s rather difficult for an individual company to do it, but several can.”

Boyd says the government could help by recognizing trucking as a profession, making it easier to draw foreign workers into the trade.

“If I was a master of a vessel, or pilot of a plane, or engineer of a train, I would be seen as a professional,” he says. And “professionals” are more likely to be embraced by immigration officials.

The report itself is one of the most exhaustive efforts to quantify the size of the trucking industry in any one province.

“I don’t know that any other province has tried to do it,” says Dianne Isnor, executive director of the Trucking Human Resource Sector Council (formerly the Trucking Regional Industry Training Council).

Those that run tractor-trailers represent 37 per cent of the counted businesses, while dump truck operators represent 22 per cent of the number. Overall, another 22.2 per cent of the businesses accounted for such things as straight truck delivery, concrete businesses, couriers, armored transport companies, and small truck rental operations. Forty-three per cent provide truckload service and 33 per cent work in the LTL segment of the business.

“I expected the tractor-trailer industry, the long-haul type of thing, to be more significant,” Isnor admits of the final tallies, referring to the large share of businesses that use dump trucks or straight trucks.

While it identified a need for drivers, the report also gives a nod to other jobs within the trucking industry. For every additional driver in Nova Scotia, the pool of spinoff jobs such as mechanics and warehouse workers increased by 0.7 per cent, Isnor adds.

On average, tractor-trailer drivers account for 35 per cent of the industry’s employees, with owner/operators representing 16 per cent of the field and straight truck drivers accounting for 12 per cent. Nearly 20 per cent of the industry’s employees work in warehouses, with administrative personnel (eight per cent), sales staff (three per cent), maintenance workers (four per cent), dispatchers (two per cent), and safety officers (less than one per cent) rounding out the numbers.

Of the industry’s workers, 90 per cent were employed full time. n

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