MONTREAL, Que. – A strong demand for Class 1 drivers, an aging workforce and increased competition from other markets spell challenging times ahead for Quebec carriers.
This March, Camo-route, a Montreal research and resource company specializing in the trucking, bus and taxi industries, made public an overview of the manpower situation in Quebec’s road transport industry. Dated January 2012, it is titled Diagnostic de la main-d’ouevre dans le secteur du transport routier de marchandises au Quebec.
The overview, prepared last year by the Montreal firm Zins Beauchesne et associes, provides a snapshot of current manpower levels in the trucking industry, presents industry statistics, a prediction of upcoming manpower requirements, challenges and possible solutions.
Interviews with more than 100 employers reveal there is an overall lack of manpower and a lack of qualified manpower. As well, there is a cultural change among young employees: they show less interest in overtime and in itinerant, or long-haul trucking.
Unavoidably, drivers are a major concern in the overview. They represent 72% of the 62,521 workers in the road transport industry. The study revealed 95.7% of Class 1 drivers work full-time and 89% of them have permanent jobs. Of Class 3 drivers (straight trucks), 91.2% work full-time and 92.2% have permanent positions. Among owner/operators, 90% work full-time and 89.7% have permanent positions.
Looking at the age distribution of Class 1 drivers, only 5.3% are less than 30 years old; 65.6% are between 30 and 49; 27.9% are ages 50-65; and just 1.2% are over 65. Of Class 3 drivers, 8.3% are under 30; 51.9% are between 30 and 49; 38% are between 50 and 65 and 1.9% are over 65. For owner/operators, just 2.6% are under 30; 66.2% are between 30 and 49; 27.3% are between 50 and 65; and 3.9% are over 65.
Women represent just 2.6% of Class 1 drivers, 11.9% of Class 3 drivers and 4.9% of owner/operator drivers.
In spite of the decrease in work in the trucking sectors, businesses have been hiring in the past three years. The report suggests that this may be explained by, for example, the replacement of workers who have retired or moved to other positions. On average, businesses have replaced five to six employees a year, 47.5% of whom are Class 1 drivers.
A very high proportion of the companies contemplating hiring Class 1 drivers foresee that they will have trouble finding new drivers. That said, the 10 businesses contacted for in-depth interviews believe that driver turnover (in their direction) is enough to fill in the gap.
Competition is going to be stiff though: Between 2011 and 2013 an estimated 1,600 new Class 1 driver positions will be created. Retiring drivers will open up an additional 700 positions. Just 131 new Class 3 driver positions will be created. Larger carriers have the upper hand in attracting new hires, as they can offer more comfortable working conditions. As well, small carriers (84% of carriers have fewer than 10 employees) are generally worse-equipped to manage their human resources.
Hiring difficulties will be exacerbated by the increasing requirement by employers for experienced drivers and the lopsided dependence on men. Adding to the problem, recruitment issues are amplified by competition from sectors that offer better salaries and more interesting working conditions. The overview notes other discouraging constraints such as hours-of-service, speed limiters, issues with crossing the border into the US and a lack of recognition of the value of driving as a trade.
New markets are another source of competition to all of today’s carriers. The overview specifically cites Plan Nord, a grand plan to open up northern Quebec to development in energy, minerals, forestry, wildlife, tourism and agriculture. The sales pitch on the Plan Nord Web site is that it will create or consolidate an average 20,000 jobs a year.
Schools in 12 regions of Quebec can graduate as many as 2,000 people annually with processional accreditation in truck transport. It is imperative, notes the overview, that the merchandise transport sector get the majority of these people.
There are other sources of drivers that need to be tapped, such as those who already hold Class 1 and Class 3 licences, those with chauffer experience, those with experience driving buses and tow trucks, those with training from private companies, those with professional DEP accreditation and immigrants.
The overview suggests some possibilities for action by the industry, such as: analyzing possible ways to improve working conditions; making small carriers aware of the need for human resource management tools and promoting their use; and trumpeting the advantages of the trade.
The 170-page overview, available in French, can be downloaded from www.camo-route.com. Find it under Publications Speciales.