Truck News


The Driver Dilemma

There is much to like about the British Columbia Trucking Association's attempt to deal head on with the driver shortage. Its just-released B.C. Industry Strategic Human Resources Plan provides a broa...

There is much to like about the British Columbia Trucking Association’s attempt to deal head on with the driver shortage. Its just-released B.C. Industry Strategic Human Resources Plan provides a broad look at the province’s trucking industry from driver attraction and recruitment to licensing and training. And that’s the first thing I like about what the BCTA has done: the comprehensive nature of its approach. There’s no sense looking for solutions to attract drivers if there are no solutions to retain them; there’s no sense retaining drivers that haven’t been properly trained to start with.

Blessed with Canada’s second-fastest growing provincial economy, a position that I think is not likely to be as volatile as in the past thanks to the boom provided to our West Coast by our growing trade with the Asian economies, the B.C. trucking industry faces a particularly tough human resource challenge. The BCTA estimates that trucking will need to add about 5,000 Class 1 drivers annually. Yet the province issues only 2,500 Class 1 licences annually, and not all licence holders end up behind the wheel of a heavy truck. And with the B.C. unemployment rate at just 3.9% – basically anyone who wants to work is working – there’s intense competition for labor, which brings me to the second thing I like about the BCTA’s approach: it understands the trucking industry is competing against some high profile, better-paying industries such as construction, manufacturing, oil and gas. In the words of BCTA president and CEO Paul Landry “if we don’t put our best foot forward, the gap between what we need and what we have will grow.”

As baby boomers start to retire over the next decade, trucking will have to compete for talent not only against traditional rivals such as manufacturing but new rivals such as retail, which will market more widely and aggressively to attract new people to their industries to fill the void caused by retirements. One of the most telling facts about the driver shortage in Canada is that truckers aged 55 and over outnumber those under 30. The occupation can’t avoid being hit by a disproportionately large number of retirements in the coming years. Yet only 5% of drivers are under 25, compared with 15% in the labour force, strong indication that trucking is already experiencing severe difficulties attracting young talent, not to mention its poor performance in attracting non-traditional labor pools such as Aboriginal Canadians and women. The BCTA report deals with the issues and tactics necessary to reverse the negative image of trucking and how to attract workers from non-traditional sectors.

The third thing I like about the BCTA’s approach is that they’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel where they don’t need to. Consultant Sylvia Holland looked at training programs and best practices across Canada and some US states. She recommended a blended approach for B.C. For example, she suggested that the provincial standard for entry-level truck driver training be similar to Alberta’s Professional Driver Certificate Program. She also liked aspects of Ontario’s Apprenticeship Training Standard, which she thought could be immediately circulated to B.C. carriers. She also recommended the CTHRC’s 20-hour Train-the-Coach workshop outline and aspects of PTDI’s more detailed guidelines for evaluating specific skills.

Effectively addressing the driver shortage is a daunting task. The BCTA, I think has taken an important step towards that goal, by employing a common sense approach.

I highly recommend attending Markel’s latest educational offering – Let’s Talk about Managing your Drivers – a cross-country seminar series to help trucking carriers improve their driver attraction and retention programs. Markel is working with the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council and several key human resources and trucking company speakers to help small- and mid-size fleets in particular decode some of the latest driver research and what impact this might have on driver management strategies. Former Truck News editor, author, and a long-time contributor to this publication, John G. Smith, will moderate the seminars. Having worked closely with Markel on another cross-country seminar series and having known John G. Smith and CTHRC’s Linda Gauthier for many years, I know this will be a first-class educational opportunity. To register, call Markel toll-free at 1.888.MARKEL.1 (1.888.627.5351). Additional information, including venue maps, is available online at The seminar dates and locations are included below.

Tuesday, July 10,

Moncton Ramada Crystal Palace

Wednesday, July 11,

Montreal (French) Htel Montagne

Thursday, July 12,

Toronto Renaissance Hotel

Wednesday, July 18,

Edmonton Mayfield Inn & Suites

Thursday, July 19,

Calgary Greenwood Inn & Suites mt

Lou Smyrlis, MCILT Editor

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