TSQ: Is the industry trending towards a substantial driver shortage?

by Adam Ledlow

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – A recently-released report from the Conference Board of Canada surmises that the driver shortage is not only real, it’s dire, with the Canadian trucking industry facing a shortage of up to 33,000 drivers by the year 2020. An older workforce – aging faster than most other industries – coupled with a lack of interest in trucking from younger people is compounding the issue, so what’s a trucking company to do?

The CBC report suggests a number of factors could help bridge the gap, including everything from wage increases to recognizing truck driving as a skilled trade. (For the full story on current hiring trends in trucking, see pg. 28). With seven years until the 2020 mark, is the gap between the supply and demand of skilled drivers already widening? Truck News went to the Husky Truck Stop in Mississauga, Ont. to see if drivers are seeing a trend towards a shortage and what trucking companies can do to help prevent it in the future.

Brian Goopie, an owner/operator with North American Van Lines in Saint John, N.B., says he has been noticing the trend of a driver shortage – especially among O/Os.

“A lot of the guys now are not getting into the business because, for one thing, the price of fuel and the price of trucks. It’s just not feasible,” he said, calling owner/operators a “dying breed.”

Goopie also said that the prospective new drivers looking for balance between work and home life likely won’t find one in trucking – not if they want to make money, anyway.

“The more you run, the more money you make. If you’re sitting, if you’re going to be home, say, 10 days out of a month, that’s revenue you’re losing,” he said. “The last three months I’ve been home about five days and that’s what you’ve got to do to make any money at all.”

Robert Bourque, a driver with Atlantic Ontario Transport out of Havelock, N.B., says that given the sheer size of the trucking industry, trucking companies will always be looking for more drivers.

“The trucking industry is about the second largest industry in the world, so they’ll always be (looking for drivers),” he said. “I’ve been driving 30 years and 30 years ago companies were crying for drivers.”

As for attracting new drivers to the industry, Bourque says pay is fairly even across the board, so companies might benefit from touting pristine equipment and the chance to travel the world.

“If I wouldn’t have driven a truck I wouldn’t have gone to Alaska, I wouldn’t have went to Florida, I wouldn’t have went to California, to Las Vegas,” he said. “That could attract a driver, a young guy that wants to travel around the world and make a good living.”

Alan Ray, a driver with Seafood Express out of Charlottetown, P.E.I., says the lack of respect for truck driving as a profession is enough to keep many potential hires away from the industry, but adds that trucking companies need to make wages competitive with other industries.

As for attracting young people, Ray says that companies would do well to seek out would-be drivers with a love for big equipment at places like truck shows.

“When I was younger, I always had a passion for big trucks,” he said. “I’ve always liked them since I was really young. I always said I wanted to drive one when the time came around.”

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data