Looking at the demographic challenges we will face as a country over the next few decades - namely, a record number of retirements as the Baby Boomers get into their 60s with a shortage of new entrant...
February 1, 2007
Lou Smyrlis, Editorial Director
Looking at the demographic challenges we will face as a country over the next few decades – namely, a record number of retirements as the Baby Boomers get into their 60s with a shortage of new entrants ready to take their place – I can’t help but think the trucking industry does not have long to figure out its driver shortage dilemma.
As bad as the coming decades may prove for all industries when it comes to finding talent, trucking can expect to have it worse.
The average age of a Teamster’s driver is 57.
In Canada, truckers aged 55 and over outnumber those under 30.
The occupation will be 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, so trucking is already experiencing severe difficulties attracting young talent.
That can only get worse as other industries, such as retail, manufacturing and certain trades start to feel the pinch from retirements and start competing more aggressively to attract youth to their industries.
Shortly before the holidays I was asked to participate in a roundtable of industry stakeholders examining the role that the establishment of a career path for drivers could play in improving both recruitment and retention. The establishment of such makes sense to me.
Not every driver wants to drive forever but most of the drivers I’ve spoken to don’t know what other options there are for them outside of driving.
The creation of a career path has been used to good effect by large companies such UPS in the courier sector, giving the clear signal that driving can be a stepping stone towards the management ranks for someone who has the interest, ability and perseverance.
There hasn’t been a lot of research that I’m aware of conducted on this subject, but the research I have seen, including some data from our own Driver Satisfaction Survey conducted last year, indicates drivers want a career path.
Eighty three per cent of drivers surveyed for an Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study in the 90s indicated that career advancement was important to them. Two-thirds of the drivers surveyed also said they would be more satisfied with their job if it included a realistic career path while 60% said they would be less likely to quit their job.
Yet 54% perceived the opportunities for advancement within their company as poor.
Similarly 54% had the same perception about opportunities in the industry as a whole.
But before the industry embarks on a plan to create a career path that would attract young workers, I think it’s important to heed the advice Carol Simpson, executive director of the Waterloo Wellington Training and Adjustment Board, offered to the roundtable.
Simpson explained that the first step to attracting young workers is gaining a much better understanding of what youth want from their future careers and coming to grips with the fact that many of those expectations may run counter to the attitudes of the current work force and management direction.