An important part of our future has been forecasted. It has to do with aging and because it hasn’t been addressed in any significant manner, this part of our future remains bleak.
The sky is not falling, yet, but absent some serious efforts to address the issue of an aging population in trucking, I suspect it will come crashing down sooner than we expect or want it to.
In 2012, the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council published a report entitled Beyond the Wheel. It identified that by 2021, the industry will need somewhere between 153,000 and 289,000 additional workers to handle current and projected demand as well as retirements.
That estimate was arrived at by computing attrition rates for existing drivers and of course it assumed ‘normal’ levels of growth in the industry. The former number was fairly easy to estimate from information on the age demographic at the time.
In arriving at the forecasted need as driven by industry growth, one has to incorporate the vagaries of the economy. But whether the number is 150,000 or 300,000, in broad terms it puts an order of magnitude to the concern that those additional workers are either not there, or are not interested in trucking.
According to the report, the most difficult positions to fill will be those of truck driver, but the reality is that this industry also struggles to attract young, entry-level people for all of our needs. These include dispatchers, dock workers, salespeople, accountants, mechanics, and managers.
It’s not only trucking that faces this dilemma of course, but at the risk of seeming myopic, that’s where our attention belongs.
I don’t want to resurrect all the conversation and opinions on why industries like ours have difficulty attracting young people – we’ve all read them or listened to informed panelists on the subject. We’ve also read and heard about our industry’s need to adapt in order to put us in the running for young people when they are choosing a career path.
But there is another side to this coin to be considered. While attracting new entrants to the trucking industry’s many career opportunities is obviously critical to its future, it seems to us at the PMTC that there is equally a need to focus on how we retain and develop the young people we already have. Ironically, if we work on better retention and development programs for our existing people, we might make the industry more attractive to new ones. However, without such retention and development strategies, companies are destined to be forever chasing new recruits to replace departing ones. Kind of like a dog chasing its tail in terms of productivity.
I think we can agree that employers (broadly speaking) need to address and improve their employee hiring and retention practices, while at the same time addressing the types of working conditions that may be dissuading new entrants. However in our view the onus to correct these issues does not rest entirely with employers.
As individuals we are all, to some degree at least, responsible for creating the work environment and developing the type of career path that we want. In a perfect world we would each have a career that is sustainable in both remuneration and job satisfaction, but it’s unlikely to be handed to any one of us just because we want it.
This type of thinking had been the subject of discussion within the PMTC (and elsewhere, I’m sure) for quite a while, so back in 2011, the PMTC Board of Directors was excited to hear a proposal from some of our younger members who wanted to bring some focus to the needs of this younger demographic. All they asked of the Board was its support for the project, which they received without reservation. They were not asking to have their needs fixed, but rather for help in creating an opportunity to do the fixing.
The group became known as the PMTC Young Leaders, and since its launch has developed into an enthusiastic and creative assembly with a variety of backgrounds and positions in the industry. They have collectively demonstrated an ability to identify what they want and to plan activities that will help them achieve those goals.
They have fast become a unique group within the broader PMTC membership that sets its own agenda, schedules its own meetings and plans its own activities. Periodically they reach out to a more experienced generation of PMTC members for opinions on their ideas – we like to think of it as mentoring – but they are setting their own course and helping each other as they carve out a career in trucking.
The YLG has arranged for a portion of PMTC’s annual conference to be set aside for face-to-face discussions with industry executives whose brains they can pick on any subject of their choosing.
The PMTC Young Leaders group won’t resolve all the issues to do with attracting a new generation to trucking but the very fact that participants have been able to come together to learn, to share their experiences, and discuss their development is a step in the right direction.
Suddenly the future looks just a little bit brighter.
If you want to know more about the PMTC’s Young Leaders Group and how you can participate, just call the office (905-827-0587) or visit www.pmtc.ca and take a look at the video this group has produced. It explains the purpose and plans, and they are always open to new members.