B.C. trucking industry thriving, but desperately needs workers

WHISTLER, B.C. – B.C.’s trucking industry is facing a dire employment picture, with 10% of industry positions needing to be filled immediately.

That’s according to Ken Peacock, chief economist and vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., who admitted to attendees of the B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) annual AGM and Management Conference, “I don’t know what you’re going to do.”

With one out of every 10 positions in the industry in the province sitting vacant and companies struggling to find qualified workers, B.C.’s thriving trucking sector is in need of approximately 4,000 people to fill the empty spaces.

And the province’s industry is indeed thriving, Peacock confirmed, who said the economic outlook for trucking is a “surprisingly good story.”

The industry grew yet again in 2017 from the year prior, while other sectors, such as real estate, residential construction, and oil and gas did not see the same gains they did in 2016.

But with job vacancies plaguing the trucking industry, growth, which is projected to continue, could be hindered in the coming years.

Alberta was second on the list of provinces that are experiencing a shortage of workers in the trucking sector, with 5% of positions needing to be filled, half the number B.C. is grappling with. Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick are all hovering around the 4% vacancy mark, which is also the average for all industries when it comes to vacant positions.

B.C.’s economic outlook was overall a positive one for the past four to five years, as it has been the country’s growth leader during that time. Peacock said that could slow in 2018, with labor scarcity a contributing factor.

Real GDP is expected to fall from 3.9 in 2017 to a projected 2.3 this year. Housing was a significant influence in that estimate, with housing starts dropping slightly, as well as retail sales slumping in 2018.

Canada’s economy has and will mirror B.C.’s, according to Peacock, who said the country’s economy, which has been doing well in recent years, is expected to ease the brakes this year and next, going from 3% growth in 2017 to 2% this current year.

The U.S. on the other hand is on a solid economic footing, Peacock said, despite what he called “toxic politics.”

With 34 continuous quarters of positive GDP growth and employment continuing to rise, Peacock said housing starts are climbing south of the border and business investment is rising, outperforming Canada on that front.

Peacock said Canada’s business investment has plunged, and policy makers must address the issue of capital investment if that is to turn around.

The U.S. economy is projected to expand by 2.5% to 2.8% in 2018.

Change your words

Customer service strategist, author, and speaker Jeff Mowatt said changing the way you speak to your customers can make the biggest difference in your results as a business.

Opening the BCTA’s annual conference, Mowatt said, “If we can just choose our words a little more selectively, we get more significant results.”

Jeff Mowatt.

Mowatt highlighted the Top 7 customer expectations during his presentation, starting with value.

Contrary to popular belief, customers do not always look for the cheapest service or product, said Mowatt, but rather for the value in what they are purchasing.

Acknowledging your customer’s time and needs is also important, as is being honest with the message you are offering, and your knowledge, not just of your product, but the needs of your customers.

Convenience and empathy toward your customers were other areas Mowatt addressed, as was selection, which revolves around the “rule of three.”

“We give them information because we feel it’s our role to inform our customers, and that used to be true,” explained Mowatt, saying customers today are faced with too much information and too many options, which should be narrowed down to three.

Mowatt said people are simply looking for some “aid” from their service providers – analysis, interpretation, and direction – when it comes to making decisions.

In addition to the seven items customers look for, Mowatt said building and maintaining loyalty is a vital cog in any successful business model.

“Sometimes we’re nice but friendliness can sometimes backfire,” Mowatt said, breaking the myth that simply being friendly to a customer leads to loyalty.

Mowatt said the key to customer loyalty is the ability to make their job easier and make them appear smarter.

Smoke signals

The B.C. government said driver and public safety is a key focus with the impending legalization of cannabis.

Mike Farnworth, minister public safety and solicitor general for the B.C. government, said the trucking industry should be concerned about what he called the “biggest public policy change in Canada in decades,” which will have an impact on the transportation industry.

He said both his government and the industry share a focus on safety, highlighting changes to the provincial motor vehicle act creating a 90-day prohibition period when an enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

“We support the trucking industry as it relates to the proposed changes in legislation around cannabis,” said Farnworth.

During his address to BCTA conference attendees, Farnworth thanked carriers in the province that helped during last year’s devastating forest fire season, which burned 1.2 million hectares of land in the province.

“I can’t tell you how much that meant,” said Farnworth.

He also addressed mandatory entry-level driver training, saying the provincial government has asked the Insurance Corporation of B.C. to review the training process and recommend any improvements that are needed for the program.

Driver of the Year

Gordon Price, a driver with 32 years of experience behind the wheel, accident-free, was named the Volvo Trucks Canada Driver of the Year during the BCTA’s annual conference.

Price, who drives for DCT Chambers, was in the news not long ago for saving the life of a woman, Patricia Galloway, whom he found on the side of the road while hauling wood chips from Chemainus to Nanaimo, B.C.

Galloway’s last memory was stepping out of her house to look for her cat, and next thing she knew, she was waking up in an ambulance, thanks to the assistance of Price.

Volvo Trucks Canada Driver of the Year Morgan Price (left).

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • There’s no driver shortage.
    There’s just a shortage of true professional drivers that are willing to waste their lives and health,working for slave wages and zero respect.
    Pay them and treat them like professionals and that’s what you’ll get.
    Pay for steering wheel holders…you get the picture.
    It’s really not that hard to figure out.

    • We pay 60 cents per mile plus with stop pay and $20,00 per hour demotion time one of drivers just left for a union job laying cable for $29.00 per hour plus 10% pension pay so $32.00 hour plus overtime. Some companies are still underbidding us on freight rates and paying less than 50 cents per mile. So there is no shortage of truck drivers just other jobs are paying better money than driving truck today STEPHEN 226 889 9299

  • The pay levels do not reflect a shortage of O.T.R, truck drivers. They need to make at least $22.00 us per hour while in the U.S. plus medical insurance plus overtime after 10 hours per day off the E log. Many truck drivers are doing other jobs like construction or mining because better hours and pay.

  • I’ll echo the above statements. The compensation from the vast majority of carriers doesn’t fairly match the responsibility, time traded, or the adversities associated to the job. Until carriers fix this underlying problem they’ll have a career of rally about this apparent driver shortage problem. People are just going to keep coming and going until the standards become acceptable. The whole per mile (piece work) pay structure needs to be laid to rest, in favor of either hourly pay or day rates that fairly reflect the exchange. There’s too many variables beyond a driver’s control that dilute the pay of the current per mile pay model.