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Canadian trucking industry could be short 33,000 drivers by 2020: report

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Though tens of thousands of truck drivers are approaching retirement age, very few young people and immigrants are entering the industry, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada (CBC). According to the...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Though tens of thousands of truck drivers are approaching retirement age, very few young people and immigrants are entering the industry, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada (CBC). According to the report, funded by the Canadian Trucking Alliance and titled “Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap and Implications for the Canadian Economy,” the gap between the supply of drivers and the demand for them – estimated at 25,000 by 2020 – could be costly to the Canadian economy.

“The food we eat, the goods that we enjoy and even the homes we live in are in large part delivered by trucks. The inability to meet a huge demand for drivers could be costly for the trucking industry, consumer goods and the Canadian economy,” said Vijay Gill, principal research associate at the CBC.

While truck drivers make up nearly 1.5% of the Canadian labour force –approximately 300,000 truck drivers overall – participation of young people, ages 15 to 24, has dropped off significantly in the past decade. As a result, the average truck driver’s average age has increased from 40 years in 1996 to 44 years in 2006, an average that surpasses that of many comparable occupations.

While the report notes that the driver “gap” could reach 25,000 by 2020, the CBC says it could exceed 33,000.

The report also notes that a change in policy to recognize the truck driving occupation as a skilled trade could attract more domestic and immigrant entrants into the industry.

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12 Comments » for Canadian trucking industry could be short 33,000 drivers by 2020: report
  1. Joe Sixpack says:

    The consumers and shippers only have themselves to blame.

    Due to the markets’ drive for lower costs and prices, freight rates have been depressed to levels that were being charged in the early 90s, with costs at least 20-30% higher. Due to competition, carriers are forced to lower rates to keep the business, at the expense of the bottom line. Because of this, companies are keeping a bare minimum of drivers on staff to get the loads moved, with no investment being made in driver recruitment or increasing capacity.

    When i started in this industry in the 90s, the companies i worked for kept spare drivers on shift just in case the volume was higher than expected. They also subsidized or financed employee’s getting Class 1 licences as the margin were good back then, and it built driver loyalty.

    Carriers will not make this investment in recruitment int he future, if the freight rates do not work. Either way costs will have to go up; either in the way of rate to pay for recruitment, or in the cost to suppliers in finding alternatives to getting their products to market.

  2. Fuel Mule says:

    As a fuel transport driver for over 15 years I’ve seen the industry go from bad to worse in a very short time.

    Fuel companies go for the lowest bid disregarding carrier safety records, and carriers vying for the contracts cut their drivers’ pay and play loose with safety expenses to subsidize low-ball bids to get the contracts. Once the contracts are signed the fuel companies bully drivers with ridiculous rules and very punitive disciplinary procedures.

    I haven’t had a pay increase in 4 years and probably won’t have one for another 2. On top of that, I earned more 20 years ago than I do today!

    There’s no mystery here. Why would anyone want to drive a transport truck knowing they’ll be treated like dirt and subjected to daily abuse?

    Driver shortage??? It’s more likely that people are becoming more aware of how miserable the industry is and they’re looking for work elsewhere… as am I!

  3. Garey Jonson says:

    In my 7th year of driving – after three other careers the previous three decades – it is clear to me that the issue is not so much the failure to make the industry more attractive in a variety of ways……

    More so, it is the adversarial nature of how drivers are treated.

    Weigh scales and other institutions demand blind compliance to sometimes inane rules created by people – with newly minted Masters and PHD’s or whatever – sitting in their ivory towers, having never set foot in a truck.

    And too many drivers encounter hostility, over and over, as if they are criminals needing to be hammered down with zero tolerance on this issue, zero tolerance on that issue.

    Strip the industry of this adversarial tone and treat them like real professionals and guess what….more of them just might act like real professionals……

  4. Al Goodhall says:

    Simple solution. Treat drivers like the professionals that we are. We are in a high risk profession and directly responsible for the welfare of everyone around us. We should be trained, treated, and compensated as such. Unskilled? Oh please, walk a mile in my shoes.

  5. Howard Sharp says:

    Let’s face it, most people don’t want to work 70 or more hours a week, and end up sleeping on the road to boot. If trucking companies allowed for a little more flexibility they would have less trouble finding and retaining drivers. At my last place of employment, I worked 60 hours a week…and was mostly treated with contempt for being a “part-time” driver. The money was good, so I can’t really complain about that, but the culture of trucking isn’t really agreeable to anyone who wants a life outside of work. If you want a good way to become increasingly more socially isolated with each passing day, then trucking is the answer. If you are a young person who wants a life…..choose another profession.

  6. Mohinderjit Singh Toor says:

    As I know there is also one major issue of class 1 drivers shortage. Thats my personal experience I want to share.
    I came in canada as a new immigrant feb.2010. I was more than 16 years driving experience in my country and never a single accident. I was too much excited for getting class 1 licence. But our province laws or ICBC not permited to give me class 1 licence. I have to wait for 3 years for class 1 . So my carrier goes back 3 years.
    This is not only my story I knew so many person whose are able to drive class 1 truck but problem is same as me.
    So BC licencing authourity should think about that.

  7. Mike says:

    As a truck driver I have one qustion for the industry types; how am I supposoded to afford the products that I haul if Im making less than I did ten years ago?

  8. Rick says:

    No shortage of drivers, never has been, just a shortage of good paying freight for owner-operators and wages for drivers

  9. John Maywood says:

    In a few short decades being subjected to unreasonable, impractical regulatory direction, from people who for the most part have absolutely no concept of what the trucking environment should entail, we’ve turned what was once an enviable profession with people lining up for the chance to drive professionally, into one, where in a country with significant unemployment, we can’t muster up enough interest to meet percieved future demand.

  10. Wes says:

    Been driving 26 years only worth $16.32 an hr $.50 more than what I was getting 15 years ago quite an incentive for someone new to get into the industry

  11. Rob says:

    very impressed with the comments so far,in particular, John Maywood…well said.

    As for a driver shortage?, every point made above is the reason why…when will they wake up and realize ever increasing ridiculous input from government with no clue of how it really is, or the toll that life on the road takes on your body, and your family life.
    They have decided for us when we will rest, when we will break, why, and for how long….wages have been pretty much frozen for years….the appeal of life on the road and the freedom it offered for some has been taken away from us. They have taken away the very things that attracted many drivers to this difficult profession in the first place.
    They input HOS regulations that a Philadelphia lawyer would struggle to understand, change it every time guys start to get a grip on it, then tell us to park, sleep or reset …in Canada my first question is where??? There is a major lack of roadside parking available, truckstops overflow and force you to move on and seek somewhere to rest. They ticket you for using ramps or anywhere else we can fit…what do they suggest we do?
    The appeal of this industry began to dim in the late 80’s in my opinion, and the constant meddling by people who have never been there, or even understand it have ripped it apart, increasing regulation, mandatory pollution devices ( that cause more issues than they solved), stagnant freight rates and a ‘brotherhood’ that seemingly no longer exists on the highway among us has set the stage for the future issues this career and this country face. Like most things, only when it’s so broken it will be nearly impossible to fix will the powers that be wake up and realize what a good thing they have ruined.
    Imagine if your boss from your office job called you every night and said..that’s it..tired or not, go to bed. And stay there till I TELL YOU you are rested. yep, sign me up, can’t wait to live like that for an average wage at best.
    And I wish they would stop referring to it as a ‘driver shortage’ the shortage is not in manpower available out there to do the job, the shortage is in attracting people willing to sign up for this punishment in the first place. The alternative career options for those entering the work force will continue to outshine trucking for the foreseeable future.

    Sad, but true.

  12. steve says:

    There are lots of truck drivers. When a shipper says they have a hot (load that just has to get their) The truck owner puts a team on the load after driving all night and gets to the shipper not stopping except for fuel and gets to the customer where the truck driver ot team is told they must stay in the truck for the next 10 hours waiting for a dock.( can not use the rest room or drop the trailer to get any thing to eat. After waiting 10 hours telling their company that they are going to leave the customer with the load. they are forced to wait another 10 hours. They cone back a week later with another load and the receiver blacklists the driver and passenger and the trucking company.. The receiver keeps money back from the shipper who does not pay the trucking company, who unable to pay the driver and results in the death of the second person in the truck 5 months later who has blood sugar problems,

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