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Driver shortage report quantifies overall problem, threat to economy: CTA

OTTAWA, Ont. -- A report released today indicating Canada could experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020 “reflects what the industry has been warning for years – that Canada is on the cusp of a...

OTTAWA, Ont. — A report released today indicating Canada could experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020 “reflects what the industry has been warning for years – that Canada is on the cusp of a serious shortage of truck driver capacity,” according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

The study, commissioned by the Conference Board of Canada, funded by the CTA, and titled “Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap and Implications for the Canadian Economy,” puts the “magnitude of the emerging gap between the supply and demand for professional truck drivers” into perspective, according to CTA president and CEO David Bradley.

“It’s understandable that the challenges of the trucking industry aren’t always top of mind in media circles and among decision makers. However, with $17 billion in GDP directly tied to the for-hire trucking industry and the indirect impact being far greater, there’s little question a driver shortage of this size is a threat to the health and competiveness of the Canadian economy and this issue is something we as a nation should start thinking about,” Bradley said. 

The study estimates that the total economic footprint of the for-hire trucking industry was almost $37 billion in 2011, resulting in an economic multiplier which is “significantly higher than that of many other business services.” Moreover, for-hire trucking supports almost 480,000 jobs in Canada resulting in around $24 billion in personal income which in turn generates $4.2 billion in personal income taxes and $4.1 billion in indirect taxes.

Although the entire Canadian workforce is aging, the Conference Board finds the average truck driver (44.2 years-old, with 20% being over the age of 54) is older than the average Canadian worker (40.2) and the driver population is aging more rapidly than the rest of the labour force. As well, the for-hire trucking industry is faring worse than other sectors, including similar occupations, when it comes to attracting young workers as only 12% of for-hire drivers are under the age of 30.

If productivity improvements are lower than expected in the next seven years, the shortage could exceed 33,000 drivers (not counting private trucking activity), according to the study. Historically, productivity gains achieved by the highly competitive trucking industry have been quickly passed along to customers, which in turn have been felt by consumers in the form of lower prices for goods, the study notes. However, rising operational costs, increased traffic congestion and delays, more stringent Hours-of-Service rules in the US and other regulatory challenges mean further contraction of the driver population and “productivity gains in the future will be muted.”  

“We generally take the benefits of freight transportation for granted, in part because the system typically works well – at least in terms of making a variety of products available to consumers in a timely fashion,” the study notes. “However, disruptions in freight transportation systems can have a rapid impact, reminding consumers of the value of these services.”

In the face of increasing demographic pressures, a number of factors could help bridge the supply and demand gap for truck drivers, the Conference Board concludes, including: a significant improvement in industry working conditions and wages; mandatory entry level driver training and upgraded licence standards to achieve a skilled occupation designation; a reorganization of trucking activity and supply chains in order to reduce pressures on long-haul drivers and make better use of their time.

CTA officials note that many of the Board’s proposals echo the recommendations made by the association’s Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) on the Driver Shortage in its whitepaper released last year. The report examined the labour market challenges in the trucking industry and outlined core values that, if implemented by carriers, could help boost the level of professionalism in the industry and alleviate some capacity pressures. The BRTF whitepaper also said truck driving needed to become recognized as a skilled occupation and called for mandatory entry-level driver training and ongoing skills upgrading; paying drivers for all the work they do and making compensation packages more transparent, among other solutions.

“The parallels between the BTRF report and this most recent Conference Board study are clear,” says Bradley. “Professional truck drivers are the industry’s most important asset; the true face of the industry who are deserving of respect. They play a crucial role in the overall economy and in our daily lives. Without them, the gears that make Canada run will simply stop.”

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11 Comments » for Driver shortage report quantifies overall problem, threat to economy: CTA
  1. Mark Perkin says:

    There’s no driver shortage. If there was, the CTA’s member companies would be paying drivers A LOT more than the cheap rates they continue to insist drivers work for.

    When there’s a true shortage, prices go up. Look at the oil companies, when they say there’s a shortage, the price at the pump goes up.. That’s not been the case with driver wages.

    What there is, is a shortage of companies willing to pay drivers the wages they deserve.

    All this report is is another attempt by the CTA to BS government into expanding the temporary worker program so their member companies can fill their seats with cheap foreign labour instead of paying drivers a rate of pay which would encourage more to stay in the industry and attract more to it.

  2. Michael Gower says:

    Give it a rest David Bradley. You’ve been crying wolf for a decade now and no one (except some CTA members) is drinking your Kool-Aid. You alleged driver shortage is a myth, plain and simple.

    Reason 1) If indeed there was a shortage then driver remuneration like the price of hay in Ontario would have skyrocketed. Driver pay has been stagnant for years and has NOT kept up with inflation let alone skyrocketed!

    Reason 2) If indeed this shortage was in fact true wouldn’t carriers stop allowing shippers and consignees to detain and delay their trucks for extended periods of time? Every day countless drivers wait @ docks and truckstops and fleets do little or nothing about it. If there was a shortage those trucks and drivers would be moving freight.

    Reason 3) If there was a shortage the warehouses would be bursting and warehouse keepers wouldn’t be able to close their doors as unmoved freight would block the doors from closing. This may sound a bit silly but think about it…really think about it.

    Reason 4) If the driver shortage was true then industry would be screaming from the top of the CN tower that they can’t move their goods to market. I watch and listen to the news every day and as of yet I haven’t seen or heard anyone screaming that they can’t move their goods to market. Yes, there are sporadic shortages in the produce industry but, those are generally short lived.In all likely hood there may be an ongoing disparity in the oil patch but in the general freight segment of the industry the freight that needs to move gets to where it is needed.

    Enough Mr. Bradley or I may have to address you as “Chicken Little”

  3. 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.

  4. Ben Grimm says:

    The driver shortage is a fallacy.

    If there were truly a driver shortage how are “Driver services” able to supply companies with drivers? Driver services charge a premium for the driver all the while paying the driver less than if that driver were employed by the carrier directly. If there were a shortage would the employee not be able to circumvent the driver service and work directly for the carrier and make more money instead of relying on the driver service for employment? Simple. Anyone notice how since the “driver shortage” worsens every year that the number of “driver services” seems to be increasing? That can only happen when there is a surplus of drivers on the market for these “driver services” to snap up and employ.

    Most drivers that are involved with “services” are underemployed and working part time assignments. They cannot find adequate full time employment otherwise they would work for a carrier directly and make more money.

    There is no “driver shortage” just a shortage of drivers that will “work for less”.

  5. Dualquadpete says:

    No wonder the young people don’t want to get into trucking, with low wages, no social life, & long hrs.away from home for days & with some unpaid hrs, who in there right mind would enter this work force. I taught class A lic, before retirement & when students found out their wknd. would be “get home Fri. night & back to work “most of the time Sun. morning”,& it wasn’t 9 to 5 most dropped out of class!!as they want to be with friends & socialize & have a life!!!!You have to have this “in your blood” & todays younger generation, just don’t have what it takes!!!!

  6. B says:

    By 2020. Realize there might be a spike in the years leading up to then.

  7. Fred Arnold (London Ont. ) says:

    I have 28 years Exp. as an AZ Driver and O/O, with a super clean abstract and CVOR and the majority of the jobs out there are thru AGENCIES … Theirs lots of good drivers , but they have left the industry because of low wages and no respect . CHEAP FREIGHT = low wages

  8. Wendy says:

    I heard this on the radio this morning driving to Buffalo… the first thing I thought of when they said “driver” shortage.. economy will suffer… is.. sounds good!!! MAYBE, JUST MAYBE we will start to make ($$$) what we should be making!! And that this will give us some bargaining power to the point of yes… I want to work 10hrs only per day or yes.. I want 6 months of the year off.

    I agree with the other comments as those of poor wages and dispatchers thinking we are “machines” … yes, no wonder newbies don’t want to be out here!!

  9. John H. says:


    Here we go again with this mythical truck driver shortage fancied up with a lot of business school jargon.

    The rules of economics (supply & demand) always apply without exception.

    If there is a truck driver shortage then why do drivers work for less than half the money they used to make a quarter century ago when you factor in the consumer price index.

    Do you think with a situation like this that current truckers are encouraging their sons and daughters to take up trucking as a career?

    The day I walk into grocery or department store and see empty shelves because there are no truckers to bring freight, then, and only then will I believe there is a truck driver shortage.

    But back to the rules of supply & demand economics.

    Pay truckers better wages, like the sort of real wages that were made twenty five years ago, then magically you will see this “truck driver shortage” disappear.

    It is not about younger people being lazy or not being willing to work, or whatever fantasies that trucking executives propagate to the media.

    A person who is a hard worker looking for a career will seek out the best career path with the most money and opportunity available to them.

    Why would anyone pick a career that has seen it’s income fall by 50% within the last quarter century with poor to limited job security.

    This is not rocket science folks.

  10. john j says:

    Four months ago I hung up the keys. Long hours, congested traffic, working for free ( we all know about this ), never any regular home time, border delays.Nobody wants to do long haul anymore, tarp loads, or deal with the MTO. I can’t really blame the younger generation for making this a career choice. Something has to give.

  11. Dave Nixon says:

    The following is a copy of post to a recent video on The Globe and Mail website:

    “I was a tractor-trailer driver off and on for 45 years. Although I have the intelligence to do other work, I’d rather have an intimate relationship with a Peterbilt 579 than see Lorraine Sommerfeld naked.

    This is a classic example of our society’s failure to see an oncoming train wreck. Truckers have been exploited for years. Trucking is, always has been, and always will be, a cesspool.

    Our economy, and our safety, are in serious trouble: We’re totally addicted to trucks and the supply of drivers dried up long ago. And there’s no plan “B.”

    I turned 65 two years ago. At that time, I walked away from trucking. I haven’t worked since that time. I really miss trucking but an abusive environment isn’t good for me (I’m persona non grata because I’m over 65 and my co-driver is a small dog).

    The recent influx of poor quality drivers and the lack of enforcement by the OPP has destroyed the morale of the few remaining decent truckers. Ontario’s 400-series highways are death traps.

    This is no longer a job for dumb farm boys. It’s a job that requires skills on the level of any skilled trade. Of necessity, the wages are being forced up. Unfortunately it’s too little too late. The thing that’s always been lacking is respect. The trucking industry has always believed that the supply of suckers was endless. Sorry Charlie.

    Trucking is largely made up a handful of big boys who like to play with big toys. Some have earned my begrudging respect if for no other reason than their tenacity in the face of hopeless odds: Canada Cartage/Mississauga, McKinnon Transport/Guelph, Laidlaw (Contrans)/Woodstock and Challenger Motor Freight/Cambridge. And last but not least, my all-time favourite Peter Hodge. I’ve never understood why Peter didn’t go out and get a real job.

    God help us if all these men smarten up on the same day and decide to pack it in. The leftovers will make the Teamsters look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Just my opinion.”

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