Labour Pains

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It is difficult to imagine a labour shortage in the midst of economic difficulties, when many trucks are idled by a lack of freight. But hiring requirements echo the peaks and valleys of the economy, and they continue to be influenced by demographic realities like an aging workforce.

Make no mistake: the trucking industry can expect more labour shortages to come, and they will not be limited to roles behind the wheel. In the next five years, Canada’s maintenance shops are expected to require 5,200 new truck/transport mechanics, 3,800 truck/transport technicians, and 1,700 parts technicians, according to the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council’s new Labour Information Highway Demand Data Tools. Inside the fleet offices, there will be a need for 4,100 dispatchers and 1,700 freight claims and safety/loss specialists. They will require the support of 7,200 cargo workers and another 2,900 shunt drivers to prepare freight and equipment alike. The needs even extend to management roles, with the requirement for another 3,800 foremen, supervisors and managers. That does not begin to address the need to replace those who retire or leave the trucking industry for other reasons.

These projections are more than a number-crunching exercise. About 65% of the 1,004 carriers who were interviewed for the Canadian Trucking Human Resource Council’s recent Beyond the Wheel research initiative say they already have significant trouble recruiting and retaining dispatchers, mechanics, truck and trailer technicians, supervisors and managers -and that is in the midst of a struggling economy. To compound matters, there are a number of factors that will make it difficult to attract the future employees.

Wages paid to those who fill these roles were actually pushed down in recent years, after driver-hungry fleets began to invest a larger share of their revenue into those who work behind the wheel, the research shows. Today’s dispatchers are often paid less than the drivers they dispatch; the industry’s supervisors and managers often make less than their counterparts in other sectors.

Potential recruits may also have a hard time identifying a defined career path in the trucking industry, in part because of a lack of formal training programs to guide the way. With the exception of apprenticed trades, there are few examples of training initiatives that will lead to occupations such as dispatchers, safety and loss prevention specialists, cargo workers or dock foremen, researchers found. Most of the training that does occur tends to happen on the job.

Job candidates from outside the trucking industry may face a number of other barriers when they decide to explore careers in trucking. Carriers, for example, often disagree on whether industry experience is needed for roles such as dispatchers, managers and supervisors. “If you haven’t lived it and done it, then the respect isn’t there,” one employer argued during the CTHRC research. “Give me someone who is motivated and willing to learn. I don’t care where they come from because I can teach them about the industry,” another employer countered.

They are factors that can lead a potentially valuable job candidate to look elsewhere. Many Canadians even dismiss trucking careers altogether. Those who are not interested in working as a driver often fail to realize the other jobs that exist. Besides that, the trucking industry continues to suffer a poor public image when workers look at career options. The available jobs are often seen as a last resort for young people and high school dropouts. As a result, the quality of the remaining recruits can be lacking.

The youngest workers among them are also more likely than ever to look for a job that offers 9 to 5 shifts on weekdays, complete with higher starting wages that they might find in other careers. In the face of that reality, the trucking industry’s recruiters are left to explore internal resources, such as the family members of existing employees, or simply hire people away from other trucking occupations.

But there are options to explore, according to the Beyond the Wheel research initiative. Many employers have successfully introduced young people to careers in trucking with the help of co-op placements and summer employment. Recruiting strategies can also be refined with the help of available data, and there are opportunities to pursue underrepresented groups such as women, recent immigrants and Aboriginal candidates.

It is simply a matter of planning for the needs to come.

For a complete copy of the Beyond the Wheel research results, or to further analyze labour needs in your region, visit

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program, the Canadian Trucking HR Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated not-for-profit organization that helps attract, train and retain workers for Canada’s trucking industry. For more information, visit

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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  • I am not surprised by the fact that many trucking companies are finding it harder and harder to find drivers to fill the seats. Fifteen to twenty dollars per hour is a complete insult to todays driver. Congested traffic,weather conditions, long hours, away from family, sub-par equipment,un-realistic shipper and employer demands,reduction of allowable hours,speed limiters, no social life…..boy oh boy….when can I sign up!
    Wake up employers….if you want to keep them, pay them!


  • Another of the problems in trucking is the fact that nobody stands with the driver. Sure we have associations and foundations and no doubt other groups that are supposed to be behind the industry, but as the driver your on your own. For example, an OPP officer was doing inspections at the Langcaster On scales, pulls a truck off the road for having a loose steer box, Both MTO officers inside laughed as the guys truck gets towed away because they said the both looked at it and agreed nothing was wrong. Another is a young driver gets stopped at the scales in Bomanville On and gets an out of service for bad airlines, when he asked the MTO officer which one the officer replies “Oh it was One of them” in otherwords he had no clue. This all stayes on there record, this all makes it hard to be insured, and yet nothing. We got them passed the over worked, under payed, portion of the job lets start fighting for them so they will stay

  • Great acticle, this is nothing new, it has been and will continue to be this way until economics in the USA rebound from the recession that we all went through. However, because of our govt policies, secure banking structure and natural resources that Canada has, we have been able to grow, be it slowly vs our largest trading partner, that being the USA. Needless to say because of the above mentioned, our currency is at par or a premium against the US greenback which again is resulting in an inbalance of trade with he 2 nations. Because of this, carriers are reducing their overhead by laying off drivers and they in turn they try other avenues until this new North American ecomonics rebounds.
    However, even when the economcs do recover, what will change that is uncontrollable to the carriers. We will still have issues at the border, weather, traffic, carriers that are licensed to carry Haz Mat will still be pulled over to insure everything is in order. Sarnia is still the only cost effective crossing when commodity going to MI and west, who wants to pay extra to go through Buffalo, not the client nor the 3PL if 402 is shut down as it was at Chrismas. Hours of operation will not change, shut down when necessary, maintainence is imperative for a safe vehicle to transport commodity in a timely manner, unnecessary LTL appoints are also eating into time, shall I go on.
    Under these circumstances, only the true professional driver will survive, but will all of these demands, they are far and few between and after some time, short haul and family become more attractive.

  • driver shortage???? then why is some big outfit out of cambridge getting rid of experienced drivers at 65 by having them sign a contract that by far is one sided… no more benefits, vacation pay back to 4% , just like a brand new employee.. in othere words they dont want you!! would it be that maybe they want to go overseas and import cheap labour?? just a thought ….

  • I agree with the gentlemen from Cambridge they want there senior drivers out or pay them considerably less. I left a company just over a year ago who paid there drivers well because they wanted to cut wages below average. I decided to go back to work in a factory after 22 years on the road, had enough of the cut throating in the industry and the next person who complains about a driver shortage tell them this there are plenty of experinced drivers ready to goin factories and other jobs because we all left because of this crap. I’ve worked with drivers with 15 years plus experienced and we all say the same thing YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!!!If the trucking industry wants us to come back then start paying.

  • There will always be driver shortage going forward into the future. Back in the fourties or fifties (got to look it up 4 sure) the canadian liberal govt of the day decided to decertify truck driving as a trade. This pretty much gave the trucking industry and every govt agencey from the dot to revenue canada to rain all sorts of abuse upon the truck driver. Now the industry is faced with a so so public image a less than stellar safety record and an aging labour force that as it retires or leaves to pursue other options takes with it all the experience and knowledge Importing imigrant drivers using intermodal piggyback sevice driving sevices or outside contractors may solve a short term need but in the long run will be more costly than cost effective. After fourty years in the industry I have not seen it all but I have seen enough of the dirty tricks plyed by all the industry participants on the truck driver and I can asure you the new breed of driver you are grooming aint tough enough to last.