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We need to see the big picture and act now on driver shortage, Blagden tells MTA

WINNIPEG, Man. -- The province’s trucking industry is heading towards a “crisis in the very near future” as a result of the shortage of new people entering the industry, according to Norman Blagden, president of the Manitoba...

WINNIPEG, Man. — The province’s trucking industry is heading towards a “crisis in the very near future” as a result of the shortage of new people entering the industry, according to Norman Blagden, president of the Manitoba Trucking Association.

The Manitoba trucking industry is expected to be short about 1,000 drivers within seven years, Blagden stated in his president’s report, presented here today at the MTA’s Annual General Meeting.

Blagden said a number of factors, most notably lifestyle issues, is keeping young people from entering the industry as drivers. Some of these factors include the inability to predict pay from one week to the next and the guesswork involved in determining home time.

“Until changes are made, we will not be able to attract new drivers in the numbers we need,” Blagden said. “We cannot take the approach of waiting to figure it out when the time comes…We need to see the big picture and act now.”

A Conference Board of Canada study released last month forecasts the Canadian trucking industry could be short 25,000 to 33,000 drivers by 2020. It also pointed out that the average age of the truck driver has increased from 40 years in 1996 to over 44 years in 2006 (the last year for which Census information is available.). Over 20% of the driver population was over 54. Yet only 12% are under the age of 30.

Blagden noted the MTA has been very active over the past year in trying to address the driver shortage issue. One of its most significant undertakings has been trying to create a trucking industry sector council. The council’s goals would be increased industry investment in skills development to promote a quality workforce; a learning system that is informed of, and more responsive to, the needs of the industry; and enhanced ability for the industry in recruiting and retaining its workers.

MTA has also been working on having “commerial driver” recognized as a designated occupation in Manitoba. An application has been sent to Apprencticeship Manitoba for review.

“The anticipated result of this is that, in order for an individual to be recognized as a professional driver, they will have to meet certain minimum training standards. The skills and expertise possessed by our driving population cannot be underestimated…Professional driver is a skilled trade and it is time that the skills and abilities of our commercial drivers are given the respect they deserve,” Blagden stated in his report.

The MTA has also focused on relationship building, reaching out to different sources of employees. Its Careers Committee has presented to a variety of organizations, including employment agencies, the military and secondary and post secondary institutions.

The MTA is also working on an “English at Work” program, which is designed to improve the English language skills of the province’s drivers.

“This program will not only improve the quality of life of those in the program but it will also improve the overall safety of our industry,” Blagden commented.

One positive development Blagden pointed to was the upswing in enrolment in the Professional Truck Driver Training Program, sponsored by Manitoba Public Insurance. In 2012, almost 100 new participants joined the apprenticeship-like program for professional drivers, which provides training in an accredited driver training school as well as on-the-job experience.

MTA’s emphasis on the driver shortage seems to have caught the ear of Ottawa. Steven Fletcher, minister of state for transport, who spoke at MTA’s Annual General Meeting, encouraged motor carrier executives to continue the dialogue on the driver shortage.

“If not addressed it could put a break not only on your industry but also on the entire eonomy,” Fletcher said, pointing out that about 90% of all consumer goods move by truck.

The transportation and warehousing industry employs 5.7% of Manitoba’s labour force, and makes up 6 to 7% of the provincial GDP.

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10 Comments » for We need to see the big picture and act now on driver shortage, Blagden tells MTA
  1. Michael Gower says:

    How can there be a shortage when fleets are able to attract enough bodies to fill their trucks? Fleets suffer from “driver churn” which simply put is their inability to satisfy and keep drivers. If there truly was a shortage fleets would be trying harder to retain existing drivers instead of recruiting new employees.

  2. john H says:

    One quick solution to the driver shortage problem. Increase the pay scale to a minimum of 25.00 per hour. All long haul freight should be done by intermodal. Offer better benefits to drivers to give them an incentive to stay loyal to one company. Treat your drivers as you would like to be treated.

  3. Dualquadpete says:

    Gov. will have to designate this as a ‘skilled” trade which it is & has been but not recogonized!! Pay will be be by the hour, & this “home every weekend” will have to mean it, not get home fri. night or Sat. morning & be dispatched out for Sun. afternoon!!! These improvements “JUST MIGHT” get the younger folks interested in coming on board. They sure don’t want to work by the mile & give away free work at the shipper/reciever’s, or have a 1 full day weekend!! Nowdays you have to be a lawyer too ,if you want to run LEGAL with all the new regs coming out just as fastas learn them there’s another new set of rules!!!!

  4. Allen Roulston says:

    Michael Gower, just curious to know how you are aware of whether or not all fleets have enough drivers to meet customer demand. Sure, there may be trucks on the road, but how many are parked due to a lack of drivers? I’m not as “in touch” as I was a few years ago, but from time to time I hear about a yard with tractors that never move due to lack of drivers.

    ~ Allen

  5. Plinker says:

    The solutions to the problem are fairly simple. Firstly the people who represent the trucking industry need to start an aggresive marketing campaign about the trucking industry and it’s drivers. Counter the lawyers and cheap publicity hounds that make money off the backs of truckers by making false claims about how dangerous big trucks are. Next sue the railway companies for covertly supporting the groups who are hog tying the trucking industry with absoulutely false claims about accidents, driver fatigue and on and on. The railway companies may make nice when on camera in the media but in reality they work diligently behind the scene supplying major amounts of money to groups like Parents Against Tired Truckers who’s true agenda is to cost the trucking industry money, slow it down by attempting to create onerus rules, and paint all of us as the only reason people die on the highways. Then a major revamping of the pay system. You walk into work, the clock starts by the hour!! This idea that the driver should not get paid for loading/unloading, chaining up/off, inclement weather, load delay, etc; is archaic and needs to disappear along with those that think that way. I have over 3 million kilometers as a driver and I would not let my son train to be a driver. He is taking his heavy duty mechanics course as an appentice and he gets paid for everything he does. No begging for time off, no phone calls while on your days off about how desperately the company needs you to cut your days off short to take this hot load, no sitting in a parking lot not getting paid because you pissed of the dispatcher or the load planner, no driving at 50 kilometers per hour in a snow storm making how many cents per mile. All of that loss of money will never come back to youo if you play completely by the rules. It’s just gone, but you still put in an 11 hour day for hardly if not any money.

  6. B Smith says:

    I know of mo the job where you do not get paid for all hours worked. I see ads where they are offering under 38 cents a mile for long haul reefer work. One could make more money working @ 7-11. The MTA is just spouting nonsense. Make the working conditions human, treat the drivers like humans and bring that pay level way up!

  7. meslippery says:

    Read Harrys Blog. He thinks if you dont like it make room for imported labour.

  8. Michael Gower says:

    Allen Roulston, of course they “had” drivers to fill their trucks OR are you inferring that fleet owners are morons and go out and expand their fleet with out an employee base?
    The big fleets might try and play that game and then cry to the Government about the “mythical” driver shortage but a small fleet owner already has a driver or drivers lined up when he expands his operation.

  9. Captain says:

    With a few million miles under my belt, having worked 10 years for one of the big named transport companies based in Winnipeg; I’m ready to hand in the keys and get out of the industry for good. The industry is corrupt and it starts at the top. Federal labor rules cater to these companies and their less than realistic pay packages. The ONLY way to keep and recruit driver’s into the industry is to pay them what they’re worth! These companies need to be accountable by paying driver’s for all of their time. Time waiting at the loading dock, delay’s and waiting for a load without ridiculous caveat’s written in fine print under the pre text of “company policy.” Driver’s need to be paid HOURLY with OVERTIME. The hourly rate needs to reflect what the mileage rate was. I make 55 cpm and yet I’m paid $15/hour for city work. Like are you SERIOUS!? $15/hour was a good wage in 1998. 55 cpm x 62 miles per hour = $34 per hour. Changing the pay structure from mileage paid to hourly remuneration will eliminate motivating factors for drivers to log ilegally and will make everyone accountable; operations, shipper’s, receiver’s included. Everyone would now need to have their proverbial ducks in a row. It’s a dirty dirty industry.

  10. John H. says:

    If there is a “truck driver shortage” then I have the following questions:

    (1) Why have incomes decreased 50% in the last 25 years?

    (2) Why are incomes not going back up?

    (3) Why is employment within this industry so unstable with constant layoffs and non-existent job security?

    (4) Why do 60% of people in Canada who hold a license to drive a Class Eight truck not work in the trucking industry anymore?

    (5) Why do trucking companies continue to treat their drivers like they are disposable and easily replaceable (see #4 again).

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