Canada short 25,000 truck drivers by 2023: report

John G Smith

TORONTO, Ont. – Canada is expected to be short 25,000 truck drivers as early as 2023, representing a 25% increase over the unfilled vacancies in 2019, Trucking HR Canada reports.

Unfilled jobs in 2018 are also estimated to have cost the trucking industry about $3.1 billion in lost revenues, slowing planned expansions by 4.7%.

The findings — outlined in The Road Ahead: Addressing Canada’s trucking and logistics industry labor shortage, a study produced in a partnership with the Conference Board of Canada — are particularly troubling when compared to other business sectors.

“Canada is facing a serious shortage of truck drivers,” says Kristelle Audet, principal economist with the Conference Board of Canada. Since 2016 alone, the number of truck driver vacancies has more than doubled.

Canada’s trucking industry faced an average job vacancy rate of 6.8% last year – double the Canadian average of 3.3% and higher than all industries outside crop production. Longhaul truck driving jobs faced a 9.4% average vacancy rate. And while truck drivers represent 46% of the industry’s overall employees, they accounted for 63% of the sector’s job vacancies.

Bison Transport, for example, has 30 unseated tractors and more than 40 un-filled truck driving jobs, says vice-president of human resources and people development Linda Young, who is also chairwoman of Trucking HR Canada. The shortages themselves are throughout the fleet’s network, although there are undeniably regional needs in areas such as Alberta.

“Where we have expressed growth plans, we find that shortage even worse,” she adds, referring specifically to operations in Mississauga, Ont., and calling for action on the labor shortage.

Sixty-one percent of the 352 employers surveyed by Trucking HR Canada last fall said they have had trouble filling truck driver vacancies in the last year.

“Who knows how many Canadian jobs could have been created,” Young says.

An acute labor shortage

“The truck driver occupation in Canada is facing an acute labor shortage, as confirmed by the large number of truck driver vacancies and the occupation’s historically low unemployment rate. The combination of these trends has put upward pressure on wages, especially in the longhaul segment,” the report concludes.

Truck driver unemployment dropped from 6.6% to 3.8% between 2016 and 2018, while Canada’s overall unemployment rate dropped from 7% to 5.8%

“It indicates the pool of potentially available truck drivers is becoming depleted,” the report concludes. “Put differently, the already historically low truck driver unemployment rate is approaching a floor known as the structural level of unemployment. At this level of unemployment there will still be a certain number of truck drivers that are not employable due to factors including skills and geographic mismatches.”

The trucking and logistics sector employs 3.6% of Canada’s workforce, translating to more than 650,000 workers. Truck drivers account for 300,000 employees, while 90,000 people are in shipping and receiving, 70,000 are courier service drivers, 38,000 are material handlers at warehouses and distribution staff. The remainder are managers, supervisors, administrative staff, and accounting personnel.

While the number of truck drivers has increased by more than 80,000 people in the past two decades, the rate of increase has slowed to an average of 4,100 drivers per year over the past decade, compared to 5,500 per year over the previous decade.

Small businesses hit harder

Small businesses are said to be “disproportionately” affected, with job vacancies costing firms with revenues below $1 million an average of 24.5% of sales, compared to the 7.4% for businesses with sales exceeding $50 million.

David Carruth, president and CEO of One for Freight, agrees.

“Our managers, our supervisors, have had to step in and do front-line roles,” he says, referring to challenges over the past two years that have come at the expense of operations-related tasks. “All of this impacts the bottom line and our ability to service our clients.”

Driver agencies haven’t been able to fill the gaps, either.

“Certain agency drivers only want to do local, only want to do this,” Carruth says, referring to his experience.

Factors behind the shortage

Identified factors behind the current labor shortage include an aging workforce, misconceptions about the industry among women and youth, and a high turnover rate.

“While 63% of prospective new hires have a high a school degree or less, many are not entering the trucking industry due to the perception that training costs and time are prohibitive. And, we are losing these young people to other occupations [e.g. construction], as they perceive the ability to start in other industries immediately,” the report concludes.

“So many times we’re referred to as just a truck driver. What’s just a truck driver?” adds Myrna Chartrand, the Manitoba Trucking Association’s 2018 Driver of the Year. “There’s just so much more to it that I don’t think people realize. It’s not just driving there’s so much else you can experience.”

The HR challenges are even extending to recruiters themselves.

“Surveys indicate that HR professionals are being bogged down with increased recruitment pressures and frustrations, topped off with more complex compliance issues. These challenges are now impacting the ability to keep good recruiters on staff,” Trucking HR Canada concluded. “Plus, there is an increased focus on innovative retention approaches. These dedicated efforts mean less time to focus on expansion and current operations.”

While 12% of millennial-aged workers would consider a career in longhaul trucking, just 50% of surveyed employers have formal plans to recruit from the demographic group, Trucking HR Canada says. Misconceptions about training costs, the time to obtain credentials, and the industry’s image were all seen as barriers here.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census, 32% of truck drivers were 55 or older, compared to 21% of the labor pool as a whole.

“The good news is that there is a vast pool of millennials that would consider longhaul trucking if approached the right way,” Trucking HR Canada says.

Two in five surveyed employers also said they have adopted strategies to retain aging drivers, offering flexible work arrangements, reduced physical work, and improved equipment.

Changing compensation

In terms of compensation, close to ¾ of shorthaul drivers are paid by the hour, at an average of $23.77 per hour. Roughly two-thirds of longhaul drivers are paid by the mile, averaging 0.53 per mile. Other forms of compensation range from flat rates to percentage of revenues, and annual salaries.

But that’s changing.

Angela Splinter, Trucking HR Canada

“While mileage pay remains the most common type of compensation for longhaul truck drivers, the survey suggests that a substantial portion of longhaul employers are transitioning away from mileage pay,” the report says. “Over the past two years, more than one in five [21%] of longhaul employers reported having changed the pay structure for their truck drivers, with ¾ of them abandoning mileage pay.

“Moreover, many longhaul employers who reported changing pay structure switched to an hourly rate. To justify this shift, employers in the survey mentioned the need to remain competitive amid worsening driver shortages, suggesting hourly rates make it easier to attract and retain truck drivers – particularly younger ones,” it adds.

“At the same time, employers highlighted that an hourly rate allows them to better capture the accurate hours worked by truck drivers, which not only improves logistics, but also makes it easier to calculate overtime pay.”

We are not here to debate the driver shortage, said Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada. “We are on the road to addressing some of these shortages … and it’s clear we need to do more.”


John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • It’s a tough job and money is really cheap . 22- 23/hr is just not worth the hassle. You gotta pay above 30/hr plus OT to make it worthwhile .

    • And don’t forget that Federally Regulated Carriers don’t pay overtime until over 10 hours in one day or over 60 hours in a week.

      • Many federal carriers get around paying overtime by paying piecemeal. Piecemeal downtime is paid for by the driver.

  • Bison has 40 unmanned trucks…did Bison ever think they had 40 too many trucks? The driver shortage is a myth. The shelves are stocked, Petro Canada has fuel to pump…where’s the shortage?

  • If trucking was a skilled trade… like a hairdresser.. whose biggest weapon was a pair of scissors… we would all be better off!!! They have office hours.. no traffic.. no weather to contend with…no MTO/ DOT to tend with.. no border crossing/ customs … hurry up and wait from dispatchers…could go on and on and on and on…mmm think i’ll become a hair cutter….

  • Got my license at 19 can’t go to America and make real miles although I have 16 hours to run my 13 in Canada the days are much longer wether it’s sitting for freight/ preloads flat bed is an interesting choice i drove van 1 day which was my first day I would pick Flatbed sadly there’s so much more danger to it I don’t only have to worry about others on the road but the load I’m hauling IE pipe or reels this is something a lot of people will take into account which I am more and mor everyday. To me the problem is driver shortage it’s freight shortage and it’s chocking me and my other partners out and we’ve been giving as much freight as there is. We’re a group of owner ops that work for a Transforce company if they don’t have freight idk who does but in my opinion like I said it’s not a driver problem it’s a Freight problem the pay isn’t good enough we have new immigrants coming in and new drivers who will take less then 40 cents a mile they will take 25-36cents a mile and it will eventually cripple this industry more accidents sure to happen and more fatalities. Food for thought

    Written while waiting to unload at 9:15pm CST

    Keep the left door closed and the wheels moving

  • Well, finally they started to move their brains and understand that there are no more idiots ready to work for $ 10 per hour 24/7 including overtime, which gives $ 240 per day for a trucker. Who wants to get such a minimum ?!
    Young people do not go into this business because they see that the only prospect in the industry is to get stuck for twenty years with the same salary, and not even tied to the price index. When you start earning your $ 250 in 24 hours, nothing will change in ten years.
    Immigrants will not help. They receive immigration and look for other businesses, because money is no longer in this very difficult business, and owning a truck has become unprofitable and even ruinous.
    Electronic logbooks showed that this whole business rested on deception and falsification, which should have been proved. The pay per mile system has been operating since 1938, and is discriminatory! The truck driver does not have a guaranteed income, so there are less and less fools.
    If drivers want too much, then let the state take over brokerage, or limit earnings to brokerage companies that take 30% of the cost of transporting goods. If no action is taken, the collapse of the entire system will begin.
    Start incorporating brains into work!

  • The pay levels are too low compared to other jobs out there. A experienced truck driver with more than 5000 hours experience should make 1.6 times min wage plus overtime after 10 hours per day. O T R. truck drivers should make $27 per hour plus overtime and medical insurance plus benefits with overtime pay and $150 layover pay. A limit of 2 employees coming in a year on a 8 month contract from April to December. The insurance companies and trucking companies need to take care of injuried and sick truck drivers. The government need to make it easier for small trucking companies to insure new truck drivers.

  • companies do not realizes that running to the USA it cost dearly out of pockets and what kind of compensation do we get ??? 5 cents perhaps more to go across what about medical and other insurances??we have to get blue cross
    and pay for it with some big company perhaps there is good benefits but not to many of them so being away on the road for minimum six to 10 days who like to do this these days??? kids starting a family sure don’t look at this option mine as well work on construction more money and home every day. I am semi retired and work sometime and choose long haul more than a 2000 mile a week and i am happy but am single there you go.

  • Here”s the solution: There are 100,000 oil and gas workers in the oil industry out of work Thanks to TRUEDOPE . Train them and you will have a surplus of 75,000 truck drivers. It Doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure that one out. You have over 2 years to get training them instead of bring in more immigrants to drain our economy.

    • That is a racial and conspiracy statement,the problem in the trucking industry has never been caused by immigrants. In fact immigrant drivers are the reason you still have milk and groceries on your breakfast table. The typical North American wants to work in white collar jobs and as such views truck driving as a dirty old job for scruffy looking men.
      First of,the association should look into
      1. Cost of training(which is ridiculously high)
      2. Making sure employers utilize the various provincial job grants to train new and willing drivers(employers are reluctant to do this)
      3. Changing the nomenclature(road captain/pilot is far better than truck driver designation)
      4. Increasing the pay since it is a specialized training and should be compensated as such just like in the oil industry.

  • In any other market “an acute shortage” would instantly result in significant price increases. Having unfilled trucks and unearned income because of it, does NOT mean there is actually freight to fill those positions desired by the carriers. If there were truly thousands of shipments per week that were not moving due to a lack of drivers, rates would increase to attract haulers.
    But thank you for a new line of thinking, now I can tell the financial world that I have un-won lottery earnings, and lost income because of it. Think they will accept it?

  • If companies can’t pay normally, let the tax office declare every night in a truck how it does with meals -60 $. Then it will be profitable to work 24/7

  • Yep and add more rules and regulations to the transport industry and see how many more we lose. Also who is going to go through the time and misery of training when apprenticeships in different trades are available, when finished pay a lot more than $23.00 per hour.

  • why is everyone ignoring the insurance companies. their rules state that a company cannot hire anyone under 25 yrs. old and they must have at least 3 years “insured” truck driving experience with a 10 year clean abstract (otherwise the premiums are extremely high which most small companies cannot afford if they wish to make a profit as shippers are doing their best to keep the rates down – no one wants to pay high shipping costs on anything they order do they?). Who in their right mind are going to wait till they are 25 yrs. old to get a job that only pays a medium to lo wage. oh yeah plus they need to take 103hrs. driver training at their cost. Did I forget to mention that the government will gladly insure these young drivers for a higher premium “if” no other insurance company will touch them. How are these new or young drivers supposed to get 3 years experience (other than to work for a company who does not tell their insurance company about the new driver thereby not giving the driver any credit for experience). I am a small trucking company owner (28 years) who only makes a glorified wage that drivers believe are millions when there are drivers that make more than I do most years. I have found that I must pay the drivers well, treat them like humans (sometimes pamper them), maintain equipment in good condition, train them well in my field, and give them time off when they want it. I have held my class 1 license for 41 years.

  • Flooded used truck markets, and guys still hauling less then $2/mile freight across border while expenses skyrocket ….sounds like a truck over supply problem not a driver shortage.

  • Can Trucknews explain to me how trucking lost 3.1 billion in revenues to driver shortage? Are you saying freight paying 3.1 billion never got moved and is still sitting on the shipper’s dock? Did Uber deliver it? The stork?
    Have freight rates gone exponentially higher since the unmoved freight is still sitting? Are shippers having bidding wars for trucks?

    I didn’t think so.

  • Speed limiters is law in Ontario, why can everyone go faster then me when I do 105 kph? Why is it fed law that if I park on highway and strike I can be fine with act of. …. Against the economy but. Other can stop the rail?others stop pigs to market etc and get nothing? Everything is against the truck driver!!!! Why are the fine so bad for the drivers when it the company’s telling,forcing the drivers to drive unsafe equipment, over weight etc? I’m a driver and sick of no respect, a driver with no rights!!!! All the people that say driver shortage or think it’s a great job.YOU TRY IT!!!

  • Price of food goes up! Price of living goes up!! Price of everything goes up!! Are wages go down but we get blamed for cost of living going up! Freight rates to cheap!! No one can compete with others that get big tax breaks or pay very little tax.i can buy my truck thru a church or any Other deal. Trucking needs to be fair for all.same rules applied to everyone and every company.laws need to be the same everywhere not province to province state to state. Company to company.

  • Accourding my experience as a truck driver most drivers they quit their job are few resons.
    A. Poor managment
    B. less payment .21.14 hr.( local drivers)
    C. Luck of experience.( new drivers)

  • This day and age for long haul drivers the pay is short and had been for a long time, new drives today don’t want to drive long haul,they want to be home every night , the pay structure, for truck drivers long haul, or short haul or even city p&d, is not near enough, has not been for a long time,p.s you should also look in to these so called freight brokers, they are keeping to much money back from the independent driver,that’s a guaranty.

  • The biggest problem is , trucking company is always looking for 2 to 3 years experienced, l got class 1 license since 2016 but l cant get in to the industry because of lack of experience, so many new truck driver like me unhired.

    • I’d Say you’re applying to the wrong companies, a Lot of the larger companies ie: Bison have New Driver training programs, You go out with a Driver Trainer for a few weeks, and then you’re on your own

  • The trucking industry might not be so short of truck drivers if the MTO were passing more instead of failing. As one of those want to be drivers, it was a shock to learn that it wasn’t MTO that did the examining, it’s a private company called Serco Securities. As a private company, their mandate is to make money. I’ve tried to pass the road test 6 times and failed. My trainer has commented that he doesn’t understand why I haven’t passed as I have always driven and backed to his satisfaction. In truth, only my first and sixth fails were deserved, the other 4 were for reasons such as not saying it right and on 2 occasions, the examiner lied saying I didn’t do an inspection that I did in front of them. What was acceptable to one examiner was not accepted by another, I’ve had 3 different examiners and was failed 4 times before I was told by the examiner what I was supposed to say and how THEY want it said. On the fifth attempt, I had 2 errors but the examiner lied and gave me a third error which I didn’t deserve so I failed. I know they can cover themselves if I were to complain so I haven’t. This has cost me well over ten thousand dollars and I still have no license. Also my trainer told me that truck schools all over Canada are seeing higher than normal fail rates for students. If there is indeed a shortage of drivers, it’s because Serco is lining their pockets with rebooking fees before they are ordered to change.

    • So, you mean to say, it’s not good for person from other countries like, philipines, pakistan, India to move Canada in truck industry as a truck driver?

  • There are no misconceptions about the industry. The roads suck, there are no rest areas. Truck stops are few and far in between. The pay is not worth loosing your time from home. The ELDs are a joke. The regulations are following the 9 to 5 model which is, well… Stupid for truckers. From my perspective those in charge at the DOT have no clue what’s going on. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them didn’t spend more than 5 minutes on the road in trucks. As a younger driver and someone who started when I was 21 anyone who asks me about the job I recommend them anything else over this. Before you ask for women and young drivers how about you fix the industry first.

  • Yeah is good hear job opportunities in canada.For an example im kenyan and im a driver by profesion for light and heavy commercial trucks for 20 years.with that experience and high level as you mentioned.l some times lack employment due to quite lack of jobs.Can you facilitate for such opportunities.

  • Pay more money time and half after 40 hours like any other job. If you want the job done right hire more skill .like i have have 44 years If you pay good teet drivers with reaspect fire the lieing dispachers

  • Again and again….another article asking “Why don’t we have drivers?” Hello HR folks, large trucking company owners etc…’s the MONEY!!!! We are over regulated. They say the changes and laws are all safety related, yet we see the crashes splattered all over the media. Hmm, wonder if taking immigration and subsidizing the trucking schools is working yet?? Lol. It’s absurd the way they go about it all. ( Government, OTA companies, MTO inspection processes etc ) If a person can’t make a living, they won’t stick w it regardless of sector. Look at that folks, the real costs and what a driver ends up with after the wash of bureaucracy is done with their work week…..seriously tank these articles asking the same questions over and over.

  • Nonsense, the only thing wrong with the industry is that it is not properly managed. Too many unprofessional people brought in in order to drive rates down, the good drivers left. instead of utilizing the professional drivers that we had at a decent rate we let the industry get to a place where it doesn’t make sense to do it anymore

  • We have to change the thinking that this career choice is a job not a life style. Drivers should be paid overtime after working 8 hrs in a day and over 45 hrs per week. Long haul drivers live in their trucks 24/7 and should be paid accordingly. If the driver is not driving he is still responsible for the load behind him and should be paid for the responsibility. Look as the truck is an extension of the warehouse it was loaded from or going to. Either warehouse would not have a security guard work for free to watch over their goods. But they expect a driver to. I always felt that a driver should get paid by the mile, while driving and by the hour when parked st the same rate as if the driver was driving. Eg: .45/mile x avg 55miles/hr=$24.75 min per hour parked..

  • No driver shortage. To many cheap loads out there. If there was a driver shortage loads would be paying a lot more.

  • I’m an oilfield superb hauler and love my job without ELDs. It gives me the flexibility to make a rest area with a washroom/running water, not stress out if I have to wait 30, 60min sometimes while waiting to unload, and allows me to shower/take a crap during the day when there’s no lineups for the card lock washroom.

    I drive with patience, take it easy and relaxed. A lot of drivers wave at me for being respectful. What should I do for 10hrs in the middle of no where? It’s a joke I only need 7-8hrs of off duty most of the time.

    ELDs take away my flexibility, to be comfortable and happy and to drive in a rushed no courtesy manner while making significantly less money. No one is ever pushed to drive/on duty more than 15hrs, a boss doesn’t want his equipment wrecked.

    You will make my life miserable and force me to take a fluid hauling job where log books arnt required. A lot of companies only cross one provincial border we should not be required to have a log book.

  • Yawn!
    Same story.
    Different day
    Same responses, mostly ignored.
    No new ideas.

    They will talk about the same topic at the next conference or seminar…and move on to the next event where we’ll talk about the same problem to the same people we talked to at the last event. Nothing changes.

    Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. I think we know what that definition is.

    Nothing to see here. Move on!

  • Very good points and comments. The way I see it, the problem is industry and governments short sightedness. There’s is total apathy in regards of truckers and their families, we are scrutinized at every point, we are scapegoats in all situations, we are perceived as dimwits from all aspects and wether you believe it or not, we are the equivalent to sweatshop workers because we have let ourselves to sink to that level. The truckers lifestyle has become a total conformity lifestyle that has been imposed by non truckers with their own interest. Freedom of the road is gone. We have become slaves of the the road. So sad. Peddling an ice cream cart has become a better option.

  • A lack of infrastructure is a huge problem such as truck stops and rest areas for truckers. Governments and industry impose all the rules and do nothing to accommodate truckers to help us to follow the rules. Truckers are set up to fail because of the dimwits who are regulating the industry.

  • There is no driver’s shortage the problem is the pay. it common sense and dispatchers who think they can run driver’s down into the ground. it’s a simple fix Pay the people that does the hard work and sacrifice…

  • What is going to happen when this is all over. We get kick to the side and all the regulations and blame get put back on us until we are wanted again I think it’s time like these.h ALL TRUCK DRIVERS STAY HOME

  • Right now from what I can find, the average US Truck drivers makes almost twice what a Canadian Driver makes. I’m not taking into account that when a Canadian Driver goes south his dollar doesn’t anywhere near as far. US Driver’s seem to average about 80 to 90 cents per mile taking all the incentives and pay bonuses in, As a Canadian Truck Driver, I average around 50 cents per mile. I wonder why there is a Truck driver shortage in Canada?

  • If these Canadian Transport Companies really wanted to get more drivers they’d be paying us better, Canadian Equivalent pay to a US Driver would be in the area of $1.00 to $1.25 Canadian Dollars PER MILE for a Company Driver, and It’s been a long time but I don’t even think Owner Operators clear that, At least I know I never did, 11 Years ago, Thus why I’m a Company Driver Now.

  • I am working as local delivery truck driver LTL company driving 10 speed getting 20$ per hour no province holiday payment and overtime . Now tell me who will work for this industry now working in a butcher’s store getting around 25 . I working because driving is my passion…… that’s it

  • i work before as a long haul truck driver since March 2013 to April 2016 travel all over canada , but the problem is we cannot given a new LMIA or work visa , that’s why we moving out in that country ,

  • It’s a heat wave in Ontario
    My husband drives without air conditioning in the truck
    80 percent of the fleet doesn’t have air conditioning
    Trucks are broken and unsafe
    No wonder young people don’t come back .
    It’s not about the training
    It’s about the working conditions
    And the pay is ridiculous
    You get the same pay if you’re a new driver or you have 15 or 20 years experience
    These people are driving those huge things for very long hours to make a decent pay
    Raise the pay and improve working conditions and people will come

  • What overtime pay?
    Truckers don’t get overtime im a longhaul truck driver 26 years old it sickens me that I work 60+ hrs a week live in the truck and don’t get overtime where any other job its after 40 hours its time and a half

  • Hello,
    Can you please provide the yearly statistics showing the number of class 8 ( semi ) trucks sold in Canada since 2000. Also those of all makes .