OTTAWA, Ont. — A cross-section of Canada’s trucking industry, government agencies and training institutions are joining forces to address a critical shortage of qualified truck drivers, the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) has announced.
Representatives from these groups recently participated in a Toronto summit to discuss challenges including licensing standards that vary from one province to the next, training programs that don’t meet industry needs, and a lack of funding options for future drivers who want to be effectively trained. Focus groups across the country are now being scheduled to help identify related solutions
“We are entering a time in the transportation industry where we are looking at the potential loss of 3,000 drivers per month,” explains Roy Craigen, chairman of the CTHRC, which hosted the Toronto summit. “The cost of doing nothing is that Canada will be less competitive in the world marketplace. We will end up with more dangerous highways.”
The impact of the loss is heightened by the fact that the industry is losing its most experienced workers.
“We are losing drivers with 30 and 40 years of driving experience and replacing them with individuals with one and two years of experience, who may not have been trained to professional standards,” Craigen says, referring to the aging workforce.
Any proposed solutions will need to involve a number of stakeholders. Even though the driver shortage is a national issue, licensing standards and training efforts are provincial jurisdictions.
One of the immediate challenges identified during the Toronto summit was the gap that exists between the entry-level skills required to earn a licence, and those required to be effective in a career at the wheel.
Licensing standards vary from one province to the next, and rarely meet the needs of the industry, CTHRC studies have found. Training programs are often developed to meet minimum licensing requirements rather than identified National Occupational Standards. And half of Canada’s entry-level drivers do not attend formal training schools before earning a licence.
The summit also identified several funding-related challenges to training would-be truck drivers.
Training at an effective commercial driver training school can cost between $6,000 and $8,500, but trainees are seldom eligible for funding programs, and do not receive the tax credits that are associated with community college and university tuitions.
About 38 per cent of the students who graduate from truck driver training schools have been funded under programs including student loans, skills development programs, and Social Assistance. Seventy-five per cent or more of them will obtain and keep a trucking-related job.
Additionally, there is no financial help for Canadians who want to trade low-paying jobs for a higher-paying career in the trucking industry.
“If we eliminated barriers of entry for young people, second-career people, low-income people, and northern and rural residents, we may be surprised how many resident Canadians would excel in trucking,” said Craigen.
A cross-section of the industry is needed to identify the wide array of related issues, agrees Bruce Richards, President of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada. “We have a good mix of industry and government, a broad cross section of those who are being impacted [by the shortage]. The next steps will be to digest their ideas and determine a course of action.”
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