How will Covid-19 affect truck driver demand?

John G Smith

TORONTO, Ont. – There will be layoffs during the economic downturn brought about by Covid-19, but Trucking HR Canada continues to sound the alarm about a truck driver shortage.

In a briefing prepared for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the organization cites anecdotal reports of aging truck drivers who are leaving jobs because of worries about exposure to the virus, and it stresses the need to ensure enough drivers are on the job when the economy recovers.

“We’re seeing a lot of layoffs. We’re seeing a lot of older drivers exiting,” says CEO Angela Splinter.

A “disproportionate” number of Canada’s truck drivers are above 45, which puts them in an age group at a greater risk of experiencing complications of Covid-19, the ESDC briefing notes. More than 60% of today’s drivers are over 45; 30% are over 55.

“We’re seeing a lot of layoffs. We’re seeing a lot of older drivers exiting.”

– Angela Splinter, Trucking HR Canada

Some fleets have already reported an increase in turnover among drivers over the age of 65.

“Fleets are reporting that some drivers are saying ‘Now is the time for me to retire’ or ‘My family thinks my age makes me more vulnerable – I’m quitting.’ This is forcing fleets to recruit at a time when folks are tentative about changing jobs,” the briefing concludes.

It’s not the only way that older drivers could affect the supply and demand for personnel. Those who are hit by temporary layoffs may decide not to return to trucking once the economy begins to recover. Then again, others may decide to stay on the job longer than expected as they look to offset losses in retirement savings, the briefing says.

Preparing for post-Covid-19

“We have to do what we can now to help the industry be ready post-Covid-19,” Splinter says.

Only weeks ago, Trucking HR Canada and the Conference Board of Canada projected the nation would be short 25,000 truck drivers as early as 2023, representing a 25% increase over the unfilled job vacancies in 2019.

The organization is reviewing its forecasting models to see what numbers are expected following an economic downturn relating to Covid-19.

It’s hard to speculate how the supply chain will respond to the recent surge in demand for consumer goods, food and sanitation products, the ESDC briefing concludes, referring to pressure that emerged when the World Health Organization designated Covid-19 as a global pandemic.

“Although a national economic recession would dramatically alter labor demand across key trucking and logistics operations, the number of complex variables at play in the sector remain in flux, including how, where and when the Covid-19 event will impact the industry.”

“Ebbs in the economy will not necessarily ‘solve’ the driver shortage.”

– Trucking HR Canada

While a recession would temporarily lower the demand for trucking industry workers, that could mask the severity of the driver shortage, the briefing adds. “Ebbs in the economy will not necessarily ‘solve’ the driver shortage. Rather, the driver shortage presents itself as an ongoing perennial concern.”

While Alberta experienced an economic downturn between 2015 and 2018, for example, the number of truck driver job vacancies surged when the provincial economy began to recover.

Some sectors could face bigger shortages than others, Trucking HR Canada adds, offering examples of local delivery drivers who are needed to support e-commerce and grocery services.

Longhaul drivers needed

The need for longhaul drivers is seen to be particularly troubling.

“While truck drivers represent 46% of the industry, they account for a startling 63% of its job vacancies. The total number of truck driver vacancies in Canada has increased over 138% between 2016 and the first three quarters of 2019 – climbing from 8,600 to 20,500 during this timeframe. Most concerning is that the vacancy rate for longhaul truck drivers was 9.4%,” the briefing says.

“Without action — and contrary to the views of outsiders who feel that labor shortages will alleviate themselves — the analysis suggests that vacancies for truck drivers and other key occupations will only get worse in the next three to five years. In turn, this situation will not only impede the operations of Canada’s trucking and logistics sector, but also disrupt the integrated supply chain that flows between industries, consumers and international markets.”

But the tougher economy could present an opportunity to help address the labor need. New workers could be attracted to trucking jobs because of slowdowns in other sectors, Trucking HR Canada says

“There is little doubt that once the crisis starts to subside and economic activity starts back up again, there will be a sudden upswing in the demand for transportation and trucking services.”

John G Smith

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

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  • How about you ask the drivers like me that are not planning on going anywhere been at the front line of ever problem helping people get there stuff and still live a normal life.
    I’ve suffered 4 about of cancer 9/11 victim still here doing what I do best just ashame that Tim Hortons doesn’t service the drivers if they come to the drive thru window. As for drivers being out of work sorry to see it but might just weed out the bad ones.

    • Cry me a river. Trucking companies have been getting away with milking money from the drivers for too long. The federal government has become more and more invasive into drivers lives. It’s just not worth it. I drive local now and make comparable money to someone driving 2000-2500 miles a week. Until the feds start butting out and companies become more honest and transparent they’ll all get what they deserve. I’ve never had a drug charge and never been in an accident in 13 years of driving. Stop punishing the good ones because of a few bad ones.

      • To me a driver that drives OTR should make less than a local driver. OTR drivers gives a lot being away from their families. That should account for something
        Maybe something like 50.00 a day everyday he is away from home.

  • Until drivers start to receive a salary in time and not for miles, until drivers see prospects in this business, until the salary is tied to a price index, companies will have to bring foreign drivers because Canadians do not want to work 24/7 for 250-280 $ for 24 hours.
    From the calculation of the salary for the time, drivers earn less than the minimum salary.
    Are you ready to come to work for a week, sleep in the office, go home after seven days of work, work 12-14 hours a day and earn $ 280 per day? So why be surprised that there are no drivers?
    Miser pays twice.

  • There will be no shortage of truck drivers if people will get better pay and if government will pass a law that no shipper and receiver can refuse to provide washrooms to truckers . More truck rest areas and parking spaces are required too . If Single owner operators can get some subsidies for DEF system .

  • Maybe it’s time carriers stand up for their drivers regarding they way they are treated by shippers and receivers.
    Maybe it’s time carriers charged rates that reflect their true costs and expected profits margins.
    The end result may be carriers being able to compensate drivers for the work they do.
    If carriers want professional drivers they have to treat them like professionals and compensate them accordingly.
    There will be a shortage of professional drivers as long as this industry is ruled by corporate greed!

  • Good news indeed. 50% driver shortage should improve minimum wages for truckers. The sooner this ponzie scheme collapses the better.

    • Great name brother!
      And there is. The entire trucking business is built on fraud and the ability of companies to deceive truck drivers using holes in the law, including the system of salary for miles, which has been operating since 1937, and allows brokers and companies to profit unlimitedly by discriminating against drivers.

  • This was bound to happen, drivers have been treated like dirt for a long time now. The trucking companies are responsible for the mess we’re in, they need to stand behind their drivers and treat them like the professionals that they are. Any issues with the shippers or receivers ,the driver is the first one under the bus. This covid19 is a real wake up call for many, it really shows how valuable truck drivers are to this country. Norman Gilbert.

  • Most trucking companies wont hire new drivers so it’s going to be hard to fill the gaps. Some of it is insurance some of its they dont what new drivers. The other issue is the pay sucks and there has not been a pay increase in decades and now we monitor by electronics how much a driver is doing.

  • got my class 1 in november, and no one will hire me because i dont have 2/3 years experience. ive applied everywhere.

    • Schneider National will hire you and put you with a driver trainer for a while. You will be paid.

  • I would put my trk to work hauling needed gds in a heart beat just got finsh ice rds trk usually sits till next season i feel i need to help

  • Compensation sorely lacks for drivers…there is no shortage of capable drivers only a gluttony of greedy administrators.

  • There will be a shortage of drivers soon as long as the greedy brokers keep cutting the rates to a dollar a mile they are blatantly taking advantage of this situation

  • There is so much that could of been done decades ago to make truck driving a desirable job, it’s too little too late now.

  • the driving road test center for (AZ) have to be open .this is on emergency situation .and the have to take a look what some examiner doing because sometime they fail students i the road test for miner thing and some of them are really racist .like me i been to the class training school for 6 weeks course 8hr every single week and i paid 10000 $ for that.but in the road test they keep failing me for nothing .i whent for my road test 6times i dont even get it .my last time the examiner fail me because he said i was going to slow 2 time and that set.i would like to paticipate or give my help in the moving economy but the drive test center have to be open to taking my road test .please the the drive test center have to be open for A road test because its a comercial license that could help the economy moving.

  • I like to go to Canada because I’m truck driver for more than 10 years with long distance pls how to apply I’m ready

  • There may be a shortage of drivers but there is DEFINITELY a shortage of good pay for drivers. I get offers from Indeed via email. I moron wanted a seasonal AZ driver with at least 2 years experience. His pay offer was $16./hour! I told him that was an insult and if he found someone to take the job, he had better have really good insurance coverage!

  • They should simply ban salaries for miles, as in Europe. This salary system makes the driver nervous, violate the speed limit and rush where you can’t rush !!! But it is beneficial to brokers and companies. It would be beneficial for Tim Hortons to give salaries to sellers not for an hour, but for the number of buns or coffee that they sold … But they cannot do this because they are protected by law.
    For some reason, truckers are a low-skilled profession, and they should also give us the minimum wage, because no one believes that we sleep in trucks, and they have to pay for it. Although, if you take all the hours that we are at work, it turns out that they give us a minimum wage of $ 24×10 = $ 240 per day. Great salary, right ?!

  • Corporate transparency would be a great start. Many companies hire based on untrue stories they tell to entice people to ‘fill’ their seats.
    Wage increases are definitely needed for these jobs, along with increased skill and abilities. If we ask for ‘professional drivers’ then we should have companies develop their drivers accordingly. The mileage pay isn’t really the base problem, its the expectations and integrity of people today. Drivers don’t have the moral standards to be able to follow a speed limit or ‘stop’ at a stop sign, let alone follow HOS rules.
    There is also a new expectation from those entering the business to be paid for ‘every’ little thing they do. Regardless of the business, few if any get paid to ‘sleep’. Construction, tradesmen, airline pilots and others working away from home don’t get paid to sleep.
    A decent pay rate to compensate for the’away from home’ time would be more acceptable. Instead of $ 0.50 per mile that rate should be higher for long haul in particular. An honest pay for every day or partial day for when drivers wait for loads.
    The magic ‘hourly’ rate idea doesn’t solve any real issues. Human nature takes over and in an industry where there is little supervision or oversight, people will put in as many hours as they can squeeze out to make the ‘pay’ they want.
    Too many good paying transportation companies have gone under trying to compete with the unregulated growth of ‘ease of entry’ companies who don’t know or care about what it takes to be successful for the employee and the corporation.
    The insurance companies are now beginning to sort out who should be in business of transportation. Because of all the inexperience and lack of support, there are more companies who can’t get insured for all the stupid that the companies allow on the roads.
    Based on the comments here, I see a number of people who seem to think if you can fog up a mirror, you can drive a transport. I’m not sure but if you can’t pass a road test after 6 times, maybe you aren’t ready for the world.

    • Very well stated. it still does come down to pay though. If the compensation for driving is raised to a level that is very attractive to people, more people will be interested in a career as a driver thereby increasing the number of applicants and allowing companies to select the best and leave rest . Therefore, just as the decline, or should I say the lack of maintaning the same level in compensation over the past 20 25 years or so has lead to the skill and professionalism level dropping to a substandard level, the skill and professionalism level will return to what it should be. Bottom line paying more money will attract better people to the industry and the shortage and profesionalism problem will disappear.

    • My, aren’t you a wealth of knowledge.

      Companies that lie to their employees usually end up losing those employees to other companies, and they often have difficulty finding new employees.

      As far as the ‘moral compass’ of HOS and stopping at stop, truck drivers are statistically among the safest drivers on the road. You’ll get a few idiots in any profession, but the idiots don’t usually last too long. Transport trucks are very expensive to buy, and the companies that buy them have to protect their investment. You just notice it more when a truck driver makes a mistake, nobody calls channel 7 news because a Honda civic went into the ditch.

      As far as hourly pay for long haul drivers goes, if you know about HOS then the obvious answer is to use an ELD (electronic logging device) and pay for on-duty hours.

      The bottom line is that there is a small percentage of companies and drivers that you have to watch out for. The bad drivers end up red flagged because of their CVOR, and if you are looking for a job as a driver then you should always check out a company before you apply. Look them up online, and stop by their yard to ask a driver who already works there.

      There are enough driving jobs out there that a good driver can usually find another job pretty quick.

  • With the construction slowdown there is over 10,000 ax drivers available in Ontario. Almost 100,000 oil fields workers available half of those oil field workers are available only if trucking pays close to the oil field jobs. Otherwise they will go to factories or construction. O T R truck drivers should be making 1.9 times minimum wage plus overtime after 10 hours per day. Unless O T R truck drivers averaged $310.00 cd per day in Canada and $240.00 U S per day in the United States for experienced truck drivers with 5000 hours experience . New truck drivers need to be able to be covered for insurance. The Federal and provincial governments ( cost share with smaller trucking and bus companies and nonprofits )need to set up a public insurance company for commercial transport of freight and people. Nonprofit groups for wheelchair vans and wheelchair buses. A limited number of truck drivers imported for Agricultural and Construction should be allowed from April 10 to December 10 with a maximum of 5 per company or farm ( cooperative). We need to be able to bring in 3,000 truck mechanics per year with a maximum of 5 per company per year. The mechanics imported need to make a minimum of 2.1 times minimum wage plus a $2.00 per hour tool allowance ( one year after getting their red seal ).

  • The concerns over COVID-19 are founded in a pandemic which is gripping the globe.
    Here in Canada, yes there is a percentage of aging truck drivers who are stepping back due not only age but risk factors associated with medical conditions developed over years of isolation being bounced around in trucks for 13 hours a day then arriving at destinations with poor facilities. This takes its toll on the body regardless of what economists think.
    Now let’s look at the demographics of the Canadian trucking industry which by the way isn’t recognized as a trade.
    The majority of truckers now fall into migrant labour as companies continue to lower wages while reaping greater profits for their shareholders.
    This combined with the psychological, physical and financial effects of living on the road in many cases for weeks at a time and being the only job you go to work just to get fined for your companies poor operating standards or a silly mistake like not drawing a line on a piece of paper to satisfy scale operators has been compounded with technology changes that older drivers find difficult to grasp and imported labour largely ignores, the shortage continues.
    Now let’s consider that if there were better standards, trade recognition, more facilities across the country where to stop, shower, eat and yes park. Maybe this would attract more Canadian youth to enter the industry.
    Without trade recognition, better training at lower cost, and good wages combined with better equipment that causes less long term health issues Canada would probably not have to rely on companies who shop third world countries for poor quality drivers and slide these persons into our transportation industry through misleading LMIA applications or bring workers on the promises of jobs for family investment from abroad.
    Let’s start with a reality check, most Canadian truckers aren’t even Canadians as migrant workers flood in to displace a once proud Canadian workforce that goes unrecognized as a trade.
    Fixing the so called shortage isn’t rocket science but ensuring public safety for politicians seeking votes from imported labour is.
    Now for COVID and it’s effect, we allow over 88000 truckers to cross between countries weekly without COVID-19 testing or quarantine. If only 20% were to face COVID exposure through the daily contact of these drivers alone this would manifest itself in over 11,600,000 potential COVID contagions in just 30 days.
    Reality check two, most of these drivers come from countries where health and hygiene are second to money, add the two combined with putting two drivers in an 8 foot wide truck for days on end then mixing them with office staff, restaurants, fuel staff, warehouse employees, security guards at facilities, the general public and their families and you have a far greater pandemic risk than conducting fast track COVID testing at borders and placing the drivers in a 72 hour clearing hold for test results before sending them on their way into the unsuspecting public.
    I do applaud the drivers for continuing to work at this time of critical pandemic, though I feel their employers need to share responsibility and limit trucks to a single driver until the pandemic is brought under control, not simply increasing the risk to both the drivers and the public in the interest of greed and poor wages.
    Politicians with no knowledge of the industry continue to flaunt risks while turning a blind eye to how this industry operates and why we have the so called shortages which resulted in the most part from the $200 National Safety Code certificate which made many unskilled migrants into trucking companies overnight. Return to the day’s of Motor Carrier and recognized trade would not only improve performance it would increase interest locally in an industry which gas for years allowed to slip into chaos.

  • I would like to work as long haul truck driver at Canadá ,I Have enough experience ,but, the employer said ,You need a work permit. First step Ok. And somebody else said me ,so we can give You a work permit, You need to get a valid job oferr. Before the work permit be issued. .????

  • To the newbies don’t get into trucking thanks to the government this has become one of the most dangerous jobs in any country they don’t listen to the professionals so let them bleed and when they figure out who has the most brains then the pay will come up until then draw welfare and stay at home it’s safer.

  • Truckers need to demand all PPE that is required do their jobs safely. Shippers need to pay decent freight rates and stop trying to profit from current situation. America and the world is about to find out how much TRUCKERS MATTER.
    Wake up America!

  • Here we go again.. all the office bound folks scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do about the shortage like they’re trying to decipher a 15 page long algebra question. The real answer they’ve known along, and it’s as simple as 2+2=4. Pay more.. problem solved. But, what do I know… I’m just a dumb driver right

  • Not to long ago i was reading very interesting information, I’m not really sure who really post it but i know it was one of the government agencies. They were posting job salaries in the past i believe 10 years or so. Nurses, CEO’s, police etc, etc. What was really shocking is that the compensation for CEO’s went up bt 95% end transportation and warehousing by 5%….DO I NEED TO SAY MORE?????????

    Regards
    Joe

  • i have been an otr driver since 1978 and they have been saying there is a driver shortage since then.
    but we know there is*nt of course,its just the chamber of commerce trying to flood the market to keep
    wages low,because they work for business not drivers.

  • Driver shortage lol my so finished trucking school and can’t buy a job third generation truck driver from Canadian finished to of class .i can’t even get him on if I bot him a truck .the Canadian government and greasy company’s are the reason .just my appinion but some buddy should look at the facts.

  • I think that there should only be one person in the truck the person that is driving the truck to help stop the spread of covid-19

  • I drive otr. I’ve been a professional driver now since March 1980.
    I’m off work right now due to being a 64 year old man with a underlying health condition. Ie..heart disease an have had triple bypass surgery 4 years ago. Now the down turn in my 401k is messing with my retirement plans. I plan on returning to work driving. When though I’m not sure. When it is safer to do so. I can testify to the fact that if truckers were paid fairly and compensated for staying away from home for weeks at a time, there would be no driver shortage. I’m sick of people like you in your article spreading your Hysteria about my industries woes about a driver shortage. Pay us! Make it worth our time, stress, and constant badgering from agents of law enforcement and the fmcsa always changing the rules to fit their pockets and not ours. When you see drivers making no less then 120,000$ a year for anyone with my experience and skills and knowledge, and records. Then sir you will see any company never having a driver shortage. It’s not a shortage of “drivers” plenty of people can drive! It’s a shortage of driver pay, driver compensation is the real culprit. So why don’t you start putting the truth out there?

  • I want to get a job driving to Montreal from NYState because it’s the only way I can get in to see my people there. Any suggestion? I’m 56 and a landlord in New York .