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.”
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