Young people aren’t lining up to be truck drivers even though the average annual salary is about $67,500
The job vacancy rate in the trucking and
logistics sector is higher than in any Canadian industry aside from crop
production as older drivers retire and the industry struggles to
attract young people and women to replace them.
The trucking industry, a key link in Canada’s supply chain, is facing a driver shortage that could exacerbate disruptions to supply chains caused by recent rail blockades and the COVID-19 outbreak.
Approximately 300,000 truck drivers in Canada move an estimated $850-billion worth of goods annually, including $550 billion in imports and $300 billion in exports, according to research released Wednesday by Trucking HR Canada and the Conference Board of Canada. For comparison, Canada’s largest railway Canadian National Railway transports about $250-billion worth of goods annually.
But the job vacancy rate in the trucking and logistics sector is higher than in any Canadian industry aside from crop production as older drivers retire and the industry struggles to attract young people and women to replace them.
The shortage is particularly pronounced for long-haul drivers, where the job vacancy rate is 9.4 per cent compared to an industry rate of 6.8 per cent and a national average of 3.3 per cent, according to the analysis conducted in fall 2019 based on Statistics Canada data and a survey of 352 employers representing more than 44,000 truck drivers.
While trucking companies did step up to get goods moving when trains weren’t during the rail blockades in February, they need more workers to make sure that’s possible in case of future disruptions, whether from protests or coronavirus, Trucking HR Canada chief executive Angela Splinter said in an interview.
“It’s certainly causing some disruption and uncertainty in the market place,” Splinter said.
“There are always those ebbs and flows, but the fluidity of the supply chain is already heavily impacted by labour shortages so these issues aren’t helping.”
Labour shortages cost the trucking industry $3.1 billion in lost revenue in 2018 as companies turned down work and delayed expansion plans, according to the report. This not only affects drivers, but the additional 350,000 people working in trucking logistics in shipping and receiving, courier services, warehouses and distribution centres or office jobs.
“That’s a lot of people, that’s a lot of jobs. Good, middle class jobs,” Splinter said.
The study found truck driver job vacancies increased to 20,500 in the first three quarters of 2019 from 8,600 in 2016.
Young people aren’t lining up to be truck drivers even though the average annual salary is about $67,500, due to perceptions of the industry and work-life balance challenges for jobs that involve being away from home.
Only 3.5 per cent of truck drivers are women even though they make up 42.8 per cent of Canada’s overall workforce. On top of the work-life balance issues, women surveyed expressed concerns about safety at rest stops.
Nearly one-third (32 per cent) of truck drivers are 55 years old or older compared to 21 per cent of the overall labour force, according to Statistics Canada. The survey found that almost half of trucking employers are trying to retain older workers by offering more flexible work arrangements and better equipment, such as ergonomic seats, stairs on trailers and automatic transmissions.
But more work and fewer people to do it means more stress for the employees that do stick around.
While automation is expected to replace some drivers in the long-term, it’s not going to solve the labour shortage anytime soon, Splinter said, especially not if trucking companies have to turn down business and earn less money to invest in technology.
Her company is calling on the federal government to make training dollars available for the trucking industry so younger people can learn the trade. Training can cost up to $15,000, she said, making it difficult for trucking companies to compete for talent with other industries that have subsidized training.
“We’re competing for workers and we want to see a level playing field,” she said.