Canadian Trucking Alliance seeks training, immigration support for known employers

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling for programs to help “known employers” tap into immigration channels and train workers in the face of a growing truck driver shortage.

“As the old saying goes, Canada moves by truck. But a more accurate description is Canada moves by truck drivers,” CTA president Stephen Laskowski said Monday, following a federal supply chain summit. “Consequently, labor shortages in trucking warrants priority action by the Government of Canada to secure the supply chain and improve Canada’s economic recovery.”

Data released by the Conference Board of Canada and Trucking HR Canada prior to the pandemic predicted Canada’s trucking industry would be short 55,000 drivers by the end of 2023. In the fourth quarter of 2021 there were 23,000 vacancies.

The CTA offered to work with the government in developing a training support fund that would be limited to the known employers, as well as a streamlined application process for Labor Market Impact Assessments needed to access the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

It also looked to the government to help allow in-transit moves between Canada and the U.S., and promote the better use of equipment by addressing delays while loading and unloading.

But CTA also repeated calls for a crackdown on businesses in the underground economy that misclassify employees as independent contractors, in a process known as Driver Inc.

Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada, said record driver vacancy rates – and the barriers to addressing them – remain a significant barrier to a fluid supply chain.

“Our labour shortages impact every key economic sector, every Canadian business and every Canadian,” Splinter said. “Leveraging existing programs with sustained and increased investments – especially when these programs have proven results – offers a quick solution to improve supply chain efficiency”.

Existing programs include the Youth Employment Skills Strategy that has helped to train and onboard more than 300 young people in trucking, and a program to better connect women to trucking jobs through Wage and Gender Equality Canada, she added.

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) called for changes such as declaring professional driving as a skilled trade, requiring all provinces to implement a minimum driver training standard, and consistent regulations and enforcement from one jurisdiction to the next.

“While we understand vaccines are our best way out of the health crisis, we also understand that the entire supply chain is in a labor crisis,” PMTC president Mike Millian added in a bulletin to members. “The trucking industry is already short 22,900 drivers. A federal vaccine mandate will remove an additional 15 to 20% of the driver workforce, further exasperating the supply chain shortage and causing delays in deliveries and increased prices for shipping. Testing or other safe alternatives are needed that do not reduce the labor pool further is needed at this time.” 

A Supply Chain Task Force

The summit itself included federal cabinet ministers and business leaders and associations from across the supply chain.

A new Supply Chain Task Force is emerging in the wake of the summit to identify short- and long-term solutions to supply chain disruptions. Transport Canada will establish an online portal to gather opinions and suggestions. A $50 million call for proposals has also been launched under the National Trade Corridors Fund to relieve congestions at Canadian ports through changes such as increased storage capacity.

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on the labor market, causing worker shortages across many industries, including transportation. These disruptions in the supply chain have a real impact on the daily lives of all Canadians,” said Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development, and disability inclusion.

The shortages come at a time when North America’s demand for consumer goods is about five percentage points higher than the global average. Canadian manufacturers are also particularly vulnerable to shocks and disruptions because they rely on foreign suppliers for importing crucial inputs and also for selling their products, the federal government notes.