Canada faces record retirements from an aging labour force at a time of record high job vacancies and historically low unemployment, reports Stats Canada.
No industry is feeling the complications of this demographic crisis more than the trucking industry, which, already in the midst of a severe labour shortage, has the oldest workforce in Canada, says the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
The working-age population of persons aged 15 to 64, who produce the bulk of goods and services in the Canadian economy, has reached a turning point. Statscan reports the number of seniors aged 65 and older grew six times faster than children 0-14 – another indication Canada’s population is exiting the workforce much faster than those about to enter it. More than 1 in 5 (21.8%) persons of working age in the general economy are aged 55 to 64. The ratio of people nearing retirement never been so high.
The situation is even more amplified in trucking, where at least 32% of truck drivers in Canada are 55 years or older compared to 21.8% of the entire Canadian labour force. At least 6% of truck drivers are 65 and older.
The trucking and logistics sector employs nearly 4 percent of Canadians, but with an economic multiplier effect much larger than most sectors, the pressures weighing down trucking’s current labour pool might be the single greatest wildcard in the path to full economic recovery, says CTA president Stephen Laskowski.
“While demographics, industry conditions and policy issues have all contributed to retirements and exits, trucking has at the same time continued to see a declining share of young people entering the industry over the past few decades,” says CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “Combined, these forces are leading to a demographic cliff in one of the economy’s most important sectors. This is fundamentally unsustainable and a huge red flag for the Canadian economy and North American supply chain.”
Undoubtably, the impact of the worsening driver shortage is reverberating throughout the supply chain and contributing to rising prices and inflation.
“The is a direct connection,” says Laskowski. “The industry has been experiencing this for some time and now and, clearly, all Canadians are feeling it as well.”
The Canadian trucking industry has over 23,000 truck driver job vacancies right now and that hole is expected to sink deeper very soon. By the end of 2023, the truck driver supply deficit has been estimated to reach over 55,000 drivers. While there are undoubtably many industry sectors that need qualified labour, the vacancy rate in truck transportation on a percentage basis is much higher than that of the general economy and virtually all other sectors.
Many provinces have started to take a serious look at the relationship between training and the driver shortage and supply chain fragility. CTA is calling for federal and provincial programs designed to support truck driver training. The Alliance has submitted several recommendations to the federal government to help the trucking industry meet the demands of the supply chain, including:
- The Government of Canada should approve Trucking HR Canada’s proposal to the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program (SWSP). This proposal focuses on shorter term support to help address barriers for new entrants entering the trucking industry;
- CTA would like to see widely available, and long-term new training funding support established for trucking, like forgivable grants to cover entry level training costs;
- An institutionalized wage subsidy program to support the onboarding/training of new entrants into the industry. This is needed to support post-licensing on-the-job training;
- CTA would like to see the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) application process streamlined, a recognized trusted employer program finalized, and a seamless path to permanent residency created for our sector;
- Establish training tax credits for carriers to support investments in their training programs and onboarding new drivers;
- Establish a national Driver Inc. enforcement campaign to ensure current drivers are not working in the underground economy and that their rights are protected;
- Establishing a federal-provincial heavy truck rest stop infrastructure program to support our commercial drivers.