What is behind a shortage of truckers in Canada? Britain’s job crisis offers a clue


As the British government sends the military to help deliver fuel to gas stations, the Canadian trucking industry watches the crisis unfold with concern as it grapples with its own shortage of truck drivers.

Britain’s labor shortage last week strained supply chains and sparked chaotic scenes of panic buying at the pumps. Since then, UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has said the situation is stabilizing and dispatching the military is an “extra precaution”, after the shortage sparked a chain reaction that affected everything from oil to pork through drugs and milk.

“It’s pretty scary. We are not there yet. And we hope we never get there, ”said Marc Cadieux, president of the Association du camionnage du Québec.

He said that in Quebec alone, they need between 2,000 and 3,000 truckers.

“Our carriers complain about having the jobs but they don’t have the workers.”

In the second quarter of 2021, there was a vacancy rate of 18,000 truck drivers in Canada, according to the latest report from Trucking HR Canada, an organization that focuses on solving the problems and challenges of the workforce. works in the trucking and logistics industry.

The UK’s workforce shortage crisis is due to a perfect storm of factors – the combination of Brexit immigration rules, the impacts of COVID-19, in addition to other underlying issues such as an aging workforce and poor working conditions.

Brexit aside, the Canadian trucking industry struggles with some of these same issues.

Retired truckers, work-life balance is difficult

Already, trucking companies are struggling to fill vacancies, and they expect an impending wave of retirements will create many more openings in the near future.

According to a 2019 Statistics Canada report based on 2016 census data, 31% of male transport truck drivers were at least 55 years old, while only 22% of the total labor force in all occupations was elderly. 55 years and over. Employment was also considered to be “one of the top occupations for the highest number of vacancies reported by employers in recent years”.

Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada, said they are trying to expand their workforce by recruiting younger drivers and more women, but it’s difficult.

“We know that work-life balance is a concern in our industry. The longer the commute, the harder it is to recruit people,” she said.

“We know internally, within the industry, we need to fix this problem.”

According to projections by Trucking HR Canada, the country needs to hire around 17,230 new truck drivers per year until 2025 to meet demand.

“The trucks are parked. That means the trucking companies are not transporting these goods,” Splinter said.

Labor shortages in the trucking industry can quickly spill over and impact a wide range of sectors, as the UK has seen in recent weeks.

“We support almost every other essential service – agriculture, manufacturing, forestry, the list goes on,” Splinter said. “We are all impacted when we don’t have enough drivers.”

While the shortage of drivers in Canada currently affects only non-essential goods, she said they need to tackle the problem now to prevent it from escalating.

Recruit women, youth and new Canadians

In order to attract more drivers, the Association du camionnage du Québec, with financial support from the province, has launched a campaign called Choose Your Way, or Choose Your Route, in French.

They focused on three major pillars to address shortages in Quebec: recruiting more women, promoting truck driver jobs to immigrants and retaining as many older drivers as possible.

Currently, women represent four percent of the labor force of truck drivers in Quebec. The Quebec Trucking Association aims to increase this percentage to 10%.

Mark Seymour, CEO of Kriska Transportation Group, said a certain churn rate is a given in the industry and it is difficult to recruit when competing with other jobs that offer a better work balance. -personal life.

Kriska Transportation employs around 900 drivers, and Seymour says that at any given time, 20 to 30 of those jobs are open.

“It’s just very frustrating to have so much equipment sitting down when it might otherwise work.”

He said the industry is not yet in crisis, but is concerned about what will happen if demand increases and the supply of labor continues to decline.

Trucks line up on the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario, as they enter the United States in October 2020. An aging workforce, long commutes and poor working conditions are just a few. one of the contributing factors to a labor shortage when it comes to truck drivers in Canada. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

This is a concern shared by Teamsters Canada, the union representing many truckers in Canada.

“What we are seeing are employers offering those who have recently retired the opportunity to come back and drive trucks because they just can’t get young people to do the job,” said John McCann, director. National Freight and Tanker Transportation for Teamsters Canada.

According to McCann, it’s difficult to recruit young people into the trucking industry. He gave the example of a friend’s son, who dreamed of being a truck driver since he was a child.

McCann said he helped him find a job that would have paid $ 60,000 to $ 70,000. It was a one-day race, that is, without overnight trips, without inter-provincial trips. Still, he said the young man lasted four days.

“His dad called me up and said, ‘John, I’m sorry he couldn’t do it,’” McCann said. The 4 a.m. departure time and the daily crossing of the Peace Bridge in the United States turned him off.

McCann says these are the types of stories he’s heard about why young people aren’t interested in trucking as a career.

Training costs

One of the main barriers for new hires is the cost of the training required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, which can cost between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000, depending on the province and the training school.

“Those [younger people] who would consider a career in trucking, those who would consider that kind of blue collar work, we know we are losing them to other industries. Construction is our main competition for these workers, ”said Splinter, of Trucking HR Canada.

“You can go to work in construction tomorrow, depending on the job.”

She says her organization hopes to see more government grants across the country that would make the cost of entry more accessible.

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