Canada’s aging workforce is impacting the trucking industry particularly hard as fewer younger people take up the occupation, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada.
Projections by the research organization show that the driver shortage could reach 25,000 by 2020 if current trends continue. The shortage could even exceed 30,000 drivers if improvement in labour productivity is lower in the coming years.
This could take a toll on the economy, notes Vijay Gill, a principal research associate at the Conference Board of Canada.
“The food we eat, the goods that we enjoy, and even the homes we live in are in large part delivered by trucks,” he says. “The inability to meet a huge demand for drivers could be costly for the trucking industry, consumer goods, and the Canadian economy.”
The report says the trucking industry attracts fewer young workers compared to similar industries such as courier service drivers. The industry also attracts fewer immigrants, likely because truck driving is not seen as a skilled labour occupation.
The food we eat, the goods that we enjoy, and even the homes we live in are in large part delivered by trucks.
— Vijay Gill, Conference Board of Canada
There are currently more than 300,000 truck drivers in Canada, accounting for 1 percent of the country’s population and over 1.5 percent of the labour force.
The average truck driver age in 1996 was 40.5, but went up to 44.2 in 2006, according to data from Statistics Canada.
As industries that require trucking services are growing, demand will also rise for trucking services, the report found.
The report, which was funded by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, also says the trucking industry will face significant challenges in the future arising from congestion, changes in hours-of-service rules in the U.S., and restrictions on size and weight regulations, to name a few.
These challenges could impede labour productivity improvement and raise the driver shortage numbers.
A number of factors could help reduce the gap between supply and demand for drivers, the report says, including an increase in trucking industry productivity, improvement in driver conditions or wages, and reorganizing trucking activity and the supply chain to reduce distances and demands for long-haul drivers, among other factors.
“Ultimately, efficient freight transportation improves export competitiveness and results in more goods being available at lower prices for consumers,” the report says.
“This makes the health of the trucking industry freight transportation networks an issue of importance for Canadian competitiveness.”
While the report notes that it is up to the trucking industry to address its labour challenges, it says industry leaders also see a role for the government to play by recognizing truck driving as a skilled occupation and developing policies and establishing national training and licensing standards.
The government could also help in increasing productivity, the report says.
“[A]ny policy support that enhances the industry’s productivity will help to mitigate the impact that results from the lack of available drivers,” it states.
The report also says it is important for customers to engage in addressing this issue and have a part in developing strategies to make the most efficient use of truck drivers’ time.
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