Canada needs 20,000 truck drivers, maybe more: Report

As labour shortage could get worse, what can employers do to address the need?

Canada needs 20,000 truck drivers, maybe more: Report

The Canadian trucking industry currently shows over 20,000 vacant driver positions, according to a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). 

And 34,300 truck drivers were expected to leave the industry in this year, according to the report, citing Trucking HR Canada’s Labour Market Snapshot: November 2022.

If nothing is done about the current situation, the vacancy number could increase to 30,000, says PwC.

“Without taking any actions to improve the current situation, the truck driver shortage in Canada will further worsen as the workforce ages and insufficient interest in the profession fails to bridge the growing gap in the number of available truck drivers,” says PwC in the report.

The difficulty of attracting young people into the profession and the poor image of the profession (both 33 per cent) are the top two reasons for the driver shortage.

Other reasons include competition from other logistics jobs (17 per cent), difficulty in attracting women (nine per cent) and high training costs (eight per cent).

Women represent only three per cent of the trucking workforce in Canada, according to PwC, citing data from IRU.

Also, the average age of drivers has increased from 44 to 49 years old, which is “significantly older when compared to other industries,” says PwC. 

“If everything remains status quo, the average age will increase further, with a larger percentage of truck drivers approaching retirement age.”

A 2020 report found that long-haul drivers have, on average, a 9.4 per cent job vacancy rate — a figure that towered above the national unemployment average of 3.3 per cent overall.

Also, drivers are not having the easiest of times within the profession, according to the PwC report.

It notes that the largest inconveniences with the role are:

  • limited personal time (58 per cent)
  • long working hours (17 per cent)
  • long waiting times (17 per cent)
  • safety issues (8 per cent)

Improving working conditions for drivers

Nearly eight in 10 (79 per cent) of employers respondents to the PwC survey agree that drivers should be introduced to advanced technologies such as driver relay models to improve drivers' work-home balance. 

“Relay models would allow for drivers to hand off a truck or trailer to another truck driver at a pit or a rest stop after travelling a predetermined distance. Since relay models offer flexibility in the distance travelled, it opens the possibility for regional-only jobs in addition to the range of trucking jobs currently available,” reads parts of the Truck Driver Shortage in Canada report.

In September, the federal government opened the first round of invitations for transport occupations through category-based selection in Express Entry.

Introducing driver relay models (86 per cent) is also the top way to ensure worker retention in the industry, according to the PwC report.

It ranks ahead of better treatment of drivers at delivery / pick-up sites (71 per cent), improvement in highway infrastructure (64 per cent) and safe and secure parking/rest areas/facilities (43 per cent).

“There are essentially two trucking industries: One includes compliant, professional carriers who treat employees properly, pay fairly, train drivers to be safe and provide the tools and skills that set up drivers for long-term success,” Marco Beghetto, VP of Communications for the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said in a report published by the Ontario Trucking Association. 

“The other is Driver Inc., which very often preys on new Canadians or those new to the workforce who may not be aware of their labour rights or. Eventually, these unscrupulous tactics have an effect on the driver shortage by increasing turnover and driving people out of the industry.”

In 2022, Ottawa invested $26.3 million to target the “Driver Inc.” practice.

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