Trucking Industry Needs 20,000 New Drivers

The Canadian trucking sector is confronted with a pressing need for a minimum of 20,000 new drivers, creating a potential economic risk given the nation’s reliance on the trucking industry. A report from Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada highlights that the driver shortage reached a critical point during the pandemic due to a departure of some drivers coupled with increased demand. The impending retirement of a third of existing drivers could widen the labor gap to 30,000 if recruitment efforts are not enhanced. This shortage is not confined to specific regions, as provinces like Ontario require 6,100 drivers. The report identifies factors such as an aging workforce, demographic shifts, and driver compensation as contributors to the shortage.

Addressing Canada’s Trucking Industry Driver Shortage

According to Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada’s report, the Canadian trucking industry, a critical component of the country’s supply chain, is facing a severe driver shortage, with over 20,000 vacant driver positions and projections of 34,300 drivers exiting the industry in 2023. This shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has resulted in significant impacts on the national economy, leading to shipment delays, out-of-stock retail shelves, and increased consumer prices. Factors contributing to this situation include the aging driver demographic, with an average age increase from 44 to 49 years, and a notable underrepresentation of women, who constitute only 3% of drivers. Moreover, industry inefficiencies, such as empty miles and extended wait times at distribution centers, further strain the system.

Efforts to resolve the driver shortage are focused on attracting new talent and enhancing the efficiency of the current workforce. Initiatives include employing technological advancements and fostering cross-industry collaboration. However, a significant barrier remains in the public perception of trucking as a career, often overshadowed by the emphasis on university education. To counter this, the industry is exploring outreach at earlier education levels, with some carriers introducing driver training programs for young individuals, comparable to trade apprenticeships. These programs, aimed at high school students, offer a path to obtaining a Class I license and immediate employment upon completion. This approach is essential in changing the industry’s image and demonstrating the viable career opportunities in trucking.

Government intervention plays a pivotal role in reshaping the trucking industry’s future. Currently, governmental support is primarily directed towards college-level funding, with limited outreach to younger students. Expanding this support to include high school and even primary education levels through school clubs and career fairs could significantly enhance awareness and interest in trucking careers. Additionally, addressing regulatory age mismatches and considering flexibility in age requirements for certain trucking roles could open up the industry to younger entrants. Drawing inspiration from programs like the U.S.’s Safe Driver Apprenticeship Program, which lowers the eligible age for interstate truck driving, could prove beneficial for Canada in both improving the industry’s image and alleviating the driver shortage.


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Modernizing Compensation in Canada’s Trucking Industry

Trucking HR Canada’s research highlights a critical issue in the Canadian trucking industry: approximately one-third of current truck drivers are nearing retirement age, significantly impacting the industry’s average age. To combat this, attracting younger drivers has become a priority, with 33% of survey respondents acknowledging it as a key solution to the driver shortage. Millennials and Gen Z, who prioritize salary in their career choices, are particularly targeted for recruitment. However, the effectiveness of traditional incentives like signing bonuses is waning, as these have become commonplace and less appealing for long-term retention.

In response, companies are adopting more innovative and appealing compensation strategies. Smaller fleet companies, for instance, rely heavily on referrals, with some offering additional bonuses to employees who recommend candidates who stay for over a year. Large Canadian transportation carriers report a high referral rate, indicating that the industry is viewed as a reliable and stable employment sector. Re-engagement programs also play a significant role, with some companies successfully rehiring former employees. Beyond monetary incentives, fostering a supportive and family-like work environment is becoming increasingly important. For example, a Canadian food service producer focuses on creating a community for its team, including support for foreign employees in areas like language and housing, enhancing the overall employee experience.

The importance of work-life balance and comprehensive benefits in attracting and retaining drivers is also recognized. Companies are moving away from performance-based pay to models that ensure a stable income regardless of route delays, with added health and wellness benefits. This approach promotes long-term retention and addresses the demanding nature of trucking jobs. Some companies also offer flexible scheduling and bonuses for working outside preferred hours, mitigating the pressure on drivers. Additionally, initiatives like tuition and training reimbursement are lowering entry barriers for new drivers. Transparency in salary structures is another vital aspect, as it builds trust and clarity from the start of the employment relationship. These evolving strategies reflect a broader shift in the trucking industry, focusing not only on attracting young talent but also on creating a more sustainable and appealing career path.

Women in Trucking Industry

Addressing the gender gap in Canada’s trucking industry is becoming increasingly crucial, especially as the sector grapples with a significant driver shortage. Currently, women constitute only 3% of the trucking workforce in Canada, a stark contrast to the 8% in the U.S. The industry faces challenges in attracting female drivers, with concerns about work-life balance and safety being major deterrents. However, companies see potential growth, particularly in short-haul trucking, which offers more favorable work schedules for women. Support networks like Women in Trucking and Women Building Futures play a vital role in this endeavor, providing resources, networking opportunities, and professional development to nurture female talent.

Some companies are proactively working to increase female representation, engaging with female-focused driving schools, and implementing initiatives such as female-specific conferences, sponsored spokeswomen, female in-cab instructors, and personalized recruitment efforts. Larger fleets have been more successful in this regard, underscoring the effectiveness of targeted recruitment strategies. Additionally, the presence of women in management roles within companies has shown to encourage more female drivers to join. To further support this growth, companies are also focusing on enhancing safety measures and ensuring the availability of female-friendly facilities. This multifaceted approach is essential for not only bridging the gender gap but also ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce in Canada’s trucking industry.