With the estimated shortage of truck drivers across Canada reaching as high as 22,000 vacant positions, things could take a turn for the worse as there’s difficulty recruiting enough young people and women to replace aging truck drivers in the country who are bound for retirement.
According to the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), vacancies on professional truck driving positions in Canada are foreseen to balloon to 34,000 by 2024.
Jon Blackham, OTA’s director of policy and public affairs, said in a recent CBC report that this recruitment shortage has been described as a “demographic tsunami.”
Recruitment hurdles for Canada’s new breed of truck drivers
Nowadays, there are not a lot of young people who are willing to take up the trade. There is a glaring lack of realization of trucking’s lucrative side, where it not only offers salaries ranging from $44,000 to 110,000, but also provides an opportunity to travel to and explore different areas in North America while getting paid.
There are various reasons why it’s becoming more and more difficult to lure young people into the trucking industry, including extended training programs, where students have to go through a truck driving course for about eight weeks. Many of them are unwilling or cannot afford to sign up for the program or take time off in order to earn a license.
Age restrictions in the United States also figure into the dire situation, where the minimum US age requirements for drivers to move freight across the country is 21 years old. While this is the required age mandated by law, some shippers want to be sure and have their drivers of at least age 23.
In Canada, however, truck drivers only have to be 18 to start driving. Since they still need to wait for three years to be able to haul their cargo into the US, many of them have explored other careers and stuck with them.
Rays of hope: Quality professional training
Cost also often comes into the equation, serving as a common barrier for young people who want to enter the trucking industry. Sam Clark, who built and grew leading B.C. driving school Taylor Pro College along with her husband Dean, noted that tuition could indeed be a deterrent.
For many young people who only earn minimum wage, the average tuition could be restrictive, said Sam.
However, there’s a glint of hope in quality driving instruction in various provinces of Canada, and the current and projected recruitment woes could find an ally in professionalizing driver training.
The continuing need for skilled, compliant truck drivers, she said, fuels Taylor Pro’s mission of providing a full range of driver training programs alongside courses in heavy equipment operations, trades development, and even in-demand academic programs in the areas of hospitality and social work.
“This is why we invest in retaining ICBC-certified instructors, constantly upgrade our facilities in our driver training centers, and make sure to deploy only the most competent and ready drivers and operators out into the real world,” Ms. Clark said.
With trucking also no longer a man’s world, recruiting more women drivers also emerges as a long-term solution for these recruitment problems. In recent years, women truck drivers have only made up 3% of Canada’s truck driver population. However, with OTA’s networking events focused on recruiting more women, the current figures have increased to around 5% to 7%.
Better driving instruction and more female drivers – these are just the tip of the iceberg. We can come up with more sensible solutions to the skills and recruitment gap in the trucking sector if we take more prospective drivers into the fold and give them the tools and opportunities they need to be the professionals we need, added Ms. Clark.