How to Handle Driver Shortage

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In recent years, Canada’s trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers. A study conducted by the Canadian Trucking Alliance projected Canada’s trucking industry will face a shortage of 34,000 drivers by 2024. There are a number of contributing factors to such a trend, which we’ll take a closer look at here, as well as some optimistic ideas to encourage a turnaround.

Why is the shortage occurring?

The extensive training and vast experience required, has long been a deterrent for young drivers breaking into the industry. Certification can be timely and expensive, and with little financial assistance from government supported programs, many young people can’t afford to obtain their specialized licenses.

Furthermore, unless a driver has experience on the road, and hours logged, many carriers won’t consider him/her for the position- in large part for insurance purposes. Gaining experience can take time, and work can be unsteady at first, so this can also present a financial burden.

Another widely understood restraint to becoming a truck driver is the pay. While this job can be incredibly lucrative, it’s possible that drivers are working longer hours, to obtain the same pay as others. The Blue Ribbon Task Force concluded that in general, truck drivers actually may exceed the average annual wage for all workers, however, they seem to work significantly more hours to make that wage. In addition, truck drivers are not always compensated for all of their time on the job. Unlike some industries where there is more flexibility to work longer hours during periods of peak demand, truck driver hours are capped by the hours of service regulations.

There is also the constant debate regarding hourly pay vs. pay based on productivity (per load, percentage, etc.). As one can expect, there are pros and cons to both, and it seems the larger carriers vary on their preference as well.

The future can be an optimistic one!

So what’s the simple answer? Naturally, an increase in wages would attract people to the industry; as they say, “money talks”. While this seems the most logical, there are some other possibilities that could act as equal incentive for new drivers.

Let’s start with our youth. At present, there are few efforts to introduce the trucking industry at an early age.  Soon there will be many drivers retiring, and we need to encourage youth to consider the driving industry. A few possibilities could include targeting trade high schools, hosting presentations that inform about trade options as careers, and perhaps simply recognizing that University isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ career path.

How about Social Media? A vast majority of young adults are using these forms of social networking- Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, to name a few. Some of these services also have huge opportunities for advertising. And let’s face it, this is the way our youth today connects with the world, so it’s likely one of the easiest ways to get information on the trucking industry in front of them!

But how does one obtain training and licensing if they’ve got little to no financial assistance? Especially if they’re fresh out of high school or new to the country? Government involvement for the trucking industry is unfortunately limited. Unlike other college and university programs, our provincial government doesn’t offer extensive scholarships or bursaries for students wishing pursue a career as a truck driver. With a cost of up $10,000, this can be a major deterrent for young adults considering the trucking industry. With heavier involvement from our government, we can eliminate this obstacle and guide more people toward this career path.

So once you’ve determined how you will get funding to pay for training, where should you go? Currently there are several training centres that can certify new drivers.  But what if carriers themselves, could also consider investing in training programs? In house training would provide the skills necessary for a driver to become certified, and the carrier can rest assured knowing their driver was trained properly and according to their specific needs.  

Further to that, companies could also consider skill of the driver versus the commonly required experience. They could allow for road test assessments, that show a drivers ability, instead of solely relying on experience as criteria for hiring. This would give younger less experienced drivers an opportunity for work. Or, young workers could start off doing day shifts vs. long hauls to build up their resume. Perhaps start with DZ work, even if AZ licensed, to log hours on the road.

Now back to the money. As previously mentioned, increased wages will help encourage people to consider the industry. But how employees are paid is also a contributing factor. For example, drivers paid hourly, are better able to financially plan their every day lives. And if a carrier can guarantee close to 40 hours/week, this becomes an attractive position for most.  

On the other side is productivity-based payment. This can be calculated by km/mile, per load, as a percentage of revenue, etc. It’s meant to offer incentive to drivers that if they use their time wisely, they could earn extra money. There are however uncontrollable factors that can hinder this type of payment. Border wait times, traffic congestion, seasonality, etc. can all affect productivity. If a driver is stressed over these unavoidable circumstances, it can make for an unsafe work environment, especially when operating a large truck carrying valuable goods.  Conclusively, if a carrier can provide a predictable, attractive pay structure, in which the driver can enjoy a good quality of life, the drivers will come.

And maybe, all else aside, it’s as simple as that!

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