As Truck driver Shortage Spreads North, Canadians Prepare With Possible Solutions

by Jana Ritter - Published: 3/01/2013

While the US truck driver shortage has already hit many states hard, Canada is expecting to experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020. According to a study released by the Conference Board of Canada, “tens of thousands” of current drivers are approaching retirement age and there are “a very small number of young drivers taking their place.” Very similar to the US problem, the Canadian study predicts the shortage will not only affect the trucking industry, but the Canadian economy and ultimately consumers as well.


The Canadian Trucking Alliance said the findings reflect what the industry has been warning for years - that Canada is on the cusp of a serious shortage of truck driver capacity, which, considering all goods produced are delivered in part by truck, could hamper the Canadian supply chain and drive up prices on store shelves. David Bradley, CTA president and CEO said, “It's understandable that the challenges of the trucking industry aren't always top of mind in media circles and among decision makers. However, with $17 billion in GDP directly tied to the for-hire trucking industry and the indirect impact being far greater, there's little question a driver shortage of this size is a threat to the health and competiveness of the Canadian economy and this issue is something we as a nation should start thinking about.”

The study also considered other factors such as the US's more stringent hours-of-service rules and other regulatory challenges further shrinking the truck driver population and causing “productivity gains in the future to be muted.” The study also made point of the fact that “we generally take the benefits of freight transportation for granted, in part because the system typically works well-at least in terms of making a variety of products available to consumers in a timely fashion. However, disruptions in freight transportation systems can have a rapid impact, reminding consumers of the value of these services.”

The Canadian Conference Board concluded by proposing a number of factors that could help bridge the supply and demand gap for truck drivers. These include: a significant improvement in industry working conditions and wages; mandatory entry level driver training and upgraded license standards to achieve a skilled occupation designation; a reorganization of trucking activity and supply chains in order to reduce pressures on long-haul drivers and make better use of their time.

These echo the recommendations made by the CTA's Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) last year. The report outlined core values that, if implemented by carriers, could help boost the level of professionalism in the industry. The BRTF whitepaper said truck driving needed to become recognized as a skilled occupation and called for mandatory entry-level driver training and ongoing skills upgrading; paying drivers for all the work they do and making compensation packages more transparent, among other solutions.

Solutions that perhaps the US Trucking industry may want to consider as well.