Sizing up the labour market—and what to do next

Sizing up the labour market—and what to do next

February 18, 2020 by Angela Splinter

Labour shortages in trucking and logistics are an ongoing concern. Employers and employees across the country feel increasing pressure from longer recruiting processes, reduced productivity, and the fact that our pool simply continues to shrink.

To quantify the problem, Trucking HR Canada (THRC) launched a Labour Market Information Project in the summer of 2018. More recently, we partnered with The Conference Board of Canada on a comprehensive survey to more accurately assess the industry’s labour needs.

This work is important for businesses in trucking and logistics. But it’s also clear that understanding the industry’s labour needs affects all Canadians.

In 2019, the trucking and logistics sector employed 3.6% of Canada’s workforce, or just over 650,000 workers. And, while 45% of these employees are truck drivers, we also employ close to 90,000 people in shipping and receiving, close to 88,000 delivery and courier service drivers, and just over 36,000 material handlers at warehouses and distribution centers.

The size of our impact

Transportation is one of 10 critical sectors on which Canada’s economy and national security depends, as identified by Public Safety Canada’s “National Cross Sector Forum 2018-2020 Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure.”

Trucking and logistics companies connect consumers, businesses, and international markets that are vital to our economy. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the sector carries an estimated $550 billion worth of goods purchased by Canadians and more than $300 billion worth of Canadian goods destined to export markets (this does not even include wheat and crude oil).

And we support the nine other critical infrastructure sectors: energy and utilities, information and communication technology, finance, health, food, water, safety, government, and manufacturing. These pillars of our economy depend on a healthy trucking and logistics industry.

The size of our workforce

In 2019, the trucking and logistics sector employed 3.6% of Canada’s workforce, or just over 650,000 workers. And, while 45% of these employees are truck drivers, we also employ close to 90,000 people in shipping and receiving, close to 88,000 delivery and courier service drivers, and just over 36,000 material handlers at warehouses and distribution centers.

And let’s not forget the many others who keep operations going: an estimated 40,000 managers, supervisors, and administrative staff, and 9,000 accounting personnel.

The size of our problem

According to Statistics Canada’s Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, the truck transportation industry experienced an average job vacancy rate of 6.8% in 2019. This is the second-highest vacancy rate among Canadian industries after crop production, and more than double the national average of 3.3%.

Put differently, we’re unable to fill roughly one out of 15 open positions, most of them truck drivers. In fact, the total number of truck driver vacancies in Canada has increased from an annual average of 8,600 in 2016 to 20,500 in the first three quarters of last year.

Against this backdrop, it may come as little surprise that 61% of employers who responded to our survey reported difficulties filling truck driver positions within the past year.

One reason is demographics. According to the 2016 Census, 32% of truck drivers in Canada are 55 years or older compared to 21% of the entire Canadian labour force. More than 6% of our drivers are 65 and older. It is difficult to compete for younger workers.

Call to action

Our industry’s shortage of workers—and drivers in particular—affects individual businesses, Canada’s transportation infrastructure, and the overall economy.

We need to work quickly on solutions. As a first step, on March 11, we’re making sure everyone is aware of the severity of the situation.

We’re now finalizing our briefing report in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada and will release the results of our Labour Market Information Project at a press conference in Toronto on March 11 at Noon EST.

If you cannot make it to Toronto, please register to watch the event live via our web cast. We also encourage you to reach out to your provincial trucking association. Many will be joining via webcast in their offices.

Immediately following the press conference, we will hold a Workforce Knowledge Exchange—a discussion that will focus on identifying specific actions now that we have comprehensive data about our labour market.

Space is still available. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] to learn more.