Understanding Canada’s Truck Driver Shortage

By: Angela Splinter


Is there a shortage of truck drivers in Canada? This question often sparks a heated debate—and more questions.

Is the labour market so tight right now that there are too few people to drive trucks? Are employers not doing enough to make the job attractive? With all the driver training, licensing, and safety requirements, is the bar too high for anyone to qualify?


They’re good questions, but whether there is a driver shortage isn’t a matter of opinion. The data provides the answer.


Trucking HR Canada’s Labour Market Information (LMI) provides ongoing actionable intelligence pertaining to the supply and demand of labour. Our own economist conducts regular analysis of Statistics Canada data, labour force data, our own surveys, and more, ensuring an accurate assessment of our industry’s needs.

Here is what we know:


  • There are nearly 20,000 vacant truck driver positions in Canada.
  • 61% of employers report they can’t find all the drivers they need.
  • 7.4% of all truck driver jobs are unfilled compared to 3.3% in other non-driver jobs.
  • The unemployment rate among truck drivers is much lower than the rest of the workforce. (6.2% for truck drivers as compared to 9.8% for the rest of the workforce). However, if every currently unemployed truck driver were hired into a vacant position, there would still be more than 11,000 unfilled jobs.


All economic indicators show a shortage of drivers. What there is no shortage of, however, are opinions and offers of quick fixes stemming from high-level politicians (who do not necessarily understand our industry dynamics) all the way to drivers themselves.


This is an ongoing, complex issue.

Truck fleets are having to adjust to freight conditions that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. With e-commerce, the number of regional and local driving jobs is exploding, creating opportunities for drivers to work closer to home. Long-haul driving jobs today have a much higher vacancy rate than short-haul—9.4% compared to 5.9%.

Regulations play a role. The required use of ELDs and speed limiters means that some fleets have to add capacity in order to cover the same number of miles and maintain their service levels.

Training is an issue. Every year, about 28,000 new (inexperienced) drivers enter the industry to replace drivers who retired or otherwise left their jobs. These new workers require entry-level and specialized training before they can even start to drive independently and be ready to take the place of those experienced drivers who are leaving. This is a challenge compounded by the  pandemic.

Of course, there are always experienced drivers who are looking for work but can’t find a job that works for them.

So yes, there’s a shortage of drivers. And changes in the economy and freight markets haven’t made things easier with the passage of time.


We clearly need better ways of matching up job seekers, both new and experienced, with available work. Up-to-date and accurate LMI data, like the kind provided in this article, can go a long way toward creating a common understanding of the imbalances between the supply and demand for workers.


Trucking HR Canada is committed to monitoring and providing access to these important indicators as we support the development of evidence-based solutions to our industry’s challenges.


I invite you to use the resources on our site to help manage the pressure you may be feeling as you look for drivers. If you have questions, please reach out to [email protected] to learn more.



Post COVID, Trucking Still Needs to Consider the Driver Shortage

Post COVID, Trucking Still Needs to Consider the Driver Shortage

By Angela Splinter

Before COVID-19 hit, the Canadian trucking and logistics sector was already experiencing an acute driver shortage.

It was literally the day before the World Health Organization designated coronavirus a global pandemic that Trucking HR Canada released The Road Ahead: Addressing the trucking and logistics industry labour shortages.

Our report sounds the alarm on many fronts: high driver job vacancies within the industry, low unemployment generally, and the need to reach young people and women in order to expand and diversify the driver pool. And government has to do a better job partnering with industry and investing in training and access to wage subsidies programs for young people.

Just when we thought our research was done, the effects of COVID-19 on employment meant we had more work to do.

In May of this year we did just that.

We again surveyed industry employers directly to get primary data on the labour market impacts of coronavirus and applied additional economic modeling.

This is important information. The economy is preparing to rebound, and the government says it will look to provide tailored solutions for employers.

Timely, accurate, and credible labour market intelligence is the key to reassessing the industry’s needs and finalizing recommendations for moving forward.

Let’s take a look at where we stand:

Employment Forecasts

For the first two quarters of 2020, employment in the trucking and logistics industry is expected to shrink by 10.4% for a loss of up to 72,000 jobs.

Long-haul and regional truck drivers are especially hard hit. All told, the number of drivers is expected to contract by 10.9%, which equates to 34,700 jobs or roughly one in two pandemic-related job losses in the industry.

The increasing shift toward online shopping means that delivery and courier drivers are expected to experience a slightly below-average decline in employment with an anticipated 7,500 job losses, mostly in retail and wholesale trade.

Cost of COVID-19

Employment in trucking and logistics is tied to economic activity.  And, the trucking industry expected to lose $3.2 billion in revenue this year. The latest forecast of truck driver employment is 296,600 in 2020, roughly 21,000 below our pre-COVID estimate of 317,600 for 2020.

The labour shortages the trucking and logistics sector was experiencing pre-COVID-19 should moderate in the near-term, however, as demand recovers, vacancies within the sector will return as early as 2022, especially among truck drivers.


While drivers remain in a slightly different position from the rest of the industry, the projections indicate that trucking and logistics employment will stabilize by the first quarter of 2022 while remaining at approximately 1% below pre-COVID-19 levels through 2023.

The truck driver occupation is projected to experience a relatively fast recovery. Demand for drivers is expected to stabilize by the fourth quarter of 2021 and attain or possibly exceed pre-pandemic labour market projections by 2023.

However, anticipated retirements and other labour losses by 2023 indicate that this demand is unlikely to be fully met over the next three years. This important and timely research has confirmed that COVID-19 has simply stalled the driver shortage and has not negated it.

The question is whether we’ll have the perennial driver recruitment and retention challenges, including an aging demographic and need to reach women and younger employees, over the next three years.

Essentially, we could be right back where we started. At a time when many fleets are working to get back to their business of supporting the flow of goods through Canada’s supply chain, those tailored solutions our government keeps talking about cannot come fast enough.

Survey Says: HR Managers Take Varied Approach to COVID-19

Survey Says: HR Managers Take Varied Approach to COVID-19

June 16, 2020 by Angela Splinter

Every employer across the country is feeling the impact of COVID-19 in its own unique way. But for HR professionals at truck fleets and logistics companies, they all have one challenge in common: making sure workers and especially truck drivers feel safe and secure in their jobs.

Trucking HR recently surveyed carriers, 3PLs, and freight brokers about the measures they have taken since the pandemic came to Canada and what they plan to do in the next three to six months. Let’s take a look:


Seventy-six percent of the employers we surveyed said they have laid off workers due to COVID-19, with 83% of those layoffs categorized as temporary. Layoffs of truck drivers were more prevalent in the short-haul segment and among employed drivers than contractors or owner-operators.

Dispatchers and mechanics were also affected, with 10% of employees laid off in each occupation.

Notably, employers that have already laid off workers said they are more likely to continue doing so over the next three to six months.

Employee-initiated departures

According to our survey, the most common reasons for leaves of absence and other types of employee-initiated departures were self-quarantine; the employee or a member of the household is at a high risk of contracting COVID-19; and family caregiving. Each reason was evenly cited among employers.

The combination of layoffs and employee-initiated departures reduced total truck driver employment across our sample by 11.4%.

Of particular concern to HR professionals is whether these employees have left temporarily or if we have lost them for good.

Reduced compensation

Not surprisingly, many employers have cut worker pay due to declining revenue. Roughly one in four employers in our survey have frozen salaries or wages for truck drivers. This measure was more common among companies transporting non-essential goods (31%) than those transporting essential items (15%).

Pay increases have been rare—13% of survey respondents said they are paying workers a premium due to COVID-19. Others are offering non-monetary rewards including flextime, child-care, and time off.

Another 15% of employers said they have provided truck drivers with monetary rewards such as gift cards.

Improving the image

The million-dollar question for our industry is this: has COVID-19 changed the stigma around working in the trucking and logistics sector?

The views are mixed.

On one hand, employers are divided about whether COVID-19 has made the job of truck driving more or less appealing.

While 35% of employers expect truck driving to be more attractive to prospective employees relative to pre-COVID, 23% believe the job will be less attractive, citing the attention brought to dismal working conditions and wages.

On the other hand, 29% of employers believe that COVID-19 has made trucking and logistics somewhat or much more attractive to other types of prospective employees (excluding truck drivers). This compares to only 4% who believe the attractiveness of the sector has declined for these potential employees.

Challenges ahead

It is interesting to compare these finding to another Trucking HR Canada study done in partnership with Abacus data where 54% of Canadians overall had a positive impression of trucking companies.

The Abacus study also showed that 85% of Canadians think a strong trucking sector is necessary for the economy to be healthy.

Yet barriers remain.

Despite the recognition brought to truck drivers for their essential role in keeping supply chains moving, people are still not rushing to join the industry. Just 35% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 said they would consider a job in trucking and logistics.

And when we look at the huge government relief programs available, namely the Canadian emergency wage subsidy (CEWS), our survey of employers showed that among employers that have not applied for CEWS, the vast majority (85%) have not experienced the eligible revenue reduction to qualify for the subsidy.

At a time when trucking and logistics companies are working hard to survive, they are also essential to the survival of their customers. We cannot lose sight of the fact that our industry needs a level playing field when it comes to accessing government programs and initiatives for employees.

We have seen what supply chains look like when Canada is in the middle of a health crisis. We need a financially strong and resilient transportation industry so HR professionals can keep their truck drivers safe and prepared for the challenges ahead.


Understanding the Dispatcher

October 21, 2019 by By Craig Faucette

The trucking industry devotes a lot of attention to the recruitment and retention of drivers. This makes sense, as truck drivers represent more than 45% of the industry’s workers.

But other occupations in trucking and logistics deserve consideration, too.

Our report, “Labour Market Information: Interim Report September 2019,” profiles a wide range of job types, including technicians, material handlers, office administrators, human resources staff, and supervisors.

One of the most essential occupations is dispatchers, who make up about 2% of the workforce but play a substantial and unique role in the industry.

From the 2016 Census data, which is the most current data available from Statistics Canada, we know:

  • There are 16,730 dispatchers working in Canada’s trucking and logistics industry
  • Regionally, 12% of these dispatchers are in B.C.; 15% in Alberta; 7% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba; 39% in Ontario; 22% in Quebec; and 5% in Atlantic Canada
  • Women make up 39% of the dispatcher workforce
  • 19% of dispatchers are newcomers to Canada
  • 19% are visible minorities
  • 4% of dispatchers are Indigenous

As well, there is a strong cohort of millennials-31% of dispatchers are between the ages of 15 and 35. On the other end of the spectrum, 17% of dispatchers are over the age of 55.

Dispatchers tend to be educated. Nearly 42% of dispatchers have their high school diploma and an additional 34% have post-secondary education.

Put the Data to Work

Employers can apply this Census data to dispatcher recruitment and retention, shaping their policies and practices to better support their staff.

For example, with 17% of dispatchers over the age of 55, employers may want to pay closer attention to retirement rates among their workers, and potentially focus their recruitment efforts on replacing those retiring workers.

With 31% of dispatchers between the ages of 15 and 34, employers may want to place more attention on maternal/parental leave policies or flexible work arrangements in order to appeal to this important demographic.

Another issue to consider is how technology is affecting dispatchers and the requirements of the job.

Will new technology change the need for dispatchers, which could result in employment levels going up or down? Will it require job candidates with more training or education? We will continue to monitor the skill requirements and changes within the labour market as technology continues to affect how the industry works.

Help Us Complete the Picture

The available data provides a snapshot of who is currently working within the industry. It gives us a clear view of their demographic makeup, education levels, and where people are working.

But government surveys provide only part of the labour-market picture.

We are currently asking employers to complete a more focused, industry-specific survey that will help us fill in some of the blanks in the StatsCan data. We need as many employers as possible to complete it so we can ensure the information we report is as accurate and representative of the industry as possible.

Our survey will be open until the end of October and can be accessed here.

If you are an employer or work in HR for a truck fleet, we hope you can take time to complete this survey.

As we continue our labour market information project, we will be releasing more data as it becomes available, along with our final report in Spring 2020. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you remain on top of all of the updates.

LMI Interim Report

Millennials Have Drive 2

Millennials Have Drive

A Modern HR Approach Is Based on Sound Labour Market Information

May 14, 2019 by Angela Splinter

Modernizing your workforce starts with modernizing your HR approach.”

In today’s labour market, successful truck fleets and logistics companies know that staying abreast of the issues will help them stay ahead of the competition. Follow our “Modernizing Your HR Approach” blog series as we navigate emerging trends and share tips for finding, hiring, and retaining the talent you need.

Concerns about finding and retaining drivers is a constant theme in our conversations with fleet managers, to the point where carriers are parking trucks and turning away business.

We also know that the industry’s HR challenges run deeper than the driver pool. Trucking and logistics companies are telling us how difficult it can be to compete with other industries for IT workers, administrative personnel, and more.

Clearly, attracting and retaining all types of workers is a problem that we need to understand and solve.

We’re on it.

Trucking HR Canada is currently compiling labour market data that will put this industry’s hiring, training, and retention issues in perspective, help identify key challenges, and develop tools and mechanisms to effectively address them.

Initial findings reveal some important information about the driver shortage in Canada’s trucking industry. Here is what the data is telling us:

There are more drivers today – and more openings

The number of transport truck drivers employed in the Canadian economy has increased by almost 86,000 workers since 1996. That’s a whopping 37 percent gain, with more than 317,000 truckers employed in 2018.

However, trucking and logistics has one of the highest vacancy rates at 6.6%. We currently have more than 20,000 unfilled truck driver positions in Canada, more than double the number of vacant driver positions we had in 2016.

Unemployment among truck drivers is 34 percent lower than the average in the Canadian workforce. In fact, between 2016 and 2018, the unemployment rate for Canadian truck drivers decreased from 6.6 percent to 3.8 percent.

Demographic changes are a threat and an opportunity

When you consider that 60 percent of truck drivers in Canada are over the age of 45, and half of those workers will be eligible to retire in the next three to five years, it’s no wonder so many employers are unable find the experienced drivers they need to fill over 20,000 vacant positions.

Let’s not forgot about millennials. Less than 18 percent of truck drivers in Canada are from the millennial generation-people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s-compared to 34 percent in the overall workforce.

And by now we all should know these stats on women: according to Statistics Canada, 97% of truck drivers are male, yet women make up close to 50% of the workforce.

Troubling data to say the least.

We need better data

More troubling is that the federal government and other public sources often produce data that tell only part of the story.

For example, Statistics Canada uses outdated definitions for the training, skills, and experience required to work in the trucking industry today. The compensation data is too broadly captured for it to mean anything. And the data does little to help clarify what changes the industry can expect in the future.

Other details are missing, too.

For example, when Statistics Canada compiles data on job postings, it ignores important information like the demand for specialized skills or licenses, like transporting dangerous goods; the number of short-haul versus long-haul jobs; how many vacancies are in private fleets compared to for-hire; and the list goes on.

Talk to us. We’re listening

To put this industry’s hiring and retention concerns into proper perspective, we need to talk to fleets directly. We’re here to listen.

Trucking HR Canada, in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada, will be reaching out to you to find out more. We want to hear from employers directly. It may take some of your time, but it is this primary data, combined with the statistical data, that will help us all better understand our HR problems.

This, in turn, will enable us to better articulate our needs to government, career seekers, and educational institutions.

Stay tuned, and we hope to have industry participation in this important work.