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.