Labour market shortages and trucking

Andy Adams

Oct 12, 2021

So much is happening right now that it hard to keep your perspective on today, let alone to plan effectively for tomorrow. This past week, Prime Minister Trudeau announced vaccine mandates for federal employees and other groups in Canada as well as new rules for travel. That is bound to have an impact although media reports say some 80% of Canadians are in favour of mandates and if it takes high vaccination levels to end COVID, let’s do it.

Some other things are ending, specifically some of the government COVID financial supports. I hope that doesn’t disadvantage too many Canadians, but some suggest those supports are causing labour shortages. Ending the supports may push some people back into the workforce. 

Last week I wrote about the global supply chain problems and I noted that part of the problem was a shortage of truck drivers to carry cargo from container ports like Los Angeles, into markets across North America. It’s worth mentioning that these issues are more acute in some other countries. Recently, the British government sent in the army to help deliver fuel to gas stations in the UK and Canada’s trucking industry is watching that crisis unfold with concern as we struggle with our own shortage of truck drivers. 

The CBC reported that labour shortages in Britain had strained supply chains and triggered chaotic scenes of panic-buying at the pumps. Since then, British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said the situation was stabilizing and that sending in the military was an “extra precaution,” after the shortages set off a chain reaction that affected everything from gasoline and food to medicine and milk.

The CBC story interviewed Marc Cadieux, the president of the Quebec Trucking Association who said that in Quebec alone, they need somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 truck drivers. In the second quarter of 2021, an average of 18,000 truck driver jobs needed filling in Canada, according to the latest report from Trucking HR Canada, an organization that focuses on addressing workforce issues and challenges in the trucking and logistics sector.

So, will more of the truckers return when the government supports end? Maybe not. The impact of COVID-19 can’t be underestimated but there are other underlying issues such as an aging workforce and poor working conditions in the trucking industry. 

While trucking companies are struggling to fill vacancies, they expect a looming wave of retirements will create a lot more openings in the near future.

The CBC story cited a 2019 report by Statistics Canada based on 2016 Census data that said, 31 per cent of male transport truck drivers were at least 55 years old, while just 22 per cent of the total employed population across all occupations was aged 55 and over. The job was also considered to be “among the top occupations for the most employer-reported vacancies in recent years.” 

Truckers are often expected to work very long hours, drive on weekends and holidays and they say that work-life balance is a concern in that industry. The longer the haul, the harder it is to recruit people employers say.

Truckers add that some companies insist on paying by mileage instead of by the hour and that can really cut into the driver’s income as they wait to cross the border, or to get through city traffic.

BDO Canada, a leading accounting and advisory services firm, is projecting there could be a shortage of up to 50,000 truckers in Canada within three years. Ottawa is somewhat more conservative in its estimate, projecting a shortage of 23,300 truckers to fill the available jobs over the decade ending in 2028.

Clearly, these logistics issues are not going away any time soon.

Turning to our own industry, will the end of the supports bring more job-seekers to the marine industry? I remember when all this started in the spring of 2020, marinas had a tough time filling seasonal as well as important positions.

For now, we recognize that today is the first day after the Thanksgiving weekend and many News Week readers will be facing a yard full of customer boats and the dauting task of hauling and winterizing them all in the next few weeks. Let’s hope you have the help you need.

We also hope that the summer of 2021 was a great one for you and your business. We look for better days ahead, but with eyes open to the continued exceptional environment that we are all working in.

Andy Adams – Editor

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