The truck driver shortage has been 1 of the top issues the transportation industry has been dealing with for many years. The number of drivers required keeps getting larger and there is no immediate fix to the shortage the trucking industry is facing.
We wrote about the driver shortage in 2015 but we thought it was important to evaluate what the shortage looks like going into 2016, what has caused the shortage, and what exactly companies are proposing to bring new drivers to the industry.
The Driver Shortage
By 2020 Canada is expected to need 30,000 truck drivers. There are a few reasons for this increase: driver turnover is currently estimated to be around 90%, experienced drivers are looking to retire/leave the industry, and shipping demands are on the rise due to increased pressures from e-commerce and consumer demand.
These problems would not be as much of an issue in an industry that was able to sustain itself but the trucking industry does not have enough workers to account for the rising demand and to replace the drivers that are leaving.
There are many new drivers looking to enter the industry. Training classes are full of people looking to find trucking jobs but they aren’t able to find driving work once they finish their course because they do not have experience driving. Companies are looking for experienced drivers to fill their vacant positions but since those drivers aren’t there, those positions remain empty.
Additionally, freight shipping costs are much lower than they have been in the past 20-30 years. Conversely, trucking costs and the cost of living have risen resulting in a lower profit margin for companies, meaning they cannot pay their drivers as much money as they should be making. This is leading to experienced drivers leaving the industry, a high driver turnover, and a lack of new talent since they are dissuaded by the truck driver salary.
All of these reasons for the shortage have culminated in an industry that is unable to find new blood and is drowning under the increased industry demands and rising demand for experienced workers.
Combating the Driver Shortage
Companies are working to fight this shortage in a variety of ways and find drivers that can fill the open positions. With help from the government they hope to be able to lower the number of required drivers and bring a new generation of drivers into the industry. These are a few of the initiatives companies are investing in to lessen the driver shortage:
Companies have directed their attention to women in hopes of attracting the gender that makes up over 50% of the workforce to the trucking industry. The Canadian Government has developed an initiative to implement training and mentoring in hopes of helping women enter into the trucking industry.
Entry Level Driver Training
Currently 50% of truck drivers are without formal training. Mandatory entry level driver training would help work toward establishing the trucking industry as a skilled trade. If there was a set amount of schooling you must complete before entering into the industry this could help to create a cohesive understanding of what is needed to be a driver and could help to establish the industry as a credible career choice for younger people.
Having the trucking industry acknowledged as a skilled trade would help to alleviate the pressures of the driver shortage. If the trucking industry was a skilled trade that would mean new drivers would have to take government regulated training courses and upon completion, be fit to enter into a truck driver job. Marketing the industry as a skilled trade may also help to change the perception of the trucking industry in the eyes of the younger generation and would works toward public perception/piece of mind since the public would be aware of the fact that the people driving large trucks on public roads are professionally trained and certified to do so.
Fighting Old Perception
The perception of the trucking industry used to be that it was older men with no post-secondary education looking for an easy job. This is not the perception that the industry would like the public to have. It is important for companies to explain the benefits of driving a truck and it’s important to recruit younger people into the industry. Trucking as a skilled trade with mandatory training is the best way to change old perceptions of the industry. Public perception may change if there is schooling that must be completed in order to find a job in the field. Appealing to young people and women is crucial in order to find new workers to fill the shortage and in order to do so, the public must see truck driving as a career for anyone.
Due to decreased shipping costs and increased trucking costs the average truck driver salary has stalled. This must change in order to find workers to fill the vacant jobs in the industry. Trucking is seen as a solitary job with a lot of time on the road alone and many people would rather find a job closer to family where they are able to be home at night for the same or more money. Wages must go up and the benefits of choosing trucking as a career much be driven home (pun intended) in order to recruit new drivers. It is important for companies to really sell their company, their trucks, and their work benefits to convince a generation of people looking to find a career. Wage increases (combined with the other changes listed above) can help to sell the industry to potential drivers.
The driver shortage is still very much an issue as we enter into 2016. Appealing to different demographics/generations, raising wages, and classifying trucking as a skilled trade with mandatory training will help to change public perception and find new drivers for the industry. Without implementing the changes above the shortage will continue to grow and it will be impossible to fill all of the open driver positions.