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 CTA study predicts driver shortage to be worse than previously thought

A new study by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) reveals that the driver shortage in the Canadian for-hire trucking industry is escalating quicker than previously believed.

Updating the CTA’s 2011 report, which predicted a 33,000 shortfall by 2020, the new study — ‘Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap’ — says there will be a shortage of 34,000 drivers by 2024, reflecting an increase in demand of 25,000 and a decrease in supply of 9,000.

The study adds that the shortage could rise to 48,000 due to what it called ‘plausible combinations of different trends that could affect industry demand, labor productivity and occupational attractiveness.’

Driver demand is expected to increase most in Ontario, followed by British Columbia, with the greatest gap between demand and supply in Ontario and Quebec.

CTA president and CEO David Bradley said the study should be a wake-up call and reminder to everyone — carriers, shippers and governments — that while the current lackluster economic activity may be taking some of the edge off the driver shortage in the immediate-term, the underlying trend points to a long-term chronic shortage of truck drivers.

“When you consider that almost everything that people consume on a daily basis, or that serve as inputs into the production process, is shipped by truck, the economic implications of a driver shortage are potentially immerse.”

The study also points out what it called a ‘demographic cliff,’ with nearly 169,000 drivers employed in the for-hire sector in 2014 and the average age continuing to increase more rapidly than the Canadian labor force in general.

By 2024, the study predicts the average truck driver age to be over 49, up from 47 in 2014 and 44 in 2006. Approximately 17,000 drivers are between the age of 60 and 65.

“As the ratio of younger to older workers continues to increase for the labor force as a whole, it is clear that the trucking industry will have to reverse this trend, and fast“, said the study’s authors.

Between 2006 and 2011, drivers between the age of 25 and 34 dropped from 18 percent to below 15 percent, while those between 55 and 64 increased from 17 percent to 22 percent. Immigrants make up 20 percent of truck drivers, also smaller than the Canadian workforce as a whole.

Men continue to make up the vast proportion of drivers at 97 percent, compared to 52 percent of all employees in Canada.

“The trucking industry and the companies that make up the trucking industry are not the only stakeholders that have an interest in maintaining the sustainability of the long-haul trucking model,” the study said. “The industry’s customers (shippers) and their customers’ customers (the general public) will also be directly affected, negatively or positively by the trucking industry’s ability to rise to the challenge.”

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