“If I had a dollar for every time I heard the term, ‘truck driver shortage,’ I wouldn’t be here today.”
Those are the words of Kristen Monaco, associate commissioner at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, speaking to a conference of fleet managers and business analysts last month. She’s extensively researched the labor market for truck drivers, and challenges claims that a shortage exists. Just pay people more, she asserts, and you’ll have more applicants than you can handle.
Personally, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the term ‘driver shortage,’ I’d be on a beach somewhere, too. I’d be living even larger if I had a dollar for every overly-broad statement or sensational narrative I’ve heard about this topic.
Things like, “If fleets only increased wages…” or, “There are a million people in Canada with a Class AZ/1 licence, shame on the industry for not being able to attract them.”
Finding qualified people to drive trucks is a complex issue, and clearly we need more information before we can reach any conclusions. Let’s first address some of the common points:
Because of the sheer number of truck drivers, and the varying nature of their work, it’s hard to capture accurate and timely wage data.
We’ve done several recent studies into the issue. Our Labor Market Intelligence (LMI) research shows an upward surge in driver compensation. Our youth research says that millennials considering a career in trucking think they can make a good salary. And our Top Fleet Employers survey says one of the keys to reducing driver turnover is a clearly communicated pay package.
All of this research tells us that competitive wages are important, but so is ensuring that drivers understand their compensation. Additionally, our most recent youth research, Millennials Have Drive 2 shows that younger workers value work-life balance, respect for the job, and training as well as wages and benefits.
Possession of a licence
The vast number of Class AZ/1 license holders in Canada is often used to indicate a large pool of potential truck drivers.
But there are many jobs that require an AZ/1 licence, from utility workers, construction workers, and more. This statistic is not an accurate reflection of the number of people who are attracted to the type of work and lifestyle that truck driving entails.
Our interim labor market information, compiled with input from the Conference Board of Canada, tells us the industry’s job prospects are better than ever. The trucking industry employs 318,000 drivers and has the highest job-vacancy rate among all Canadian industries, averaging 6.6% in 2018 with some 22,000 vacant positions. That’s more than double the national average.
The face of the Canadian driver is older. Only 28% of truck drivers are younger than 40, compared to 45% of the entire Canadian labor force, and 32% of truck drivers are 55 years or older. Nearly 7% of truck drivers are older than 65, compared to 4% of all Canadians of that age that are working.
The high vacancy rate, combined with employment growth, low unemployment, and an upward surge in wages, provide compelling economic evidence of a labor shortage.
Additionally, with 6.6% of our transport truck drivers being 65 or older, that is another 20,000 or so truck drivers that could potentially retire and leave the industry (this is on top of the current 22,000 vacant positions).
It’s clear that there are numerous job opportunities available. And the fact remains that competition for workers among all industries is intensifying.
What we need are solutions, and positive messages that speak to the economic opportunities the industry offers. And we need government officials to be working with us, not against us.