A serious shortage of truckers is looming | wellandtribune.ca

THUNDER BAY — Never mind the truckers protest in Ottawa. How will everything from bananas to hockey pucks be delivered to stores next year, with such a massive shortage of commercial drivers just around the corner?

Industry officials met with federal officials this week to give them a dire warning: Canadian truckers could collectively be short of an unfathomable 55,000 drivers by the end of 2023.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the industry had already registered 23,000 vacancies at the end of last year.

Approximately 225,000 Canadians, mostly men, make their living driving trucks.

“Labour shortages in trucking warrant priority action by the (federal government) to secure the supply chain and improve Canada’s economic recovery,” alliance president Stephen Laskowski said in a statement. a statement.

The severe shortage is likely one of the reasons veteran drivers like Thunder Bay-area operator Ted Hanlon remain in high demand.

“A lot of guys have retired,” Hanlon, 69, said Friday.

Hanlon, who has driven big trucks for nearly 50 years, said he would work again this summer as long as he continued to feel physically good.

But Hanlon said his days of long commutes to the southern United States were over. Getting hired to haul lumber or gravel in the Thunder Bay area is a much better job, he said.

“You come home every night.”

Erb Transport, one of Ontario’s largest companies that maintains a terminal in Thunder Bay, says it was feeling the pinch even before the COVID-19 pandemic made labor shortages worse.

“The past two years have only made those gaps even more pronounced,” said Dave Dietrich, vice president of the business people and culture division, on Friday.

“But as an industry, we came together and worked to change the perception of (trucking),” Dietrich said. This was achieved, he said, “through better representation, highlighting roles outside of drivers (and) encouraging technological advances and innovation”.

Dietrich added, “The one positive thing the pandemic has done is create an appreciation for the trucking industry and, in particular, truck drivers.”

To attract more candidate drivers, the alliance says federal support is needed to amplify a recruiting campaign “to attract Canadians to our sector.”

Also needed, the alliance says, is a federally backed training fund, “which would be accessible only to trusted and known employers, and would seek to support both pre-licensing training and on-the-job training of commercial drivers”.

The government must also “streamline” immigration programs to allow temporary foreign workers to qualify as drivers, the alliance said.

In the short term, according to the alliance, communication needs to be improved between trucking companies and customers.

“Too often our existing drivers are severely delayed when loading (and) unloading,” he said. “Getting more efficiency out of our existing pool of drivers will help us meet our collective challenges.”

The underground economy is also a negative force, “misleading” drivers with “unscrupulous payment systems”, the alliance added.

In nearly half a century of working on the road, Hanlon said he’s seen a lot of change.

Speed-limiting devices on large trucks make it difficult to overtake safely, while traditional elements of courtesy between drivers appear to have eroded.

“You can’t pass properly so everyone is behind,” he said.

Finding applicants who are willing to undergo double vaxxing and who also have the potential to become qualified drivers is a difficult task, Hanlon believes.

The alliance says its “industry will continue to work towards increasing its vaccination rates (among truckers) which are currently representative of the Canadian population.”

He did, however, acknowledge that “vaccination mandates have reduced the availability of labor in all sectors, including trucking.”

Robert St. Amand retired from trucking 14 years ago. At 78, he keeps busy in his rural home near Thunder Bay, remembering the first days he came to this province from Quebec. Trucking offered a young man without a high level of school education the opportunity to earn a good living.

“I finally got my own truck and trailer, and I worked for a lot of people and got paid really well,” St. Amand said.

“It was a good life and it allowed me to feed my family,” he said. “If I was 20, I would do it again.”

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