The number of truck drivers is on the decline and that is causing a drag on the economy. This comes from the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap report, which states that Canada could experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020.
“As the ratio of younger to older workers continues to increase for the labour force as a whole (towards older drivers), it is clear that the trucking industry will have to reverse this trend, and fast,” read the report.
At Newcom’s annual Surface Transportation Summit, Canadian Trucking Alliance president Stephen Laskowski told attendees that the situation is expected to intensify as the trucking industry comes to terms with “massive” retirement numbers over the next five to six years.
In Canada, more than 50% of truck drivers are between the age of 44 and 65 with the median age falling between 44 to 54, according to the report citing the inability to attract younger drivers.
The Conference Board of Canada is cited in the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap report as claiming the for-hire trucking industry GDP is expected to grow from $19.2 billion in 2014 to $24.1 billion in 2024, for a compound annual growth rate of 2.2%. Taking into consideration expected labour productivity growth, this industry growth implies the need for 25,000 additional truck drivers by 2024.
In the United States, the average driver age is between 52 and 57 years old. The Canadian Trucking Alliance claims only 20% of drivers today are under 35.
Frontier driver manager John McNeil said the industry is aging out, but there is a rise in drivers under the age of 35. He acknowledged that the type of driver has changed from the gruff stereotypical driver one sees in movies to a more sophisticated and refined driver.
What lures people to truck driving is a high pay scale ranging from $50,000 to more than $350,000 a year. McNeil warned that with a higher salary comes certain sacrifices, such as time with family.
“In the trucking industry you have to go long-haul and that means being away from home five to six times a week, at least. The top paid drivers will go away for a month,” he said.
Another turn in the industry, and a possible growth in employment numbers, is the emergence of female drivers. McNeil said wives and girlfriends are also accompanying male drivers where the two will trade off driving. He even mentioned whole families getting into the industry.
“It’s definitely a family oriented (industry) nowadays.”