Labour shortages are exacerbating supply chain issues across the globe right now. But there’s one industry whose staffing woes threaten to cause even more stress to supply chains in Canada: trucking.

A study from Nanos Research for Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) finds industry executives fretting about a worker shortage they say is only getting worse — which has implications for supply chains and ultimately the economy. Though labour shortages are nothing new for the sector, things have deteriorated since the pandemic started, the Nanos report says. While the health crisis highlighted the importance of the industry to the economy, that hasn’t translated into more workers. In fact, carriers saw many drivers exit the industry amid complex COVID-19 regulations and fears around catching the virus before vaccinations were available.

The story of growing job vacancies is backed up by a recent report from Trucking HR Canada. The industry group says there were over 18,000 driver vacancies in the second quarter of 2021. They further estimate there will be 17,230 driver vacancies each year between 2021 and 2025. Meanwhile, carriers are seeing increasing demand for their services as the pandemic recedes.

“The trucking sector study suggests growing labour shortage concern which may impact supply chains,” Nik Nanos, chief data scientist of Nanos Research, said. So what’s causing the staffing problem? Executives blame an older workforce on the cusp of retirement, obstacles around training and stigma attached to the industry.

One executive told Nanos Research: “We’re struggling as much as ever now. There is no one interested in trying [trucking] as a new career and no young people have applied to our new training program.”

Still, many executives believe steps can be taken to make the industry more attractive to potential workers. One way to do that is to designate trucking as a skilled trade, they say, which might help change how people view the sector. They also recommend changes to government regulations around insurance. Current rules specify that drivers must be 25 or older, with at least three years of experience, before they can be insured. Senior executives complain that’s pushing young workers away. Costly training programs are another barrier, they say, and suggest government subsidies to help make them more accessible.

Executives also say tapping into immigration is another way to bring in new talent. Trucking employers surveyed by Trucking HR Canada point to a temporary foreign worker program underway in the U.K. that is helping that country fill driver positions as something Canada can emulate.

Meanwhile, CTA says it will be launching a public relations campaign later in November aimed at changing the way people view the industry, which it hopes will attract new workers to the field.

In the meantime, carriers say the industry shouldn’t lose sight of the critical role they play in the supply chain. “We are the backbone of the economy for the country,” one executive told Nanos Research. “There’s a saying: If you got it, the truck brought it. I am proud to be a part of an industry with such heart.”

Source: Financial Post