Tens of thousands of truck drivers are approaching retirement age, but very few young people and immigrants are entering the industry. A new Conference Board of Canada report concludes that the gap between the supply of drivers and the demand for them - estimated at 25,000 by 2020 - could be costly to the Canadian economy.
"The food we eat, the goods that we enjoy and even the homes we live in are in large part delivered by trucks. The inability to meet a huge demand for drivers could be costly for the trucking industry, consumer goods and the Canadian economy," said Vijay Gill, principal research associate.
The trucking industry moves 90% of all consumer products and food within Canada and 60% of trade with the United States, Canada's largest trading partner. It alone accounts for 33% of real gross domestic product in the transportation sector.
Most of the demand for truck transport services is tied to the manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade industries. Demand for goods and services from retail industries is expected to grow significantly by 2020. The trucking industry's real GDP is expected to increase from $17 billion to $21.4 billion from 2011.
While truck drivers make up nearly 1.5% of the Canadian labor force—approximately 300,000 truck drivers overall—it struggles to attract drivers to the for-hire industry.
The for-hire industry is comprised of companies that provide truck transportation services to other companies. Drivers in the for-hire industry are often required to work long hours, over long distances, and with unpredictable schedules.
Participation of young people, ages 15 to 24, has dropped off significantly in the past decade. As a result, the average truck driver's average age has increased from 40 years old in 1996 to 44 in 2006, an average that surpasses that of many comparable occupations.
This report, Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap and Implications for the Canadian Economy, was funded by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation of provincial trucking associations.