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Driver shortage as Millennials shun trucking industry

Michelle Rowe-Jardine
Biz/Tech Reporter

Millennials just aren’t in it for the long-haul when it comes to the trucking industry.

The industry has been facing a shortage of employees for the past few years and one reason is younger people aren’t moving to fill in the empty spaces.

The Conference Board of Canada projected industry growth will require an additional 25,000 truckers by 2024, while another 9,000 are expected to be lost during this same time due retirements.

That creates an estimated shortage of 34,000 transport operators.

Humber College offers courses in both straight truck and tractor-trailer driving.

James Pattison, the manager of the Transportation Training Centre, said the age demographics vary per program.

“At least 25 per cent of students are at the age where they’re getting into the program as a second career,” he said.

Young people may not be getting into the industry simply because of their age since drivers under 25 are more difficult to insure.

“That is a challenge in the industry, there’s a gap between 18 to 25. Eighteen is when they get out of school and 25 is when companies are more receptive to bring them on due to insurance reasons,” Pattison said.

“So, that’s where a lot of people are lost. They fit into something else and they don’t get back to trucking,” he said.

A report called the Trucker Supply and Demand Cap from the Canadian Trucking Alliance also showed that in 2016, less than 15 per cent of truck drivers were in the 25 to 34 age range.

Long-haul trucking involves extended periods away from home and long hours and a sedentary lifestyle alone on the road. While long-haul drivers typically get paid better, Pattison said highway routes aren’t necessarily sought out.

“Highway work and being away is not the work-life balance that a lot of younger people want. They want to be home every night,” he said.

Highway drivers get paid per mile which used to mean they were paid more than those driving for hourly wages. Increased congestion across Canada, however, has led to jobs taking longer to complete with more working hours spent sitting in traffic.

Rob Jackson, an instructor for 19 years, said highway drivers “aren’t getting paid much” in slowdowns due to weather, construction or accidents, and hourly wages have also stagnanted.

Derrick Johnson, a 37-year industry veteran and instructor at Humber, said he used to make great money when he first started.

“Today…wages are still around $15, $20 an hour for a truck driver. No, we need $25, $30,” he said.

Pattison said one of the challenges in recruiting people to the industry is the stigma.

“Truck-driving isn’t always thought of as a prestigious job,” he said. “Commercial drivers have a big responsibility out there on the road and they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.”

But there’s no shortage of applicants for students at the Transportation Training Centre.

“It’s a lot busier now than it ever has been,” Jackson said. “We’re booking for January right now.”

Aman Preet, a 28-year-old student, said he needed a change from his daily routine as a security guard.

“It’s a good job opportunity,” he said.

The program also came highly recommended.

“My cousin is driving a truck, so he told me, ‘If you really want to drive a truck, go to Humber,’” he said in-between practice parking a tractor-trailer.

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