WINNIPEG, Man. — The province’s trucking industry is heading towards a “crisis in the very near future” as a result of the shortage of new people entering the industry, according to Norman Blagden, president of the Manitoba Trucking Association.
The Manitoba trucking industry is expected to be short about 1,000 drivers within seven years, Blagden stated in his president’s report, presented at the MTA’s Annual General Meeting.
Blagden said a number of factors, most notably lifestyle issues, is keeping young people from entering the industry as drivers. Some of these factors include the inability to predict pay from one week to the next and the guesswork involved in determining home time.
“Until changes are made, we will not be able to attract new drivers in the numbers we need,” Blagden said. “We cannot take the approach of waiting to figure it out when the time comes…We need to see the big picture and act now.”
A Conference Board of Canada study released last month forecasts the Canadian trucking industry could be short 25,000 to 33,000 drivers by 2020. It also pointed out that the average age of the truck driver has increased from 40 years in 1996 to over 44 years in 2006 (the last year for which Census information is available.). Over 20% of the driver population was over 54. Yet only 12% are under the age of 30.
Blagden noted the MTA has been very active over the past year in trying to address the driver shortage issue. One of its most significant undertakings has been trying to create a trucking industry sector council. The council’s goals would be increased industry investment in skills development to promote a quality workforce; a learning system that is informed of, and more responsive to, the needs of the industry; and enhanced ability for the industry in recruiting and retaining its workers.
MTA has also been working on having “commerial driver” recognized as a designated occupation in Manitoba. An application has been sent to Apprencticeship Manitoba for review.
“The anticipated result of this is that, in order for an individual to be recognized as a professional driver, they will have to meet certain minimum training standards. The skills and expertise possessed by our driving population cannot be underestimated…Professional driver is a skilled trade and it is time that the skills and abilities of our commercial drivers are given the respect they deserve,” Blagden stated in his report.
The MTA has also focused on relationship building, reaching out to different sources of employees. Its Careers Committee has presented to a variety of organizations, including employment agencies, the military and secondary and post secondary institutions.
The MTA is also working on an “English at Work” program, which is designed to improve the English language skills of the province’s drivers.
“This program will not only improve the quality of life of those in the program but it will also improve the overall safety of our industry,” Blagden commented.
One positive development Blagden pointed to was the upswing in enrolment in the Professional Truck Driver Training Program, sponsored by Manitoba Public Insurance. In 2012, almost 100 new participants joined the apprenticeship-like program for professional drivers, which provides training in an accredited driver training school as well as on-the-job experience.
MTA’s emphasis on the driver shortage seems to have caught the ear of Ottawa. Steven Fletcher, minister of state for transport, who spoke at MTA’s Annual General Meeting, encouraged motor carrier executives to continue the dialogue on the driver shortage.
“If not addressed it could put a break not only on your industry but also on the entire eonomy,” Fletcher said, pointing out that about 90% of all consumer goods move by truck.
The transportation and warehousing industry employs 5.7% of Manitoba’s labour force, and makes up 6 to 7% of the provincial GDP