E-commerce sales have been steadily increasing for years, but they really exploded this year as COVID-19 forced businesses to close and people to stay at home. Even as the pandemic draws to an end, e-commerce sales show no signs of slowing down and experts are saying that many of these new consumer behaviours are permanent.
The trucking industry and the industries they support, including domestic and international supply chains, have been in dire need of more drivers since (long) before the pandemic began. The e-commerce boom incited by COVID has exacerbated the situation even further, with an estimated 20,000 vacant truck driver positions across Canada and 61% of fleets saying they can’t find enough drivers to meet demand.
Pent-up consumer demand following the lifting of COVID-related restrictions is expected to intensify pressure on an industry already stretched to its limits, further threatening the efficient transportation of goods across Canada. All these things considered, we can expect to see a number of new trucking industry trends in 2021.
Driver Pay Rises
In an industry where labour shortages have always been an issue, COVID-19 has further exacerbated « la pénurie de main-d’œuvre ». In an effort to reward drivers for their extremely hard work, as well as to attract new drivers to the trucking industry, many carriers have already boosted the average truck driver salary in Canada.
Maverick Transportation, for example, recently announced an “industry-leading package” that will increase the pay of flatbed and glass over-the-road drivers by 3 to 4 cents/mile, bringing starting pay up to around 80,000 USD/year (≈97,000 CAD/year). And that number is likely to go up, according to Canadian trucking news.
Vice president of trucking research at FTR Transportation Intelligence, Avery Vise, asserts that driver retention will be one of the industry’s key priorities in the years to come. “A lot of drivers moved on to other vocations [during the pandemic],” he told Transport Topics. “We still haven’t restored the pipeline of new drivers.”
With an increasingly limited supply of qualified truck drivers, companies continue to compete in the same pool — which brings us to the next trucking industry forecast for the year.
Women make up over 50% of the population in Canada but only 3% of Canada’s roughly 300,000 truck drivers —making it one of the largest under-tapped labour markets in the Canadian trucking industry.
As labour capacity continues to tighten, carriers will continue to recruit ever-greater numbers of female drivers. Attracting more women into the trucking and logistics industry “remains an important business issue”, according to Angela Splinter, CEO at Trucking HR Canada (THRC).
“We are an essential sector that is hiring,” explained Splinter. “Our continued growth as an essential sector will depend on our ability to better recruit and retain women.”
To that end, THRC has launched a new women’s resource library for employers and employees in the Canadian trucking industry. This includes links to training programs, business networks, and associations for women in trucking, as well as links to mentorship programs and information.
This means that in addition to good wages and benefits, women truck drivers will be able to take advantage of professional development opportunities, leadership programs, and mentorship that will help them to advance in a promising new career.
Welcoming Newcomers to the Trucking Industry
Another change already underway in the Canadian trucking industry is bolstering the driver pool with temporary foreign workers and recent immigrants.
In order to meet labour shortages across industries, the Government of Canada has even recently expanded the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to create a faster, simpler pathway to permanent residence for essential workers, including truck drivers. This new pathway is expected to assist fleets that are already using the program but is (at present) limited to temporary foreign workers already in Canada.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation of provincial trucking associations representing carriers, owner-operators, and suppliers, has announced its support of the new policy change, calling it “an excellent first step” to addressing the need for more drivers and hopes that it will be further expanded to include temporary foreign workers (and future truck drivers) not yet in Canada.
“These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better,” said Marco E.L. Mendocino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. “Our message to them is simple: your status may be temporary but your contributions are lasting—and we want you to stay.”
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