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 Canadian Trucking Alliance, which commissioned the study titled Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap and Implications for the Canadian Economy, says the findings reflect what the industry has been warning for years – that Canada is on the cusp of a serious shortage of truck driver capacity, which, considering all goods produced are delivered in part by truck, could hamper the Canadian supply chain and drive up prices on store shelves.

“The report quantifies the magnitude of the emerging gap between the supply and demand for professional truck drivers – a looming shortage which could be 14-per cent or more of the entire truck driver population in Canada,” said CTA president and Chief Executive Officer, David Bradley. “It’s understandable that the challenges of the trucking industry aren’t always top of mind in media circles and among decision makers. However, with $17 billion in GDP directly tied to the for-hire trucking industry and the indirect impact being far greater, there’s little question a driver shortage of this size is a threat to the health and competiveness of the Canadian economy and this issue is something we as a nation should start thinking about.”

“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 per cent of all consumer products and food within Canada and 60 per cent of trade with the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner. It alone accounts for 33 per cent of real gross domestic product (GDP) 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 per cent of the Canadian labour 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 in 1996 to 44 years in 2006, an average that surpasses that of many comparable occupations.

  • The age of the average truck driver is now higher than the age of the average worker in Canada. 
  • The expected gap between the supply and demand of drivers is 25,000 by 2020, but it could exceed 33,000.
  • A change in policy to recognize the truck driving occupation as a skilled trade could attract more domestic and immigrant entrants into the industry.