An analysis of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) by the Conference Board of Canada shows that the average age of a truck driver has continued to increase at a faster rate than the rest of the labour force and is even older than previously thought.
In its report on the driver shortage and economic implications released earlier this year, the Conference Board relied on the 2006 Census and Labour Force Survey to find the average driver age to be 44 years – four years higher than it was for the average worker and increasing more rapidly as well. The Conference Board characterized the situation the trucking industry finds itself in – a rapidly aging and relatively older workforce of drivers combined with few young entering the occupation – as a “demographic tsunami.” It estimated that the national shortage of truck drivers could reach 33,000 by 2020.
The more recent numbers from the NHS (which is voluntary and replaces the long census questionnaire) confirms this challenge confronting the industry and suggests the situation may be even more pronounced. Based on its review of the NHS data, the Conference Board now finds the average truck driver age is 46 years, compared to the average age for all workers in Canada of 41.5 years.
Most importantly, the Conference Board says the increase in the average driver age is due to a drop in the share of drivers between 20 and 29 years old. In 2006 11.6 per cent of truck drivers were in that age group but in 2011 this share declined to just 8.8 per cent of the driver population. Also of note is the fact that in 2006 the share of drivers in the 30 to 34 year range was 10 per cent, the same as it was for the total labour force. However, by 2011 8.5 per cent of drivers found themselves in this age group. For the total labour force there was a slight increase to 10.4 per cent.
On the other end of the spectrum the share of the driver population in the age group 55 years and older has increased from 20 per cent to 26 per cent. Furthermore, the NHS data indicate that 4.4 per cent of drivers are 65 and over (compared to 3 per cent in 2006) while for the total labour force the share of this age cohort increased from 2.6 per cent to 3.5 per cent. According to the Conference Board, this confirms that in the trucking industry more than in others a primary source of “new” labour is delayed retirements – which it says is “nothing more than a bandage solution.”
The Conference Board was also able to examine the variation in the driver age by province. The NHS data indicate drivers are slightly “younger” in Alberta, where the average age is 44.9 years (in part reflecting the generally younger labour force in Alberta (40.6 years relative to the national average of 41.5 years)). On the other hand, the average driver age is over 47 years in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba (although in provinces where the driver population is particularly small some caution should be taken when interpreting the results).
The data also show that truck driver remains the second most common occupation among men in Canada after retail sales person. Unsurprisingly, Ontario continues to be home to the largest number of drivers, with over 92,000. Quebec, Alberta and B.C. follow with 57,000 39,000 and 32,000 respectively.
The Conference Board concludes “it will ultimately be up to the industry to address this ongoing challenge and to make the occupation more attractive to younger drivers. But as we also put forth (in its earlier report), it will also be important to convince customers of the need to address this challenge now and to work with them to develop strategies that will make best use of drivers’ time, as the trucking industry has a long track record of sharing its productivity benefits with customers through lower prices.”