Todd Smith, minister of economic development, job creation and trade along with his parliamentary assistant MPP Donna Skelly, held talks in North Bay on Wednesday with a delegation from the Ontario Trucking Association and Manitoulin Transport, on driver shortage and other key issues affecting the sector in northern Ontario.
Their agenda focused on Ontario’s budget announcement that the trucking industry will now have access to the Ontario Immigration Nominee Program through the In-Demand Skills Stream to ease the problem of driver shortage.
The industry has repeatedly voiced concern about the problem, but the situation remains bleak. Recent studies have forecast that the industry would face a shortage of up to 34,000 drivers by 2024.
“The shortage is being felt in all parts of Ontario, but here in the north it may be even more acute,” said Gord Grant, president of Grant’s Transport.
“Sectors like mining, forestry, wood products and agri-foods rely on trucking services to move their freight. If our industry does not have professional drivers, these northern industries will face some significant challenges in getting product to market.”
Winter highway maintenance in northern Ontario, the Driver Inc. model and methods to improve supply chain efficiencies were also discussed at the meeting.