The Driver Shortage – Reality or Myth?

By: G. Ray Gompf, CD

According to experts, there has been a driver shortage for as long as I can remember, which dates back to the end of World War II. But in all my years, I’ve never seen a preponderance of freight going unmoved. The store shelves are full and have always been full. That’s not indicative of a chronic labour shortage.


The number of qualified truck drivers with the skilled credentials to drive trucks is certainly more than is required to fill and drive the 350,000 odd trucks that move the freight for those requiring their goods moved to markets.


Is there an issue with those trucking companies who can’t get drivers to fill their empty seats, those companies should look inward at their own reasons for that failure?


Drivers are highly skilled tradespeople who have the skills to demand to be paid fairly for the time and efforts they commit to this service industry. Not all trucking companies treat their drivers as key cogs in their profit wheel. The driver is the face of their company, yet for the most part, drivers are never trained in customer service as it relates to the specific company they may be meeting customers.


Drivers also tend to be paid for productivity as in “if the wheels ain’t turnin’ there ain’t no earnin’”. Drivers do so much unpaid work that many have just said this job just isn’t worth the effort. There are required inspections at multiple times during the shift each of about fifteen minutes or more to which the driver must comply and record. These inspections come out of the time they have available to earn. Then there are the mandatory scale stops along the highway. Even if it’s a stop and go, the driver loses fifteen minutes of earning time.  If there’s a logging, or a physical truck inspection, this is more time taken away from earning.


With today’s technology, there is no valid reason why these hours spent working and not driving, are not paid. Some of the qualified skilled drivers have figured out that asking a customer if they “want fries with that” pays them about the same without risking life and limb for not even a thank you.


If the government would simply declare truck driving as a skilled trade, with training being a combination of in class training, driver competence, advanced skill development and experience based advancements, recognizing recordable previous trade experience to move with the employee, then drivers would stay.

Right now, truck drivers are just truck drivers. But they’re not. The skills of long haulers are different from short and medium haulers. Refrigerated freight is highly specialized and different from just being a truck driver. Aggregate haulers are yet another skill not shared well with other truck drivers. Loggers and lumber haulers yet another.   


Some companies keep their trucks very well inspected and in good working order. Drivers for these companies can confidently enter the inspection stations. Other companies fix what’s broken and not unless it’s broken. This puts the driver in a bad way and makes him yearn for a better employer. The problem is the authorities don’t look at the lack lustre companies with the same scorn as their drivers. To them, it’s the driver’s fault that an unsafe truck is on the road in their eyes. There needs to be more protection for drivers facing these companies with less than safe practices. We have seen many examples of horrible accidents based on poor maintenance.


If there is a driver shortage, it’s the fault of those less than safe trucking companies that don’t treat their employees any better than their equipment. The companies, usually but not always medium to large, that have good HR policies, great maintenance practices, well documented data, and can and do pass the Labour Canada inspections, participate in government safety programs and have a think safety mentality corporate wide are those with little or no problem finding the right kind of employees. These companies state there isn’t a shortage. And those that are less connected with good policy simply don’t.


The truck driver candidate is much more astute at interviewing prospective employers as those employers are astute at interviewing employees.


If you’re a driver, learn your interviewing skills well. You’ll always be employed where you wish to be employed. If you’re a trucking company, learn when you put on the HR hat, you understand what it means; learn when you put on the safety hat you know what it means. And most of all, learn when that highly skilled driver you want to hire either asks a question of you, or conveys a piece of knowledge you’ve either forgotten or never knew to listen. Wisdom listens to knowledge.

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