According to industry experts, a crisis is looming in the transportation industry and at the center of it all is a shortage of drivers.
“[American Trucking Associations] were estimating up to 80,000 by 2020”, said Lane Jacobson, president of the Southern Alberta Truck Exposition Association. “Now they’ve corrected that number and they’re saying shortages of over 200,000 drivers in North America by 2020.”
The Canadian Trucking Alliance says in Canada, the labour shortage could reach 48,000 by 2024. It’s a reality many don’t want to face.
“The fuel shortages for vehicles will start running out within two days, I believe, so you have no gasoline, you have no food — which in our society, people don’t realize the importance of this,” Jacobson said. “Society as we know it would be drastically affected.”
Events like the Southern Alberta Truck Expo work to close the gap and hire more drivers, along with workers for support industries like mechanics and manufacturing.
But the owner of Watt & Stewart, a long-haul trucking company out of Claresholm, says it’s not that simple.
“Our demographics of drivers are now 50-plus, a lot of them,” John Stewart said. “A lot of them are basically retiring and… we don’t have the people and the young people coming up to fill those positions.” For some, it’s the lifestyle and long hours on the road that poses a challenge.
“Our biggest challenge is the fact that we’re a long-haul company that is away for two to three weeks at a time,” Stewart said. “Family time is an issue, communication and being away from home. It’s tough on the drivers to do that.” It’s also not recognized as a trade, something Jacobson says would make a difference, paving the way for more student loans and government training. “How do you convince a new person coming in with our current education to convince them this is a good career to go into when it’s not a trade?” he said.
Organizers hope events like this will attract a new generation of drivers to help keep the wheels on the road.