By Angela Splinter
Before COVID-19 hit, the Canadian trucking and logistics sector was already experiencing an acute driver shortage.
It was literally the day before the World Health Organization designated coronavirus a global pandemic that Trucking HR Canada released The Road Ahead: Addressing the trucking and logistics industry labour shortages.
Our report sounds the alarm on many fronts: high driver job vacancies within the industry, low unemployment generally, and the need to reach young people and women in order to expand and diversify the driver pool. And government has to do a better job partnering with industry and investing in training and access to wage subsidies programs for young people.
Just when we thought our research was done, the effects of COVID-19 on employment meant we had more work to do.
In May of this year we did just that.
We again surveyed industry employers directly to get primary data on the labour market impacts of coronavirus and applied additional economic modeling.
This is important information. The economy is preparing to rebound, and the government says it will look to provide tailored solutions for employers.
Timely, accurate, and credible labour market intelligence is the key to reassessing the industry’s needs and finalizing recommendations for moving forward.
Let’s take a look at where we stand:
For the first two quarters of 2020, employment in the trucking and logistics industry is expected to shrink by 10.4% for a loss of up to 72,000 jobs.
Long-haul and regional truck drivers are especially hard hit. All told, the number of drivers is expected to contract by 10.9%, which equates to 34,700 jobs or roughly one in two pandemic-related job losses in the industry.
The increasing shift toward online shopping means that delivery and courier drivers are expected to experience a slightly below-average decline in employment with an anticipated 7,500 job losses, mostly in retail and wholesale trade.
Cost of COVID-19
Employment in trucking and logistics is tied to economic activity. And, the trucking industry expected to lose $3.2 billion in revenue this year. The latest forecast of truck driver employment is 296,600 in 2020, roughly 21,000 below our pre-COVID estimate of 317,600 for 2020.
The labour shortages the trucking and logistics sector was experiencing pre-COVID-19 should moderate in the near-term, however, as demand recovers, vacancies within the sector will return as early as 2022, especially among truck drivers.
While drivers remain in a slightly different position from the rest of the industry, the projections indicate that trucking and logistics employment will stabilize by the first quarter of 2022 while remaining at approximately 1% below pre-COVID-19 levels through 2023.
The truck driver occupation is projected to experience a relatively fast recovery. Demand for drivers is expected to stabilize by the fourth quarter of 2021 and attain or possibly exceed pre-pandemic labour market projections by 2023.
However, anticipated retirements and other labour losses by 2023 indicate that this demand is unlikely to be fully met over the next three years. This important and timely research has confirmed that COVID-19 has simply stalled the driver shortage and has not negated it.
The question is whether we’ll have the perennial driver recruitment and retention challenges, including an aging demographic and need to reach women and younger employees, over the next three years.
Essentially, we could be right back where we started. At a time when many fleets are working to get back to their business of supporting the flow of goods through Canada’s supply chain, those tailored solutions our government keeps talking about cannot come fast enough.