Driver Shortage? What Driver Shortage?

There has been a seemingly endless array of discussion over the past decade about a driver shortage. Whether you agree there has been a shortage or not, the many doom and gloom statements coming from every direction roar on. As many know I can argue both sides of this issue, but I lean towards there not being a shortage of drivers – qualified drivers, that’s a different story, but I digress. That aside I thought I would do my own quick SWOT test on the issue and here is what I see in a thousand words or less.


So let’s unveil the reasons why one might want to enter this industry. I will try and be impartial but this will be somewhat slanted to my own experience – my apologies up front. The solitude for me was an attraction; don’t get me wrong I enjoy interaction with friends and relatives for the most part but I am also a person who is quite content to be left on my own for extended periods of time, I’m quite fine in my own space. This industry will allow you to see almost any part of North America, so if you are interested in seeing new spaces and places this is definitely a plus. If you happen to be entrepreneurial, as I am, then trucking is definitely for you, with very few publicly traded companies for an industry that makes up a large percentage of Canada’s GDP. If you like independence, I know that many will argue that technology has taken much of this away but I still see this as a plus. Even with all of the new technology, the person behind the wheel still has to make a thousand decisions on their own each day that they are on the job.


There is likely a variety of issues at play here, not the least of which would be that it takes guts. You have to have a certain level of self-confidence and courage to think that you can handle a truck and a fifty-three foot trailer in and around the type of traffic and congestion that is prevalent today. It’s definitely not for everybody. Now add to this the elements that come with the job, to some degree an uncertain income level, certainly a fluctuating income. Let’s not kid each other it’s okay to good at best, but it is not excellent, not by a long shot. Very few drivers could divide their pay checks by the total number of hours spent on every element of their work week and say that it is outstanding for what they do. Add to this an uncertain workweek and irregular lifestyle and you have to enjoy solitude. You would also be entering an industry that tends to eat its young with excessively high turnover rates. As of the writing of this article no minimum training standards or finishing standards for the entry level folks. Your family life will likely be strained to say the least and the reduced lifespan of a professional driver all adds up to less than a rosy picture. Ray J. Haight Driver Shortage? What Driver Shortage?


There are any number of initiatives that could be enacted to create a landslide of new entry level drivers to the industry – if the industry has the courage to go after them. First would be to stop eating each other’s dinner when it comes to rates. Driver’s need to make more money. Why do drivers who happen to work for private fleets make substantially more money than those from the for hire industry? Think about it, because carriers bid each other down to the bare bones to get the business, if I were a shipper, knowing this, I’d let them go at it.

We need a GOOD solid entry-level minimum training standard and a good mandatory finishing standard adopted nation wide that the industry would be forced to comply with. Violation of the minimum standards put lives at risk and if I had my way, there would be mandatory jail time for violators. Think back to the wheel offs we had twenty years ago, government said mandatory 50K fine per future infraction, industry responded with mandatory certification of all wheel installers. But a school blatantly cuts corners on training and for the most part they get a slide, a slap on the wrist. Does anyone research where the individuals were trained after there is a preventable accident, NO, and this makes my blood boil.


The biggest threat for me in attracting new drivers and keeping what we have now is our own complacency; Ontario is being watched by the rest of Canada because of the work being done on a new entry-level driver training rule. I’m sure this group is watching our industry brothers south of the border as they craft a federal rule. It took a long time to get here; we have to do it right, no private agendas, and no short cuts. To me this is the single biggest threat out there right now, the threat of private interest who may dictate a weak rule for their own financial gain. Scares the crap out of me that we will get a watered down version of training designed to put pupils in classes and asses in seats rather than the top quality entry level drivers we need and this industry deserves.

Ontario, Canada and the US are all at critical stages in the industry’s maturity, we will either move the bar up as is my hope or we will legislate another round of minutia that will not change a thing. I’m flipping a coin right now! So there you have it my SWOT test.

In conclusion, more money in the driver’s pockets, better training and finishing programs and we’ll be half way there. Space limits many other observations but this is a good start. Please let me know your thoughts.

Safe Trucking!
Ray J. Haight
Haight Consulting Group
Past Chairman TCA

About Ray J. Haight

Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.