What is causing trucking shortage in Canada, the United States and Mexico?
In this article, we will review reliable data on the driver shortage subject, go into detail about driver’s working conditions and outline the causes of the driver shortage.
We will discover how in Mexico, the US, and Canada, the causes of the trucking driver shortage go beyond a wage problem. It involves other working conditions such as unpaid work, high levels of risk, health problems, and the impact of staying away from family and friends.
The truck driver shortage is a complex problem and the solution can not be simplistic and short-term.
Is there a truck driver shortage in Canada, the United States, and Mexico?
Many of the articles written on the driver’s shortage become contradictory. Some proclaim that “the lack of drivers is a myth”, others admit that it is a problem, but that it is about to be solved, and others say that “the problem has worsened substantially without an easy solution”.
Articles that argue that the truck driver’s shortage doesn’t exist, support their statements in data such as the large number of people who have a valid driver’s license to drive a truck. However, the fact that there are people with a driver’s license, but vacancies continue to exist, only emphasizes the fact that drivers tried to enter this type of work, but for multiple reasons, decided not to continue. The truck driver shortage is real, one of its causes is precisely that people qualified to do the work choose not to do it for reasons that we will explore later. Confusing causes and consequences, or denying the driver’s shortage do not help solve the problem.
Let’s have a look at some facts and figures about driver shortage in the three countries of the North American Trade Zone.
Truck Drivers Shortage Figures in the U.S.
- The American Trucking Associations estimates a the truck driver shortage of
just over 80,000 drivers. This figure is forecast to reach 162,000 by 2030.
- According to the U.S. bureau of labor statistics, about 231,100 openings for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.
- A good deal of those openings are expected to derive from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or retire.
Truck Driver’s Shortage Figures in Canada
- The vacancy rate in truck transportation was 8% in the third quarter of 2021,
compared to 5.4% across the economy. This constitutes the second-highest
vacancy rate in the Canadian economy after the accommodation and food services sector with 12.9%.
- The total number of vacancies for transport truck drivers has increased to
22,990 jobs, an historic high since at least 2015.
- In addition, 44.3% of driver jobs have been vacant for more than 90 days – compared to 34.4% in Q2. This indicates the increasing challenges faced by employers in finding suitable job candidates, as across Canada only 32% of all job openings have been vacant for more than 90 days.
Truck Drivers Shortage Figures in Mexico
- Mexico’s National Chamber of Trucking (Canacar) puts the shortfall at 50,000 drivers.
- The International Road Transport Union (IRU) said the shortage in Mexico grew 175% in 2021, the equivalent of 87,500 drivers.
The shortage of qualified truck drivers has been the greatest challenge of the freight industry for years. In recent years, the problem has worsened due to factors such as the pandemic, regulations, work conditions, and lack of interest in the occupation, among others that we will explain later.
What is causing the truck driver’s shortage?
As we mentioned earlier, the shortage of qualified truck drivers has been the greatest challenge of the freight industry for years. But what are the causes?
Salary or working conditions?
In the US, the median hourly salary of a truck driver was $22.66 USD per hour ($47,130 per year) in 2020. An increase of $3,500 approx. from 2018. The real median earnings of all workers aged 15 and over with earnings in 2020 was $41,535.
In Mexico, the average monthly salary for truck drivers is $6 450 MXN per year. And the average monthly salary in Mexico is $4 890 MXN.
The income of truck drivers is above the average salary of the total population of each of the countries analyzed. However, the working conditions are unique to this type of work and particularly harsh. We will analyze some of those working conditions.
Most companies pay on mileage instead of for the time worked. Self-employed truckers and drivers who accept pay on mileage earn more than the average in the sector. However, it comes at a high price, including unpredictability. Also, their earnings are reduced because of:
- the time they spend on traffic jams, construction zones, and bad weather.
- time wasted at shipper/consignee premises, waiting for their trucks in the shop or for a response to a question
High level of risk
In Canada, the occupational category including truckers experiences 25,000 lost-time injury claims and more than 100 fatalities per year. In addition to other problems such as back problems, fatigue, and family stress.
In the United States, there was an upward trend in fatal occupational injuries to truck drivers during the 10-year period from 2009-18, with a high of 927 in 2017, According to the bureau of labor and statistics.
In 2018, the incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work was 262.1 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers among heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers. The rate was 98.4 cases among all occupations.
In Mexico, one of the main risks of working as a cargo truck driver is the level of crime. 50% of incidents are due to the human factor, while the other 50% respond to external factors. Additionally, the violent theft of merchandise places Mexico among the first three countries with the highest risk worldwide. However, the trend is downward, the general number of reports of theft in trucks was 6,435 in 2021, and 7,401 in 2020.
Time away from family and friends
According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, long-haul truck driving is among the unhealthiest and most unsafe occupations in the U.S. according. The work of a Truck Driver has been described as a “sweatshop on wheels”. Work stressors have been associated not only with poor health outcomes but also with highway accident risks.
Employees such as Truck Drivers, with work organizations requiring long work hours and minimal time off, are more likely to report work-life imbalances or work-life conflict and tend to exhibit negative health behaviors and outcomes such as insufficient sleep and mental illness, for example, anxiety or depression.
How can we solve the shortage of truck drivers?
The solution to the truck driver shortage problem is undoubtedly complex and long-term. Read our article on this topic to explore alternatives that will improve the working conditions of the operators and provide solutions to the problem of the shortage of operators.
Will a salary increase solve the problem?
The most obvious response to the shortage of truck drivers would be to increase wages. Despite the fact that Mexico, the United States, and Canada have begun an effort to increase drivers’ salaries compared to pre-pandemic numbers, this is not enough to counteract the working conditions that drivers face.
Continuing to raise wages is an undoubtedly necessary measure. However, it is not enough and must be done in a gradual and sustained manner to avoid creating major problems in the economy.
Freight transport rates have increased exponentially in recent months. The historic increase in fuels in the United States and Canada has caused stress throughout the supply chain. Companies in all links of the chain have had to develop strategies such as absorbing costs, changing line of business, or passing costs on to the final consumer. We are in an inflationary circle that exacerbates the freight transport crisis and extrapolates it to other sectors.
Other measures and cultural changes must be worked on so that new generations feel attracted to the job of the truck driver. In our article “How can we solve the shortage of truck drivers?” We explore the obvious and not so obvious ways to find a solution to the most important challenge of the truck industry.
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