Food, Health and Consumer Products of Canada (FHCP) is warning that younger workers are not exploring careers as truck drivers because of the job’s image – a particular worry as the average driver age increases.
In a whitepaper on Canada’s driver shortage, published earlier this month, FHCP concluded employers need to alter recruiting strategies to appeal to a younger and more diverse driver base, focusing on improving the profession’s image. Recommended strategies include messaging on social media, collaborating with schools and governments, and embracing technology.
According to Trucking HR Canada, one in four of Canada’s truck drivers are between the ages of 55 and 64, and the average age of drivers is 49 years old. In 2019, there were also over 20,000 vacant driver positions in the country, a number projected to increase as one third of today’s driver population nears retirement age.
Frank Scali, vice president of industry affairs at FHCP, told trucknews.com that even though the ongoing shortage of truck drivers has been a persistent issue for many years, the fragile state of the industry was revealed during the pandemic.
“[It] presented the perfect recipe for a crisis, as many drivers left the industry while volume simultaneously increased,” he said. “Any realistic solution would require widespread collaboration from retailers, suppliers, trucking companies, ports, rail yards, and government.”
Strategies to attract youth
But several strategies can make a difference.
Social media offers a way to promote trucking to global communities, FHCP says. It found that platforms like TikTok offer an effective avenue to spread awareness about lives in trucking, challenging common misconceptions.
For example, while many view trucking as a physically demanding job and potentially unsuitable for women, TikTok content is challenging this stereotype, showcasing the technology and user-friendly truck features like automated transmissions.
Another suggestion included targeted posts and advertisements to reach underrepresented groups in the industry.
Geofencing can help with that, FHCP says.
“Through this technology, carrier companies can set predetermined ranges where certain advertisements or posts are displayed to individuals within the vicinity.”
But reaching out to new generations can begin as early as primary and secondary school, FHCP says, citing discussions with a well-known Canadian carrier.
The exposure and outreach can include partnerships with guidance counselors and establishing trucking-related clubs. Carriers can also participate in career fairs, which would help create a continuous exposure to trucking opportunities, conveying more information on a deeper level than general advertising campaigns allow.
However, carriers also identified concerns about parents who believe university educations represent the only path to success for their young children.
“To engage youth in the trucking industry, as a best practice, an interviewed carrier created a driver program for young people interested in becoming fully trained truck drivers,” the paper says. Young drivers are hired after successfully completing the program.
The paper also suggests implementing a similar initiative to the Safe Driver Appreciation Program in the U.S., which makes students eligible to drive a truck at as young as 18 years old. This would allow teenagers to receive a first-hand experience of the trucking industry.
“High school is the time when students start looking at entry into trade programs. Interviewed companies shared that warehouse jobs are heavily promoted and trucking, in comparison, is not promoted enough,” the white paper says.
But some of the retail and consumer companies in the food industry have launched internal driver training programs, encouraging warehouse associates and logistics employees to transition into trucking.
Companies interviewed by FHCP emphasized that their internal programs improved employee satisfaction and retention rates.
However, larger companies reported more success.
FHCP’s Scali says reducing wait times and improving the delivery and pickup experience would also contribute to retaining existing and future drivers alike.
Canada’s updating immigration policies, such as Express Entry for foreign truck drivers, will also help attract more drivers in the industry, FHCP says, noting how newcomers can apply previous experience to shorten the training needed in Canada.
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