AUDIO: Trucking industry faces crippling labour shortage
New research that predicts a crippling labour shortage in Canada's trucking industry comes as no surprise to some career transport drivers.
They say wages simply do not line up with the skill, know-how, and sacrifice required for the trade.
Veteran truckers are retiring and there are not enough up-and-comers to take their place.
A recent study from the Conference Board of Canada says the shortfall could reach as many as 25,000 drivers by 2020.
Michele Joslin spent more than 20 years hauling freight but now trains the next generation of truck drivers at Humber College.
While she is passionate about the profession, Joslin says the potential of a labour crunch in the transportation sector comes as no surprise because she feels there is just not enough incentive to learn the trade.
"There are a lot of somewhat lower-paying jobs and I'm sure that you wouldn't have to look very far to find somebody paying $12 per hour for a Class-A (tractor-trailer) driver," she says.
"You can't entice people to come into an industry and work the hours and as hard as they have to without there being some compensation for them."
Brian makes his living on roads and highways from the GTA to the other side of the continent.
He's a married father with a college-aged son. A 13-year veteran of the trucking business, working for a company that manufactures doors.
Brian tells NEWSTALK 1010 that anyone who wants to drive a truck must be able to commit to a lifestyle.
"You could get up at 2:00am or your day might start at 7:00am ... Your week might start on a Monday or on a Sunday. Its not a '9-to-5' job," he says.
Joslin says that sacrifice isn't easy, especially for people with a family at home.
"I have to admit that there were times I thought, "could I afford to work at Tim Hortons?' because I would be home every night," she says.
Both Joslin and Brian admit that the profession can be hard on relationships.
"If you can communicate with your family, it (being away from home) can be something that's easy to deal with but I've seen a lot of people who have lost marriages because they can't communicate with eachother," says Brian.
Joslin says its important to have a strong support network of people at home that can help out when work takes you to far-off places for days on end.
Perception may also be a barrier that keeps people from becoming truck drivers.
"There are still an awful lot of people that look at it (trucking) as a blue-collar job but it absolutely takes skill," says Joslin.
"You have a vehicle that's more than 74 ft. long and can weigh up to 100,000 lbs. They don't stop on a dime, so you need to know how the brake system works and what to look for on your pre-trip safety inspections," says Brian.
"It could save your life and the life of another motorist."
While Brian is fortunate enough to work as company driver for a top-notch employer, Brian says many of his colleagues entering the field find the pay simply does not make driving a truck worthwhile.
"Its not even close and it stinks because its a skilled job that requires you to be professional," he says.
"The pay is just not what it should be."
Drivers who own their trucks have a particularly tough time making ends meet.
Competition for shipping contracts is fierce and that drives shipping rates down to rock bottom.
"The cheapest price doesn't mean that there are employees who are getting a decent wage producing that cheap price," says Joslin.
Brian says an impending shortage of truck drivers is proof the undercutting of shipping rates is ultimately bad for business.
"I think it should be regulated. I don't think anybody should be paid by the mile or by the load," he says, "drivers should be paid by the hour -- reasonably -- so that you don't have guys rushing to make quotas or driving an extra 300 miles when they are too tired."
"Its ridiculous to put a driver under that kind of stress."
Brian says its a shame that lagging wages cast a shadow over what is a fulfilling job.
"It can be good money and you get to see new places and meet new people -- its fun!"
The market could be catching up to chincey employers.
A driver shortage stands to push up wages but it will also push up prices for just about everything found on the shelf at retail and grocery stores.
9 out of 10 consumer products make it to market on the back of a truck.