Truck driver shortage causing troubles

the industry is struggling to convince young people to take up the profession

News that Suncor will build a fleet of 150 driverless trucks at its oilsands mines in northern Alberta

That will see the loss of some 400 jobs over the next six years has caused some consternation among existing drivers. The company says there are about 500 jobs that will be eliminated but they will add 100 so the net loss will be 400 positions. The company has been testing the 400-tonne capacity Komatsu trucks for a few years now and has nine in operation. The driverless vehicles will replace trucks that reach the end of their life at a cost of $5 million each. The trucks have been in service at a copper mine in Chile and iron ore mines in Australia; a major benefit is that they can run for 24 hours a day, only stopping for fuel.

The move has been criticized by the Unifor local union because of job losses but the company says it is minimizing the losses by retaining workers whose jobs will disappear. While any job losses are unfortunate, there is no arguing that technology is on a steady march toward the future and job losses will be a result. On the other side of the coin, however, is news that there is actually a severe truck driver shortage in Canada that is being felt by the country’s forest products sector.

Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, says that driver shortages are a national challenge in many sectors and that the industry is struggling to convince young people to take up the profession in sufficient numbers to replace the 10,000 truckers who retire every year. He adds about 26 per cent of all truckers in the forestry industry are over 55 years old. The shortage is expected to hit 34,000 or as many as 48,000 truckers by 2024; there are more than 200,000 truckers currently working in Canada.

Union representatives say that young people aren’t attracted to long working hours, often in harsh conditions for inadequate compensation. But Laskowski says this can be addressed in most instances by better working conditions and compensation. It will be interesting to see the general impact of such a shortage and what companies are prepared to do about it in the short term.


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on 13 February 2018