P.E.I. trucking sector looking for drivers in it for the long haul

·3 min read
Some trucking companies on the Island say they are having a hard time finding long-haul drivers. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
Some trucking companies on the Island say they are having a hard time finding long-haul drivers. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

Concerns are being raised by some members of P.E.I.'s trucking industry about what the future might hold as a driver shortage lingers across Canada.

"I think people have a concept of what the industry is and I don't think it's accurate," said Brian Oulton, the executive director of the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council.

"It's not a, you know, old boys club. There's a lot of diversity, there's a lot of opportunity, there's a ton of professionalism."

Currently, Oulton estimates approximately 4,000 people are working in the trucking profession on the Island — roughly half of those are drivers.

But, he said more than 500 additional people will be needed over the next five years.

"The major shortage we have here is for long-haul truck drivers ... as well as truck and transport mechanics."

Aging industry

According to Oulton, there are several factors that play into the current situation.

On one hand, he said trucking is an aging profession on P.E.I. with the majority of workers being over 45 years old.

"We're seeing people come in as a second career," said Oulton. "That puts a bit of pressure and I guess makes us a bit older as an industry."

'The majority of our workforce, in fact, is 45-plus,' says Brian Oulton, the executive director at the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council.
'The majority of our workforce, in fact, is 45-plus,' says Brian Oulton, the executive director at the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council.(Tony Davis/CBC News)

On top of that, he said COVID-19 has had an impact on getting temporary foreign workers and training new employees.

"As part of the training, each student will take a four-week internship with a company and be paired with a driver coach," said Oulton.

"Well, a lot of coaches don't want to share their trucks right now."

'Quite fortunate'

Seafood Express Transport said it has just enough drivers at the moment but is also struggling to recruit more.

"We've been quite fortunate to have our trucks full but ... I do find it difficult to find good quality drivers," said Suzanne Gray, the company's recruiting co-ordinator.

'Our minimum experience is two years experience on the road, but it's hard to find that nowadays,' says Suzanne Gray, the recruiting co-ordinator at Seafood Express Transport.
'Our minimum experience is two years experience on the road, but it's hard to find that nowadays,' says Suzanne Gray, the recruiting co-ordinator at Seafood Express Transport.(CBC News)

Gray said there is still a lot of interest in local container work but people they've interviewed for jobs seem reluctant to travel to the U.S.

"A lot of them just have a fear of going into those high areas that are ... COVID hotspots."

Finding people who qualify for the job is also becoming more difficult.

"Our minimum experience is two years experience on the road, but it's hard to find that nowadays, of drivers that are qualified, that have the experience and that are looking for U.S. long-haul work in particular," she said.

Driver diversity

For those interested in joining the industry Oulton said they can reach out to the trucking sector council for more information.

And while he said it is helpful that many drivers are continuing to work after 65 years old, he said the council is looking to attract those who may not have considered driving as a career.

"It was traditionally a male-dominated industry, which we've been doing a lot of work to attract women and, you know youth, other groups to this," said Oulton.

"It's a slower process and we're getting there but that has kind of been part of it as well."

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