Saskatchewan truckers hoping to bust stereotypes, labour shortage with campaign

The Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) is hoping a savvy new marketing campaign can improve their industry’s image while hacking away at a long-term labour shortage.

“What it aims to do is talk about some of the misconceptions and stereotypes that happen around trucking,” said STA executive director Susan Ewart. “And we want to talk about what trucking actually looks like in this province and how important it is to the economy. 

A 2019 Saskatchewan labour report counted 3,220 transport truck driver “job openings”. The STA predicts that Canada-wide, the industry is threatened by a shortage of “25,000-33,000” for-hire truckers.

They fear a long-term driver shortage could impact Canadian supply chains and increase consumer prices.

Is it our groceries that are gonna suffer, is it our fuel?” asked Ewart. “When you don’t have a driver, whether it’s a man or a woman, to bring that load to Walmart so you and I can buy them, the shelves are empty.”

The campaign, titled “We Are Trucking”, has rolled out on mediums like Facebook, Snapchat and Youtube in an attempt to reach a younger and largely untapped (the average age of a truck driver in Canada is 55) labour demographic. Ewart says the industry’s labour needs go beyond drivers.

“There’s dispatchers, logistics and IT professionals,” she said. “There are so many innovative technologies going on in trucks today and in warehouses.”

Ewart said “We Are Trucking” is specifically targeting those in the 18-23 age range as well as those looking for a career pivot.

One misconception she highlighted was that working in the trucking industry requires working long hours and spending long periods of time away from home.

“What we hear is people don’t want to be away from their friends and families,” she explained.

She said companies have begun to employ methods like “switching”, where two drivers will start out in different cities then meet half-way between the two and swap loads before heading back home.

She also highlighted low income as another misconception heard about her industry. The 2019 Saskatchewan labour report showed an average wage estimate for transport truck drivers of $63,900.

“Not everybody wants to go to university for four years. There’s training and education on the job. There’s companies who have great HR policies and they’re really working hard to bring in that next generation,” Ewart added.

Ewert is also positive that the industry’s evolving safety standards will increase its perceived professionalism. Since March 15, 2019, those seeking a Class 1 licence in Saskatchewan have been required to complete at least 121.5 hours of training prior to their road test.

“It’s not just getting a Class 1 and getting in a truck and going. There are regulations around the national safety code. There’s a lot to know and a lot that’s required of you as a professional safe driver.” 

The value of seeing an industry committed to safety was echoed by Varun Singh, a truck owner/operator currently driving for Bison Transport.

“Bison is very strict with their safety standards,” Singh said of the Canadian transport company which won first place in the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) National Fleet Safety Awards for the 14th-consecutive time in 2019. “You have to be very careful on the road. You can take someone’s life in a matter of seconds. I take it very seriously and Bison takes it very seriously.”

At 32, Singh is bucking the age trend of the industry. He’s already been driving for four years. The former flight attendant was drawn to the industry’s economic potential and freedom.

“If you don’t want to end up in an office your whole life, this is a pretty good industry to work in,” he said. “You get to see many places if you drive long-haul. You make good money from the start and you have a lot of potential to grow a business.”

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