Life and Family

Doing Your Job

Is there a study showing how many owner/drivers are necessary to satisfy the industry's needs in Canada?

That’s an interesting way of looking at the question. No, I don’t think there has ever been a study along just those lines. In fact, I don’t think any study could quantify a number like that.

The industry’s needs change, but almost everybody agrees that we’re heading to a point where manpower availability will no longer meet the industry’s demand. There are a host of reasons for this, but that’s another story.

At the present time, there’s a fair degree of debate as to whether we are experiencing a genuine shortage of drivers, or just a perceived shortage based on reports from individual fleets. Here’s how that works:

Let’s assume a fleet has 100 trucks, but only 90 drivers. That fleet might report a shortage of 10 drivers. Multiply that by 10 fleets, and we have a reported shortage of 100 drivers. Now, let’s assume the same fleet has all 100 trucks staffed with drivers, but dispatch says they could still handle another 10 loads --if they had 10 more trucks. That might also indicate a shortage of 10 trucks and drivers. A demand that a fleet thinks it could fill could also be reported as a shortage.

Now, lets look at a typical Friday afternoon. All kinds of shippers are calling the carrier because they want their freight picked up on Friday and delivered the following Monday. If the fleet gets calls for 10 more loads than they can handle, that too might be perceived as a shortage. But since those shippers might be calling 10 different carriers with the same request, that would suggest a shortage of 100 drivers, while in fact, only 10 loads are going begging. See where I’m going here?

The issue of whether or not a driver shortage really exists is somewhat difficult to qualify. The difference between a real shortage and a perceived shortage is really in the eyes of the carrier who thinks it could move more freight if it had more trucks and drivers.

The needs of the trucking industry are very much driven by supply and demand. As long as the available carrier pool can meet industry’s demand to move freight, no real shortage exists. As for how many trucks that requires? It’s anybody’s guess.

For what it’s worth, if there was a genuine shortage of drivers, freight rates would be driven higher by shippers bidding for the use of the available supply of trucks and drivers. But since that’s not happening, I can only surmise that there really is no actual shortage of manpower in the trucking industry.
Jim Park