with files from Craig Lindsay
Job seekers are in luck when it comes to the commercial road transportation industry in British Columbia. Trucking companies throughout B.C. require professional drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and operations staff right now, which means that job seekers with experience and/or training may find work within their preferred region. For those considering training prior to joining the workforce, demand for skilled workers in the industry is likely to grow – to 2020 and beyond.
There are a number of reasons for this. For truck drivers, the industry is facing a North America-wide shortage because most are 45 years of age or older and nearing retirement (in fact, in Canada, according to a report by the Canada Trucking Human Resources Council, 58 percent of long-haul truck drivers fall in this age range). Similar shortages exist for other jobs, including diesel engine and heavy duty mechanics.
In the West Kootenay, the shortage of truck drivers is so extreme that companies are looking overseas.
“Trucking right now, not just our area but North American-wide, is facing a large shortage of professional drivers,” says Andy Roberts, president of Mountain Transport Institute (MTI) in Castlegar. “We saw the shortage coming on back in 2008 before the economy slowed down. It sort of got hidden while the economy slowed. Now that the things have picked up, there’s a lot of employers looking for qualified drivers.”
Roberts says that local companies have started to hire drivers from Jamaica.
“There’s quite a few employers bringing in experienced foreign drivers,” he said. “We’re actually working with a company from Penticton and they are recruiting drivers overseas, primarily from Jamaica. We actually travel to Jamaica to do driver evaluations on those drivers. When they do come to Canada, they come to MTI in Castlegar first and we upgrade any of their skills that are required and help with their road tests and medicals and such.”
Roberts says there just aren’t currently enough Canadians entering the industry to fill the void being left by the retirement of experienced drivers.
Aside from worker shortages, economic growth in the Asia-Pacific Gateway is also driving demand for workers in transportation. This applies not only to companies in the Lower Mainland, but in other regions as well, since the Asia-Pacific “Gateway” is actually made up of an integrated supply chain of airports, seaports, rail and road connections, and border crossings, from Prince Rupert to Surrey, with links supplied by trucking.
Today’s trucking industry is an exciting place to be. Equipment in many companies is state of the art, meaning increased comfort and ease for drivers and opportunities for mechanics to work with technologically advanced systems, keeping both their skills and interest engaged. Dispatch relies on sophisticated tracking and routing systems. Others on the operations side also use information technology of many kinds to deal with everything from licences and permits, to customer services, accounting, sales and marketing.
And, people joining the industry have many career choices. Drivers, for example, may work close to home as pick-up and delivery or short-haul drivers. Those who like the idea of travelling across Canada or North America can become long-haul drivers for an employer or work as owner-operators. Drivers may haul consumer goods, fuel, logs, heavy-duty equipment, livestock – most of what we purchase or consume spent some time on the road with a commercial truck!
If you already have experience as a driver, mechanic or operations worker, most companies advertise jobs on their websites. Members of the BC Trucking Association from across the province may post jobs under Careers on www.bctrucking.com, and the provincial and federal governments maintain job sites at WorkBC (http://www.workbc.ca/Jobs/) and Working in Canada (http://www.workingincanada.gc.ca/ – choose to Explore Careers by Occupation, then by Region). Within your own community, it may also pay to approach a company you’d like to work for, drop off a résumé and inquire if and when they’ll be hiring.
If you’d like to enter the industry but need training, there are also many avenues to explore.
Although there is not a standard training course for professional drivers, there are numerous private schools throughout B.C. that offer programs. For information on trucking careers in general, see www.truckingcareers.ca.
Your own community and region depend on trucking. It may also offer the right career for you.
Mountain Transport offers a 12-week program for anyone interested in becoming a truck driver. The course includes eight weeks in the classroom and four weeks on the job training.
“Providing you have the ability to learn all those skills, it results in a good quality, professional driving job with a good quality carrier,” says Roberts.