Immigrants from South Asia have accounted for a massive shift in the demographics of Canada’s truck drivers, according to research conducted by Newcom Media’s editorial teams, drawing on more than 25 years of Canada Census data.
Twenty years ago, just 1.8% of Canada’s truck drivers were from South Asia, and most of those were based in Vancouver, according to Newcom publications, Today’s Trucking and Truck News. They accounted for 18.7% of the drivers in the western city, and 6.2% of the drivers in and around Toronto. By 2016, almost one in five (17.8%) of Canada’s truck drivers had South Asian backgrounds. One in three drivers in B.C. (34.6%) were from the demographic group, as were one in four (25.6%) of Ontario drivers.
In Vancouver, South Asian immigrants now account for the majority (55.9%) of drivers. The share in Toronto is not far behind at 53.9%.
Several factors could account for the connection between this demographic group and trucking. The wave of South Asian immigration has coincided with a demand for truck drivers.
“And when a newcomer knows others who have found success in trucking, they are more likely to consider the career path as well,” states the article.
While the most significant demographic shift has involved immigration from South Asia, Canadian fleets are increasingly looking to countries around the world to offset an intensifying shortage of those who want to work behind the wheel. A 2016 report by the Conference Board of Canada predicts Canada will experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020. The rising age of an average truck driver – now at 48 – means an increasing share of existing drivers are also approaching retirement. Their replacements need to come from somewhere.
Increasingly, the job candidates are coming from elsewhere. Canada had 181,330 truck drivers in 2016, according to the Census data – and 58,985 of those drivers reported that they came from outside Canada.
It represents a dramatic change in the past 25 years. A mere 7.7% of truck drivers were immigrants in 1991. Their numbers surged to 32.5% of the driver pool in 2016.
India has played the biggest role of all. In 1991, just 8.7% of the drivers who identified themselves as immigrants were from that country. By 2016, the share from India had swelled to 43.7%.
Against this backdrop, the Canadian Trucking Alliance has recently been asking the federal government to focus on matching the newcomers with industries like trucking that face severe labor shortages.
To read the full article – the first in an upcoming Today’s Trucking series titled the Changing Face of Trucking that will explore changing demographics in the trucking industry – click here.