Canada looks abroad to help ease trucker shortage Canada looks abroad to help ease trucker shortage

Canada looks abroad to help ease trucker shortage

Canada’s trucking industry — which is short thousands of truck drivers — could get a boost with the government soon allowing truckers from other countries to apply to work in the country through its Express Entry immigration programs.

The move to open up Express Entry to truckers is aimed at fixing labor shortages, said Michelle Carbert, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

“As Canada continues to recover from the pandemic, employers are actively looking to fill hundreds of thousands of vacant positions in all sectors across the country,” Carbert told FreightWaves. “In November 2022, a number of new occupations will become eligible for the immigration programs managed through the Express Entry system — including transport truck drivers, bus drivers, subways operators and other transit operators.”

The decision to open the Express Entry programs to truck drivers comes after talks between the Canadian Trucking Alliance and Canadian Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, said Jonathan Blackham, CTA’s director of public policy and public affairs.

“There is a lot of need for professional drivers to come into the industry over the next couple of years,” Blackham said. “Right now, we have about 26,000 job vacancies in the trucking industry. We estimate that the supply gap could be around 50,000 jobs by 2024.”

CTA said the vacancy rate in the trucking industry is about 8% compared to a 5.4% rate for  general employment. 

“The trucking transportation industry has an economic multiplier effect and a reach into other industries far beyond what many jobs out there have,” Blackham said. “We’ve always tried to make the case that investing in the trucking industry isn’t just an investment in that industry, it’s an investment in all industries that rely on services that need those trucks to get everything from business inputs and raw materials, or their final goods to market. Virtually everything has traveled on a truck at some point in time.”

Express Entry is Canada’s flagship application management system for those seeking to immigrate, Carbert said. The program is an online system used to manage immigration applications from workers and is designed for skilled immigrants who want to move to Canada permanently.

Carbert said if applicants meet the minimum entry criteria for at least one of the programs managed through Express Entry — Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program and Federal Skilled Trades programs — they will be able to submit their profiles and be ranked in the Express Entry pool based on its comprehensive ranking system (CRS). 

Applicants can also apply through Express Entry for the Provincial Nominee Program, Carbert said. If nominated, applicants will receive extra points on their CRS scores and can be invited to apply quickly.

“To be invited to apply, applicants in the Express Entry pool will need to have a score above the minimum points score for a given round of invitations,” Carbert said.

Blackham said applicants who make it through the Express Entry programs are usually skilled workers who fill a need in Canada.

“Express Entry is seen as a sort of cream of the crop immigration program that’s really designed for folks that want to come here in high-demand professions and to get a license and make a career in the trucking industry or in any industry that they apply,” Blackham said.

Express Entry for foreign truck drivers looking to immigrate to Canada is just one tool CTA will use to alleviate the trucker employment gap, Blackham said.

CTA has also submitted other recommendations to the federal government to help the trucking industry meet the demands of the supply chain, including forgivable funding grants to cover entry-level training costs; a wage subsidy program to support the onboarding/training of new entrants into the industry; establishing training tax credits for carriers; and creating a federal-provincial heavy truck rest stop infrastructure program.

“In our minds, there’s no one single thing that would solve the driver shortage,” Blackham said. “Immigration on its own could never solve the problem for us. It’s really about looking at all the different kinds of ways we can help to get people into the industry and keep them in the industry.” 

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