PEI trucking companies operate buses and long-haul and short-haul trucks, repair trucks, and manage the logistics around moving freight. From food to furniture to clothes, 95 percent of items Islanders purchase are delivered by truck. On PEI, there are approximately 250 transportation industry-related companies.
As a result of COVID-19, the industry still has some capacity to hire more long haul Drivers and Mechanics, but we are essentially in a holding pattern for the time being. As things are so uncertain these days, most companies are not expanding their fleet size, but rather just keeping up with present demands.
At this point, most companies are running at full capacity. The exception would be those tied to other sectors such as construction, as there has been a bit of a slow down with that sector. For the moment, repair shops also seem to be remaining busy.
Overall, our greatest challenge has been adapting our workforce to life in a COVID-19 world. This includes finding access to things like hand sanitizer, masks and disinfectant, as well as meals on the road.
Recently, we were dealing with a growing number of Drivers who were not able to return home to self-isolate and were ultimately forced to live out of their trucks, but we now have hotel rooms available for drivers at no cost!
There are other impacts such as reducing contact with other people. It seems like every day our industry is thrown a new curveball we have to adapt to. Just recently, we received news that all Drivers are required to wear face masks to cross the US border.
In terms of workforce, our greatest need is for long-haul Drivers. Ideally, we need experienced long haul Drivers at this point. With new measures in place, it is difficult to train and coach new staff as they onboard with a company. Our industry is not willing to compromise safety to get new Drivers behind the wheel. With that being said, some companies are better set up to recruit and train Drivers in these times than others.
The majority of new hires at this point are still in long-haul. As well, a handful of seasonal employers are starting back up if they are considered an essential service. This would include concrete, construction, and agriculture. Most of these businesses however have a much reduced need for staff at this point and can most likely fill many of these positions by bringing back former employees.
If someone already has training or experience, it’s worth reaching out to employers and continuing the job search, as there are still opportunities. For those looking to get into the industry and require training, things will most likely be on hold for some time.
For more information about job opportunities, click here.
by Brian Oulton, Executive Director, PEI Trucking Sector Council