Northern MPP pushes province to address truck driver shortage due to rising insurance costs

People in Ontario's trucking industry believe that while the issues that are causing small trucking businesses to shutter and keeping drivers out of work are complicated — impact is clear and serious.

At the heart of the matter is skyrocketing insurance costs, as Debbie Paquin, who co-owns her family business in Hearst, said of her issues getting her son insured as a driver in a virtual press conference Thursday.

"From May 31 to June 1, (insurance) jumped 132 per cent," said Paquin. "No fines, no nothing. I'm paying over $15,000 to get him insured."

Mushkegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgouin held the meeting, inviting other drivers, business owners, and the president of the Women's Trucking Federation of Canada to speak about their issues with hiring drivers — and getting hired — due to the costs of insurance.

He said it is causing an industry crisis.

"The industry is getting a shortage of truck (drivers) and it affects the whole industry in northern Ontario — and this is not unique to northern Ontario, by the way, it's the whole province," Bourgouin said.

As for the cause of the issues, speakers said the cost of insuring a new driver in a small business is high, in part due to the lack of experience, rise in collisions and the lack of drivers in the industry.

To that end, they said even seasoned drivers at larger companies cannot get hired at a small local business because insurance companies do not accept industry log books as proof of employment, even though they are accepted for tax purposes. That means people can be considered new drivers, even though they have been working for years.

That adds to the industry driver shortage, Bourgouin said, because smaller companies cannot afford those premiums.

Which is why he put a motion to Queen's Park asking the province to address the problem — which passed, signifying a commitment to take action.

But Bourgouin said it will not be an easy fix and that there needs to be a mix of solutions.

"Is it subsidizing? Is it creating a provincial insurance for owner-operators, for trucking?" Bourgouin said.

"These are some of the solutions that can be looked at ... to reduce the costs and say no, this is unacceptable, you are killing an industry."

Bourgouin said the focus now needs to be on pressuring the provincial government to follow through, before more businesses and careers are out at risk.