Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know that I believe good economic development strategy is based on a strong understanding of your economy, its assets and attributes and on determining what is an appropriate role for government to leverage these assets and attributes to foster private business investment, job creation and a solid economic growth trajectory. This solid economic growth trajectory is foundational to ensuring we have the tax base needed to sustainably fund the public services, support and infrastructure we all take for granted these days.
New Brunswick, for example, has the largest truck transportation sector in Canada as a share of GDP. The sector employs nearly 9,000 workers in New Brunswick – nearly as many as the other three Atl. Provinces combined.
Historically, much of the regional trucking sector has been based in New Brunswick – Moncton but also the Woodstock/Carleton area of the province and other regions. A number of large trucking firms – Armour, Midland, Day & Ross, etc. established head and back offices here as well as their trucking workforce.
But in the last few years, the dynamic is changing. The GDP contribution from the sector has only grown marginally while expanding rapidly in most other provinces. The role of NB as a regional truck transportation powerhouse is slipping as the GDP growth has only been 5% over the past decade compared to robust growth in Nova Scotia, PEI and elsewhere.
The truck transportation sector is one facing significant upheaval. The available workforce has been tightening for years leading to retrenchment in employment. The loss of jobs is also tied to productivity improvements such as the introduction of the ‘road train’.
Moving forward the industry will be buffeted by many trends including new technologies, the potential rise of automated vehicles, the aging workforce, etc. At the same time, the locally based trucking firms face significant competition from national firms.
We can sit back, pop the popcorn and watch the story unfold or we can get industry leaders in a room and have a conversation about where their industry is going and if there are issues in the realm of government control that can be leveraged to help embrace the changes – steer into the skid if you will.
AVs may not get traction here in the short term because of our winters – or they may. Immigrants may be a source of new workers moving forward. Governments could allocate a tiny portion of the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on R&D every year in Canada to this sector. We could encourage more startups at the intersection of technology and trucking.
Or we can enjoy that nice, buttery popcorn.