Dump truck sales in Windsor are soaring in order to meet the demand created by the $1.4-billion Windsor-Essex Parkway.

"Sales have probably doubled, maybe more," said Frank Kemski, who owns and operates 401 Mack, a sales centre in Windsor.

Kemski said he will see a $5-million sales increase this year over last.

"We thought there was going to be an increase

[in sales] prior to the project but we were a little premature," Kemski said. "But once they started, guys have been in here buying. Guys have increased their fleet. For some guys, it’s their first time in the business."

Construction of the 11-kilometre, multi-lane highway that will link Highway 401 to a new international crossing started in August 2011.

Approximately 150 trucks are being used to move dirt out of and around the massive highway project.

Most of the nearly 4 million cubic metres of dirt moved from the project will be will be used in the project itself. It will be turned into embankments and  as part of the landscaping.

However, 1.3 million cubic metres of dirt — the equivalent of 100,000 truckloads — will be trucked from the project and put into an old landfill in Essex County.

"They’ll be busy for the next two or three years, I’m assuming," Kemski said of the truckers. "The whole thing has been very positive for guys in this business."

It’s not only truck sales that have spiked. So has the number of trucks being serviced.

"The other thing that’s taken off is the parts and service side," Kemski said.

He is currently short apprentices and technicians.

This map illustrates just how far 150 dump trucks, parked bumper to bumper, would stretch — from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to the Ambassador Bridge.

Local industry facing a 'crisis'

Robert Chittim, chair of St. Clair College’s school of skilled trades said the parkway and upcoming retirements from the industry have created a "crisis."

To meet demand, St. Clair College added a post-secondary coach and truck technician program. The first class of 24 is set to graduate this month.

Although the school has offered a coach and truck technician apprenticeship program for a decade, it recently built a truck training centre to meet demand and complement the post-secondary diploma program.

In February, the school will, for the first time, also offer a pre-apprenticeship program to high school grads.

"There’s been some increase [in interest]. We’re trying to match the demands out there," Chittim said.

Chittim said most truck mechanics are currently in their mid-50s or older and approaching retirement. He said that fact coupled with parkway were the reasons to expand the program at St. Clair.

"We’re expecting a huge shortage in the next five to 10 years. It’s an excellent time to get in the trade right now," Chittim said. "The next five to 10 years are critical."

Kemski, though, isn’t sure what lies ahead after the parkway is built.

"You’re going to have a lot of trucks. What are they going to do next?" Kemski said. "I’m not sure. But it’s been good so far.

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This graphic illustrates just how many trucks are working on the Windsor-Essex Parkway.