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Alberta trucking industry revs up with oil back over $60

Alberta trucking companies that rely on the oilpatch for business and were forced to scramble during the downturn are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, industry experts say.

Oilpatch-connected hauling picking up, but driver shortage a problem

Bob Page, president of Boots Transport, says with oil back up at around $60, business is picking up again for oilpatch-related hauling. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Alberta trucking companies that rely on the oilpatch for business and were forced to scramble during the downturn are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, industry experts say.

Boots Transport president Bob Page says oilpatch-related business started picking up last fall as the price of oil rebounded to the $60 range.

And he says he's hearing similar stories from other trucking companies.

Things are starting to get busy again in the Alberta trucking industry as the price of oil recovers. But a shortage of drivers is a challenge for many companies. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"The oil industry has picked up a little bit in our world. We're moving more pipe, steel products, fabricated products, pipe spooling, that sort of thing," he said.

Page says his company worked its way through the downturn by building the business beyond the oilpatch.

Now as oil-related work picks up again, he's expanding his fleet of trucks.

"We just continue to work hard, source out new customers and build from that," he said.

Drivers wanted

The Alberta Motor Transport Association says it has also seen recent oilpatch-related gains in trucking.

"We see a lot of companies slowly picking up," said  Andrew Barnes, director of compliance and regulatory affairs for the association.

"The $60 oil does affect some of the lanes going up to Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie … out Saskatchewan way. So, we're generally seeing a slow pickup in the economy."

Barnes said one of the biggest challenges facing the industry in Alberta right now is a drastic shortage of qualified drivers.

Many drivers, who had come to Alberta during the boom times, left the province when the economy soured.

"I can tell you that one of the major bulk fuel haulers in Alberta would take 100 drivers today," he said.

"Unquestionably, they would put 100 people in the driver's seat, without question, if they had 100 qualified applicants."  

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