Class 3 driver shortage affecting P.E.I. farms
Lack of drivers means a loss for some farmers
P.E.I. has a shortage of drivers with a Class 3 licence able to drive a heavy truck such as a potato tandem or grain truck.
Island farms are seeking out 16 of these drivers and as the potato harvest picks up the number could climb as high as 50, according to the P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council.
A lack of drivers means a loss for some farmers, said executive director Laurie Loane.
"If they can't get their drivers to put the crops in the fields to the warehouses and then to the processing, they're losing money and they can't afford to lose any more money than what they already do," Loane said.
She said that puts farmers in a tough situation.
Loane said she wishes the council still had enough funding to pay for this training, so farmers didn't have to invest $800 to get a worker the Class 3 licence — something that also eats into the farmer's bottom line.
"We have to make sure that we are going in the right direction and getting the people trained and having them work in agriculture is certainly what I think is the right direction," Loane said, noting the council had a third of its funding cut by the province in 2015.
Loane isn't alone in her frustrations.
Cost adds up
Lack of capable drivers has been an ongoing issue for a number of years in the farming industry, said Robert Godfrey, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.
"One farm that I talked to, they are short two drivers and that meant real consequences last year in terms of getting product out of the ground and into storage. So, I think there are real consequences when you can't find the drivers you need," he said.
One of the challenges is spending the $800 for a worker to get Class 3 training, then if that worker leaves for another job, it creates even more losses for farmers, Godfrey said.
"If you are training two or three drivers the cost starts to add up," he said.
Godfrey said the P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council used to be able to cover the whole cost, but with the cuts in 2015 it hasn't been able to. He said he thinks going back to the 100 per cent coverage model would help the situation.
"Would it erase the problem? I wouldn't go that far, but it would help," Godfrey said.
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With files from Island Morning