Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to present to you here today. As mentioned, my name is Mike Schut. I'm the vice-president of administration and human resources with Bulk Carriers. With me is Tyson Kelly, the vice-president of operations and general manager.
Bulk Carriers is a family-owned and operated business located just outside of Charlottetown, in Clyde River, P.E.I. It started in 1973 and it has grown to be the largest island-owned long-haul transport company today.
We are in the middle of a crisis within this industry, and there needs to be action now. In 2013, a report funded by the Canadian Trucking Alliance indicated that, by the year 2020, the gap between supply and demand for truck drivers would soar as high as 33,000. I heard recently from the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, who said that the gap may actually be closer to 40,000. Folks, we're only two years away from that projection, and this is only a start.
Our growth at Bulk Carriers has gone from eight trucks and 12 staff in the year 2000 to 98 trucks and 142 staff in 2018. Trucking moves the Canadian economy. Without transport trucks moving the product, the economy would grind to a halt.
In 2012, statistics showed that 90% of all consumer products and foodstuff was shipped by truck throughout Canada. The trucking industry generated more than $67 billion in revenue. In 2018, Bulk Carriers is projecting annual sales to be in excess of $30 million, and our payroll is projected to be in excess of $9 million. Since the last quarter of 2017, we have increased our driver pay package two times. This is being done to combat our annualized driver turnover rates of 59% and in an effort to fill the 17 trucks that we currently have sitting empty in our yard with no drivers to put in them.
Since 2004, Bulk Carriers has been a user of the temporary foreign worker program. In fact, the second driver we brought over under that program is still with us today and just recently completed 13 years of service with our company. Today, our driver population consists of 46% temporary foreign workers. This has been an absolutely necessary program in order to deal with the driver shortage crisis.
I mentioned earlier that we currently have 17 trucks, or 17% of our fleet, empty. This comes at a huge cost. If these trucks were full, our potential year-to-date revenue in 2018 would be increased to approximately $35 million, with projected payroll costs of $10 million. In the first nine months of 2018, having 17 empty trucks has cost approximately $550,000. If they were filled, the costs would be higher with driver wages, fuel, repair and maintenance, but that would be offset by the revenue generated from their going up and down the road. Having these trucks empty has caused increases in freight rates. These increases in freight rates have been felt by everyone, from farmers and producers to shippers, receivers, and the consumer. It translates to increased costs for products on the shelves, and that is carried on the back of the Canadian consumer. This is the case not just for our transport company, but for almost all transport companies across Canada and North America.
There are several things that the Canadian federal government can do and needs to do in order to deal with this crisis. First and foremost, the federal government needs to recognize that a long-haul truck driver is not a low-skilled worker. According to the national occupational classification system, long-haul truck drivers are code 7511, which is NOC C. This is classified as a low-skill worker. In the paper that we have submitted to you, I have provided several compelling reasons why a long-haul truck driver should not be classified as low-skilled. Changing NOC code 7511 from C to B would greatly reduce the barriers to entry for foreign workers to fill the shortages we are experiencing.
Another way the federal government can act now is by making some changes to the Atlantic immigration pilot program. I have recommended these changes as well, which can be seen in the paper submitted to you.
Yet another way the federal government can respond to this crisis is to streamline the LMIA application process. The process is too long and has too many bottlenecks that can cause absolutely unnecessary delays, which costs money.
The final area referred to in the paper, where Bulk Carriers and probably many other trucking companies could see a huge improvement, is for the federal government to level the playing field. Changes to the program to allow the temporary foreign worker's spouse to obtain an open work permit when they land would greatly improve retention rates and greatly decrease driver turnover rates.
In conclusion, all of these options can be seen as easy solutions to a major crisis. The federal government needs to act now, before it's too late. However, we are already in this crisis. This action needs to be now, in order to divert the crisis from becoming national economic devastation.