Combatting Truck Driver Shortages: Recent Changes to Ontario’s Immigration Legislation

August 28, 2019 | Mabel Kyei, Jaclyne Reive

The Ontario government has introduced changes to the Ontario Immigration Act, 2015 to include a new immigration stream for transport truck drivers, in which individuals intending to work in this occupation and live in Ontario may now qualify to apply to the province for support in obtaining permanent residence status in Canada. This is a welcome response to Canada’s long-haul truck driver shortage crisis.

Driver Shortages

The current market conditions twinned with the shortage of long-haul drivers has been causing a severe lack of capacity for the carriage of goods, increased shipping costs, and less favorable terms for Canadian shippers, importers and exporters. This crisis has been plaguing the industry in both Canada and the US for the last 15 years, and reached a new high in the US last year, accordingly to Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Association.[i] Costello indicated that the US needed 60,800 more drivers than were actually available to meet the demand by the end of 2018.

There have been many discussions to determine the sources of the shortage and methods to resolve the issue. One of the main sources is that many of the current population of drivers are over 55 years old, and the population is slowly aging out of the industry and there are difficulties attracting young people.[ii] Other concerns include health issues, the number of days drivers spend away from home, and taxation in Canada vs. the US.[iii]

Raising driver pay, allowing more “at-home” time, improving driver image, better treatment and reduced wait times, and creating better work-life balance are all methods that have been implemented and assisted with the issue but not fast enough.[iv] Educating the younger generation about the opportunities associated with a career in trucking, such as the possibility of working their way into office and management positions, and generally making specific efforts to recruit that generation have been other strategies.[v]

Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) In-Demand Skills Stream

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) In-Demand Skills Stream was created to provide foreign nationals with a job offer, in predetermined occupations that are in-demand, the opportunity to permanently live and work in Ontario. On July 8, 2019, as part of Premier Doug Ford’s 2019 Budget, the occupation code for Transport Truck Drivers (National Occupation Classification code 7511) was added to this list of in-demand occupations. This change will now allow trucking companies to hire foreign labour, and is expected to better reflect labour needs in the province.

Foreign nationals, both within Canada and outside of Canada, can now apply to the Ontario government to be nominated for permanent residence, once they have obtained a valid job offer as a Transport Truck Driver in Ontario. The OINP In-Demand Skills Stream has specific requirements for what constitutes a job offer, and what is required for an employer and applicant to be eligible.

Employer and Applicant Eligibility Requirements

 As a general overview, the employer must:

  1. Have been in active business for at least three years prior to submitting the application;
  2. Have business premises in Ontario where the foreign national will work;
  3. Meet the revenue requirements:
    • a minimum of $1,000,000 in total gross annual revenue if the work location is in the Greater Toronto Area (City of Toronto, Durham, Halton, York and Peel regions),
      or
    • a minimum of $500,000 in total gross annual revenue if the work location is outside of the Greater Toronto Area;
  4. Meet the current Canadian/permanent resident employee requirements:
    • at least five full-time employees who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents whose place of work is located in the Greater Toronto Area (City of Toronto, Durham, Halton, York and Peel regions),
      or
    • at least three full-time employees who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents whose place of work is located outside the Greater Toronto Area;
  5. Demonstrate that enough effort was made to recruit a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident prior to offering the position (this only applies if the foreign national is currently living outside of Canada or working outside of Ontario); and
  6. Have no outstanding orders under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 or the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The applicant must have the following to be eligible for the stream:

  1. Work experience in Canada as a Transport Truck Driver for at least nine months within the three years prior to making the application;
  2. Valid license as required by the industry and position (i.e. entry-level training and provincial road test, as well as any employer-specific training);
  3. Language abilities in English or French, as demonstrated by completion of an approved language test;
  4. A minimum education level of secondary school (high school) or equivalent;
  5. Settlement funds to support the applicant and their family members;
  6. Legal status in Canada if the applicant is applying from within Canada; and
  7. The intention to live in Ontario.

Next Steps

The provincial nomination can be used to apply to the federal government, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada for permanent residence for the nominated applicant and their family members.

For more information on eligibility for the OINP In-Demand Skills Stream or on how to hire foreign truck drivers across Canada, please feel free to contact any member of Miller Thomson’s Transportation and Logistics team.


[i] Canadian Trucking Alliance, “ATA: Truck Driver Shortage Threatens Supply Chain”, 190730, online: < http://cantruck.ca/ata-truck-driver-shortage-threatens-supply-chain/>

[ii] Canadian Trucking Alliance, “Laskowski: Foreign Drivers One Piece of Driver Shortage Puzzle,” 190118, online: < http://cantruck.ca/laskowski-foreign-drivers-one-piece-of-driver-shortage-puzzle/>

[iii] Canadian Trucking Alliance, “Survey: Poor Health Contributing to Driver Shortage,” 160527, online: < http://cantruck.ca/survey-poor-health-contributing-to-driver-shortage/>

[iv] Supra note 1, and Today’s Trucking, “Trucking Execs say Labor Shortage is Top Concern,” 190624, online: < https://www.todaystrucking.com/trucking-execs-say-labor-shortage-is-top-concern/>

[v] Supra note 2 and Today’s Trucking, “Readers Concerned about Aging Trucking Industry,” 190117, online: < https://www.todaystrucking.com/readers-concerned-about-aging-trucking-industry/>

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