Around the world, shortages of drivers have reached critical rates and are threatening the functional stability of supply chains and an economy that has already suffered from a pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and soaring inflation rates.
According to a 2021 report by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), there are over 2.6 million vacancies for truck drivers in Europe, the US, Mexico, Argentina, Central Asia and South East Asia. The highest percentage of available jobs is found in Eurasia, at 18%, and Turkey, at 15.4%. European countries have a shortage of 425,000 transport operators, and by the end of 2023 this figure will increase by 14%.
In 2020-2021 the number of vacancies for drivers in Europe increased by 42%. There were 100,000 carrier shortages in the UK, 80,000 in Poland and Germany, and 71,000 in Romania. Mexico saw a 30% increase in vacancies, and China saw a record 140% increase.
The above statistics show that the attractiveness of working as a driver is declining while the demand for transportation services remains high. That is due to the following factors:
Lack of young employees
By 2026, the number of vacancies for truck drivers in Europe will rise to 60% due to the retirement of truckers and the lack of a younger generation in the profession. Drivers under the age of 25 make up 6-7 percent of the trucking industry in many regions, and drivers over 55 make up five times that number, except in China and Mexico. In the U.S. and European countries, older operators account for one-third of the total number of professionals. The highest average age is in Europe, at 47.
Despite rising female unemployment in some regions, women still make up a small percentage of truck drivers. Spain leads Europe in female unemployment at 14 percent, with only 2 percent of truck drivers in the country being women. In Europe, Mexico, Argentina, some CIS countries, Asia and Ukraine, women make up 3% of drivers. The situation looks a little better in the U.S. at 8%, and 5% in China.
Harsh working conditions
The labor shortage in the transportation industry is also related to harsh working conditions. Young people are discouraged by the lack of safe parking lots for sleepovers, long waiting times for loading and unloading, and inaccessible restrooms for drivers at loading and unloading points. In addition, international transport is associated with long stays away from home. Waiting in line at a European Union border crossing can take hours, days, or even weeks. Drivers also sometimes have to manually unload/load heavy goods.
Minimum driving age and license cost
The minimum age for professional drivers in some EU countries is still set at 21, which is a problem for school leavers. The IRU is urging the age to be lowered to 18, with the start of training at 17. The license and training costs also reduce the attractiveness of the profession. In France, for example, a license to drive a truck costs 5,300 euros, which is three times the average monthly minimum wage.
“Transportation and logistics companies are faced with difficulties in finding carriers. Polish companies often work with foreign drivers, which brings inconvenience due to the language barrier. In our company, we take market characteristics into consideration, adapt to requirements, and pay attention to foreign language skills in order to be closer to customers and carriers alike. Our understanding of local markets enhances the coordination of transport processes,” concludes Vitali Eremenco, Deputy Director of Operations and Road Transport Operations at the AsstrA Group in Poland.
Author: Kamila Rynkiewicz.