Road transport sector facing worst driver shortages for decades

The European road transport sector is facing the most serious professional driver shortages in decades, according to a recent report by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) who polled members and other interest groups from October 2018 through to January 2019.

In 2015, 3.2 million Europeans were employed as truck drivers; 300,000 less than in 2008. With numbers continuing to fall, the driver shortage is likely to continue to impact on transport operators, the supply chain and the economy as a whole with shortages increasing disruption and inefficiencies with cost implications for businesses, consumers and passengers.

“In the UK, the shortage is estimated to be growing at a staggering rate of 50 drivers per day.”

The IRU report findings throw light on the key issues across the industry including a visible driver shortage of 21% in the freight transport sector and 19% in the bus and coach sector and highlights a number of barriers to those entering the profession.

Sub-optimal working conditions and long periods away from home act as major deterrents for those considering the road transport profession.”

The key issues include:

  • 87% of drivers over 55 and 73% of drivers under 25 indicated that being required to spend long periods away from home was critical to explaining driver shortages across long distance transport.
  • Respondents also said that working conditions should be enhanced by increasing security, providing well-equipped rest zones and offering more flexible working hours.
  • The sector is suffering from an image problem and is struggling to attract a diverse workforce.
  • Security was a primary concern for female drivers who are massively underrepresented in the workforce, accounting for just 2% of the European driver population.
  • The industry has an ageing labour force with the average driver in Europe being 50 years of age.

Respondents said that working conditions should be enhanced by increasing security, providing well-equipped rest zones and offering more flexible working hours.

The report highlights healthy job satisfaction levels, particularly among younger drivers who have the highest levels of job satisfaction compared to their older colleagues with a 73% satisfaction rating for 19-24 year olds compared to 41% for drivers in the 45-54 age group and 42% for drivers who are 55 years and over.

Despite healthy satisfaction levels, there is a shortage of young people entering the profession. Despite high youth unemployment rates across parts of Europe, young people show little interest in road transport jobs and in some countries, legislation prevents them from doing so.

To address these challenges, the IRU has worked in close co-operation with its members to create an action plan of short, medium and long-term measures.

Some of the proposed measures include setting up a Women in Transport Network, aimed at increasing the number of women in the transport sector and their representation at all working levels of the industry. Incentives such as creating awards for female drivers and for the best performing companies in terms of recruitment, inclusiveness and retention are also included in the action plan.

The driver shortage is complex and while the problem is a global one, solutions may in many cases need to be national and local with governments, local authorities, industry partners and lobby groups joining forces to help address the problem.


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