The lack of professional drivers on the market is not only a European problem, but also a global one! The situation has not been improved by rising salaries, as the working conditions in road transport still remain difficult. While the post-pandemic economy is accelerating the shortages are growing. This has been confirmed by the latest research conducted by International Road Transport Union (IRU).
The most recent data on drivers’ shortage
According to the latest research published in 2022 by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), in Europe there is currently a shortage of 380,000 truck drivers, which accounts for about 10% of the total demand. The IRU has predicted, that by the end of the year this shortfall may increase to 14%. This data is the result of surveys conducted among 744 transport operators from 15 European countries. Globally, 1.5 thousand companies from 25 countries were questioned.
Between 2020 and 2021 alone, drivers’ shortages in Europe increased by 40%. According to the IRU, Romania alone lacks 71,000 professional drivers, Poland and Germany miss 80,000 while in Great Britain transport companies are in need of up to 100,000 professionals. The situation is better in Eurasia, where in 2021 the numbers remained unchanged compared to the previous year. It is much worse in Mexico, where shortages increased by 30% to 54,000 drivers missing and in China, which saw a record increase in shortages by 140%, which translates into 1.8 million jobs.
Significant shortages of drivers go hand in hand with very low participation of women and young people in the profession. In 2021, on a global scale, less than 3% of all truck drivers were women (the exceptions are China and the United States, where the share of women remains at 5% and 8%, respectively). This level is however well below the norm for the transport and logistics sector, where in Europe the proportion of women accounts for 22% of all employees.
The ageing population is still a big problem. In all surveyed regions, only 7% of truck drivers are under the age of 25. On the other hand, in various regions in Europe there are two to five times as many drivers aged over 55. The situation is different only in China and Mexico. In Europe and the United States, older drivers in the transport of goods account for about a third of all employed in this profession. Europe also has the highest average age of truck drivers, which is 47 years.
Difficult working conditions continue to be the major problem
According to carriers, difficult working conditions are still the main reason for the lack of interest in the driver’s profession. This reason was indicated by over 50% of respondents. Another reason, according to carriers, are the difficulties in attracting young people to the profession (42%) as well as the lack of qualified specialists (36%).
Data shows, that the increase in salaries did not lead to a significant improvement of the situation, nor better comfort of work resulting from more modern cabins and safer vehicles, greater automation or digitization of administrative tasks. For women and young people the lack of safe and secure parking places, with accommodation facilities, is still a problematic issue. This is also the case of relatively long periods away from home.
In search of solutions
· Improving working conditions
As working conditions in the road transport sector require constant improvement, a group of social partners including IRU, ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and GSA (Global Shippers’ Alliance) has come up with a “Charter for improving the treatment of drivers at delivery sites”. The charter consists of a list of obligations and rights on the part of forwarders, carriers and drivers. As an example, signatories of the charter oblige themselves to provide drivers with access to toilets and social rooms, trained staff for the time of loading and unloading as well as with up-to-date information on possible delays.
· Prohibition of loading and unloading in Portugal and Spain
Another interesting practice can be observed in Portugal and Spain. These two countries have introduced legislation, that prevents drivers from carrying out loading and unloading activities. These provisions do also apply to foreign operators and their drivers providing transport services on Spanish and Portuguese territory.
In Portugal the provision came into force in September 2021 (Decreto-lei 57/2021 from 13 July). Since that time loading and unloading operations have to be carried out by the consignor or the consignee. Loading and unloading of cargo directly by the driver is still possible, but only in a few situations such as: distribution of central warehouses to the respective stores, removals and door-to-door transport as well as transport of fuel and dangerous substances. Drivers involved in loading and unloading shall receive additional 2,50 Euro per day. Failure to comply will be punished with a max fine of €15,000. According to these provisions, if the waiting time for loading and/or unloading exceeds 2 hours, a compensation will be due to the haulier. During the waiting times drivers shall have access to sanitary facilities and a waiting place.
Spain has followed with similar national provisions, that entered into force one year later, in September 2022 (Real Decreto-ley 3/2022 from 1st March). In Spain, the prohibition of carrying out loading and unloading activities apply in case of operations carried out by vehicles of more than 7,5 tonnes. Loading and unloading by drivers is possible only in few situations such as removals, carriage of fractionary loads between the distribution centre and the point of sale, or transport via tank vehicles, tipping vehicles or vehicles with a crane. These provisions also apply to foreign operators and their drivers.
· European Pact on Migration and Asylum
In the spring, the European Commission published the Pact on Migration and Asylum. To improve the management of legal migration and at the same time reduce skills shortages, the European Commission has proposed several areas of action. Directives on long-term residents and on the single residence permit will be revised in order to simplify the procedures for admitting workers with different qualification levels to the EU and to facilitate the intra-EU mobility of third-country workers. Legislative work should be completed at the beginning of 2024.