How serious is the shortage of truck drivers in logistics road freight transportation?

Freight transport has been affected by a driver shortage for many years now. However, recent events on the global scene, such as the Brexit and especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have raised concerns about this challenge in the logistics sector.

The International Transport Organization (IRU) has revealed in a recent report that during 2020 alone, the supply of truck drivers in Europe fell by three quarters, from 24% to 7%. These figures come at a critical time when demand has risen sharply. In fact, the trucker shortage in Europe is estimated to be over 400.000 drivers.

With Black Friday and Christmas approaching, in addition to the already consolidated reactivation of e-commerce, the situation has led to a rise in prices in the sector, which has been dragging on for some time and which, in the third quarter of 2021, were at an all-time high.


The United Kingdom is already suffering the consequences of Brexit

Perhaps the most alarming aspect is that this shortfall in road freight logistics capacity has now become commonplace. Empty shelves in many UK supermarkets are becoming more and more frequent, with the United Kingdom being the most affected by the lack of truck drivers. So much so that the British government is turning to the military to provide transport and guarantee the supply of certain products.

The 'Brexit' is affecting the other side of the English Channel more acutely. If there were problems in continental Europe, what about a market where, due to its exit from the common market, the reduction in the number of EU citizens driving HGVs has fallen from 42.000 to 28.000 in just a few months.

Shortage of drivers in all markets

As we pointed out at the beginning, this problem is not exclusive to the United Kingdom. According to the IRU document, the truck driver shortage in Spain could reach 10.2% in 2021, compared to 7% in 2020. In France, between 40.000 and 50.000 drivers are needed, and in Germany the figure rises to 65.000. If we look at a superpower like the United States, the situation is similar. There, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the trucking industry is short of 80.000 drivers, a 30% increase since before the pandemic, when the industry was already facing a shortage of 61.500 drivers.

Why are there so few truck drivers?

To investigate the origins of the problem, we return to the IRU report. The most relevant fact is that only 7% of carriers are under 25 years of age. The average age is above fifty and only one in four drivers is under that age.

However, the main cause of this decline is to be found in the lack of truck driving experience, since certain requirements are needed to drive a truck that not everyone wants or can afford. In countries such as Spain, for example, it is necessary to have a certificate of professional aptitude or CAP to drive on their roads, and to obtain it you have to pass an exam after following a training course.

This is combined with the ever-decreasing popularity of the truck driving profession and its social discredit, which makes it unattractive to young people. Being a truck driver implies sacrificing many things, such as social or family life, leisure, and spending long periods away from home. Nor should we forget the working conditions to which the logistics sector is subjected, with low wages, insecurity on the road and old claims still unresolved, such as the prohibition of loading and unloading by the driver of the vehicle in full loads.

What can we do to solve the lack of drivers in the road transport industry?

The solution would be to meet the above-mentioned demands. In the case of training, it is considered necessary to include specific professional education, which would facilitate the arrival of new students and, therefore, professionals.

Further ways to solve the lack of truck drivers:

  • an update in working conditions
  • development of rest areas
  • increase in prevention against theft
  • aide aid in the event of increases in gas oil or electricity
  • improvement in salaries

These are issues that cannot be resolved in the short term, but which must be put on the agenda for the near future, so that the sector continues to move in the right direction.