For many years now, the shortage of professional drivers has been one of the greatest problems in the transport industry. 2023 is not an exception in this case, which is confirmed by the recent research, such as the IRU (International Road Transport Union) report from previous year. This problem leads to, among others, difficulties in fulfilling the orders and an increasing salary pressure from drivers.

Read our article which introduces successful strategies for sourcing and retaining drivers, information regarding the situation in the European transport markets, as well as ways to boost employee motivation and loyalty towards the company.

The lack of truck and bus drivers – a challenge for transport industry

Data from recent years clearly indicate that this unfavorable situation has been gradually deteriorating – the demand and the number of carriages is growing, at the same time the number of drivers remains at a similar level. This situation limits the carriers scope for action, which results in the difficulties related to the enterprises development and, in the bigger picture, it limits economic development.

The problem is a global issue. Data published by the IRU indicate how dangerous the current trends are – it shows that the average age of a professional driver is 47, and the percentage of drivers under the age of 25 is only 7%. Mexico and China are the exception in this case on a global scale, with young drivers rates of 19% and 17%.

How huge is the demand for professional drivers?

The demand for professional drivers is dependent on many factors, such as:

  • local and global labor market,
  • sector,
  • types of vehicles and permissions.

Generally speaking, we can see a constantly increasing demand for drivers around the world. At the same time, the above-mentioned data regarding demography in the profession do not allow for optimism. According to the experts’ estimation, if the current trend is not stopped, within three years, Europe will see a shortage of almost two million drivers. Right now, the shortage of professional drivers fluctuates around 25%.

The reasons for lack of professional drivers

A number of factors of a complex nature contribute to the shortage of professional drivers in Europe. The drivers’ salaries are constantly growing, but this does not result in any significant increase in the number of people who are willing to work in the profession. What are the most important reasons of the current situation?

  • the nature of work: high responsibility and requirements, pressure, spending a lot of time away from home – as a result of these factors, the profile of the driver’s profession is not attractive enough for many people. Work-life balance plays, especially among young people, an important role, and more often than not it is a more significant aspect than the amount of salary,
  • the shortage of qualified divers: there is no denying that the requirements which must be met in order to become a professional driver are quite strict. This refers both to the knowledge and skills necessary to pass the final exam for drivers, as well as the very good health that a candidate must prove to obtain a medical and psychological certificate,
  • training cost: what many people find to be a problem is the cost of obtaining the permission itself – even despite the high salary to be earned later and no problems in finding a job. Experts indicate also the problem of insufficient systemic solutions on this matter – for instance courses or trainings in the field of transportation in vocational education,
  • political reasons: one of the factors that significantly deepened the problem of drivers’ shortage over the last year has been the war in Ukraine. Ukrainians are one of the largest groups of foreign nationals in transportation companies of many countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. As a result of Russian military aggression, a large number of them made a decision to return to their motherland.

Potential dangers related to the shortage of drivers

What can be concluded on the basis of above-mentioned information? Soon, the shortage of workers in the European transport industry will deepen, potentially resulting in numerous negative consequences. They will include, among others:

  • difficulties regarding access to raw materials and food products,
  • price increase,
  • limitation of transportation companies development,
  • in the bigger picture – economic slowdown.

How to solve the problem of missing drivers

The lack of professional drivers constitutes a complex issue for the European economy, which, in the short term, may contribute to numerous economic difficulties and make the functioning of many industry branches very difficult. Owners of transportation companies and representatives of government administration should focus on ways of resolving this situation and take appropriate steps.

What can the carriers do? Firstly, it is worth to take care of “retaining” the currently employed drivers in the company and boosting their motivation to work. The most popular methods aimed to encourage drivers to stay with the company are the following:

  • increase in salary,
  • frequent homecomings,
  • modern vehicles,

Carriers also identified other ways, such as cash allowances, additional days of leave and other benefits – e.g. private health care.

The activities of transportation companies aimed at attracting entirely new employees to the profession look similar. Of course, the thing which plays a significant role is the level of offered earnings and the frequency of drivers’ homecomings. Very important arguments for job seekers include also more flexible schedules that take the needs of drivers into consideration. The possibility of adjusting working hours to private life is of great importance.

General working conditions are also important. The way to improve them is, for instance, investing in modern telematic solutions and TMS systems, with which each stage of transport orders fulfillment is simpler for drivers, shippers and dispatchers. What else do the carriers do in order to cope with the lack of truck drivers? One of the most common ways is to hire foreign nationals, for example from Ukraine and Belarus, or from Asian countries.

There are also steps that can be taken at the level of government. Experts across Europe request the implementation of solutions facilitating access to the profession, such as:

  • development of state vocational education,
  • programs focused on financing or co-financing courses for drivers,
  • lowering the age requirements for drivers,
  • simplifying the procedures concerning the foreign nationals employment.