How to deal with driver shortage – Part 1

Today fewer people want a career as a truck driver. The majority of the current generation of European drivers are over 45 years old and there is an insufficient pipeline of talent to replace them on their retirement. Europe faces a significant shortage of drivers.

The challenge

Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and former driver sums up the challenge for fleet managers, commenting “If e-commerce goes up a lot and the introduction of autonomous vehicles is slow and the industry does not shift to millennials, we could see actual [driver] shortages 10 years out.” [source: Bloomberg]

Situation today

According to one report, 6.4 million drivers will be needed across Europe and the USA by 2030 with fewer than 5.6 million expected to be willing to work under “current trucking conditions.”

Why is it difficult to recruit truck drivers?

There are 5 major issues which discourage people from considering a career in truck driving:

  1. Poor image – Movies where the truck driver is the star peaked in the 1970’s with films such as “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Convoy,” and “Duel”. By the 1990’s, there were virtually no “truck-driven” movies. Truck driving has lost its glamour.
  1. Low pay – There is a widespread perception among truck drivers that they are paid too little for their duties and responsibilities considering the hours they work on average. Drivers working for fleets in their native countries typically earn close to the national minimum wage. As an illustration, the average wage for a truck driver in Ireland is €12 per hour, which is the median Irish wage. (source: Bakugls) The Comité National Routier, a transport think-tank funded by the French state, found that the total cost of a driver to employers ranges from 16,000 euros per year for a Bulgarian to 56,000 euros for a Belgian. (source: Bloomberg) In the highly competitive road freight industry, there is significant pressure to increase profit margins. The cost of labour accounts for approximately 35% to 45% of operating costs (source: FleetOwner).
  1. Poor working conditions – The European Union regulates the maximum working week for truck drivers to 56 hours per week. However, in reality, drivers frequently spend much more time on the road and away from home than this as they have to include rest periods. These rest periods are not always compatible with long-distance travel and returning home for recovery. Truck cabs can be cramped and truck stop facilities often lacking, making it difficult for drivers to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  With time away from their families and friends, truck drivers can lead an antisocial existence. Such lifestyle factors make it difficult for fleets to retain existing drivers and attract new ones.
  1. Inadequate provision of training and qualifications – In the UK, the “financial cost of acquiring a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (“DCPC”) was ranked as the greatest barrier to driver recruitment by respondents” in a Freight Transport Association “Transport Manager Survey” in June 2015. This was followed closely by a “Lack of apprenticeship schemes”. The FTA’s Logistics Report 2016 also mentioned that “only around half of those taking the DCPC test, pass it”.

In an EU pilot study entitled “Making the EU transport sector attractive to future generations,” Polish industry experts concluded that training issues discourage potential drivers. They cited “The cost, time-consuming nature and complexity of obtaining necessary qualifications.” Course and exam costs are equivalent to two to three months’ salary in Poland.

  1. Autonomous truck technology – An issue or a solution? A joint report published in May 2017 by four European transport groups including unions and industry associations predicts a 50% to 70% cut in driving jobs in Europe and the USA by 2030, due to this technology. Of the 6.4 million driver jobs expected by 2030, the report found that between 3.4 million and 4.4 million would “become redundant” if driverless trucks are deployed quickly. In addition to autonomous trucks generating cost savings, lower emissions and safer roads, co-spokesperson for the report, José Viegas, Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum, said that autonomous trucks will address the “emerging shortage” of professional drivers faced by the trucking industry, particularly in Europe. The report also identifies ways in which governments and the industry can support drivers in the transition to autonomous trucks. (source: FleetOwner)

The arrival of autonomous trucks seems inevitable.  However, the switchover timing is unclear, with projections varying from a few years to a few decades. This uncertainty is unhelpful in terms of recruiting a new generation of truck drivers be they millennials, women or from any other demographic.

How to deal with driver shortage - Practical solutions

Fortunately, there are a variety of solutions that can help you to cope with driver shortage. TIP Trailer Services will share these with you in Part 2: Practical solutions for driver shortage. To make sure you do not miss Part 2, you are invited to subscribe to our newsletter.

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