Driver shortage impacts road freight market

Land Transport

Source: Clecat, 2021-08-27

On 24 August, Transport Intelligence published a research paper on European driver shortages, which assesses the scale of the ongoing structural issues restricting the supply of drivers across Europe, with a total shortfall of drivers now surpassing 400,000. The most heavily impacted European countries are Poland (shortage of around 124,000 drivers), the UK (76,000 drivers) and Germany (45,000-60,000 drivers). The UK is in a particularly difficult position as it is not only grappling with Brexit, but it also saw many European workers leave over the course of the pandemic. The shortage is now considered to reach a ‘crisis point.’

The driver shortages have been affecting the global road freight market for around 15 years. The issue comes as the pool of truck drivers is contracting but demand for transport is rising. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the already alarming issue of driver shortages as new drivers have been unable to train and take their tests and COVID restrictions make the job even less attractive. Even before the pandemic a serious cause for concern in the industry, the lack of drivers in the road transport industry was at an all-time high with many of its underlying issues being long-term challenges. Factors such as an ageing workforce and insufficient numbers of new recruits, due to working conditions and image issues of the profession, have been plaguing the industry for many years.

While the paper analyses the different strategies put in place to attract new drivers (use of apprenticeships and training schemes to attract young people, seasonal hiring, attract female truck drives, use of financial incentives…,) the driver shortage in Europe is set to get worse, despite the many strategies that are being implemented. Overall, Transport Intelligence noted that improving the working conditions of drivers will not only help hauliers retain existing drivers, but it will also help in recruiting new ones.

It is interesting to note that the UK has extended the temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the retained EU drivers’ hours until 3 October 2021, due to the continued pressures supply chains. In response to requests from the industry, the extension of the temporary relaxation of the rules is aimed at reflecting the exceptional circumstances arising from the cumulative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and an acute shortage of drivers of heavy goods vehicles, which adversely affect the carriage of goods by road, causing acute supply chain pressures.

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