IRU’s annual driver shortage survey shows that unfilled commercial driver positions continue to rise at an alarming rate around the world.
The new IRU survey paints a very worrying picture, even speaking of a demographic crisis looming with a widening gap between young and old drivers.
Surveying more than 1,500 commercial trucking operators in 25 countries across the Americas, Asia and Europe, IRU found that truck driver shortages increased in all regions in 2021 except Eurasia. In Europe, they increased by 42% from 2020 to 2021, with close to 80,000 unfilled jobs in Romania, Poland and Germany, and 100,000 in the UK. In Mexico, the shortage increased by 30% to 54,000 jobs; in China, 140% to reach 1.8 million. And all this, despite the fact that there has been an increase in drivers’ wages in 2021, especially in Europe and the US, which has not, however, caused less shortage.
The IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto, has pointed out how “the chronic shortage of commercial drivers is getting worse, with millions of positions unfilled”, a situation that “is putting already stressed economies and communities at greater risk of inflation, social mobility issues and supply chain collapse.”
Looking ahead to 2022, while companies in Argentina and China forecast slight improvements, operators in most regions expect truck driver shortages to continue to rise: Turkey by 15%, Mexico by 32%, and Eurasia and Europe by 40%.
In passenger transport, although the situation is not so drastic, 7% of bus and coach driver positions were unfilled in 2021 in Europe, while operators expect this figure to reach 8% in 2022 in the surveyed countries.
Women are not yet at the wheel.
Less than 3% of truck drivers were women in 2021 across all regions, with notable exceptions being China at 5% and the United States at 8%. The rate of female bus and coach drivers in Europe was even better, at 12%. However, all these rates are still well below what has become usual if we look at all the jobs in the transport sector, especially in Europe and the United States, where 22% and 28% of all workers in the transport, respectively, are women.
Young drivers under the age of 25 remain a small minority, at 6-7% of the truck driver population, in most regions. In contrast, there are two to five times as many drivers over the age of 55 in all regions except China and Mexico. In the US and Europe, older drivers make up around a third of the workforce. Europe has the highest average age of drivers, at 47 years.
The growing age gap is most serious in passenger transport. In Europe, only 3% of bus and coach drivers were under the age of 25 in 2021, half that in the transport sector as a whole. However, drivers over the age of 55 represented 32% of the workforce, with an average age of 50 years. According to road transport operators, the current driver shortage crisis is due to a lack of qualified drivers in all regions except China and Turkey, which cited the conditions of drivers and the image of the profession, respectively, as main causes.
“Road transport operators are doing their part, but governments and authorities have to remain vigilant, especially to improve parking infrastructure, access to training and encourage more women and young people to enter the profession,” concluded the general secretary of the IRU, Umberto de Pretto