Truck driver shortage nearing critical in Europe

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by Emily Atkins

A recent report from the International Road Transport Union (IRU) describes a worrying outlook for European road haulage with heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortages set to worsen over the next four years.

According to the report, the shortage is due to difficulties in recruiting replacements for an aging population of HGV drivers. Figures show that 30 percent of drivers will retire by 2026, however, there are four to seven times fewer replacement drivers available. This is occurring against a backdrop of increasing demand for transport.

HGVs transport 75 percent of Europe’s freight and 80 percent of its perishable, high value and medical goods. This places a huge emphasis on the need to recruit sufficient drivers to keep Europe’s economy moving. The IRU warns that, “Europe’s driver shortage crisis is accelerating rapidly, posing a major threat to the continent if nothing is done.”

Salaries do not appear to be the main issue, instead, the report outlines the difficulties people face when getting into the profession and its attractiveness to younger people, particularly women.

Suggested solutions to improve recruitment include:

  • Reducing the minimum driving qualification age from 21 to 18.
  • Subsidizing licence and training costs, which can be over three times the average monthly salary.
  • Ensuring better security for women by providing more safe and secure parking areas.

The UK has similar issues, with driver shortages estimated at 90,000 and surveys suggesting that over 30 percent of qualified drivers are aged 55 and over.

The lack of secure lorry parking spaces and HGV truck stops, compounded by the poor toilet and shower facilities available at those that do exist, adds to the lack of appeal when recruiting new drivers.

“The shortage of HGV drivers in the UK and EU poses a big threat to the freight forwarding industry. Driver numbers are slowly increasing due to training incentives and an increase in HGV tests being undertaken,” said Brian Smith, CEO at Stadium Export Services, a global freight forwarder based in the North East of England.

“Despite this, there is still significant churn within the industry and it is therefore important that the haulage sector continues to push initiatives to attract and retain HGV drivers.”

In the latter part of 2021, the UK Government introduced various recruitment and training incentives, which appear to be stemming the fall of HGV drivers in employment. There are also encouraging signs when looking at the number of HGV tests being taken, increasing significantly throughout 2022, with pass rates up to 60 percent.

The UK Government recent;y announced it will invest £100 million in roadside facilities improvements that will help with retention and recruitment going forward.