The International Road Transport Union’s (IRU) annual driver shortage survey shows unfilled commercial driver positions continue to increase at alarming rates across the globe.
In a survey of more than 1,500 commercial road transport operators in 25 countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe, the IRU found truck driver shortages increased in all regions, except Eurasia, in 2021.
In Europe, they jumped by 42% from 2020 to 2021, with open unfilled driver positions reaching 71,000 in Romania, 80,000 in both Poland and Germany, and 100,000 in the UK. In Mexico shortages increased by 30% to reach 54,000; in China by 140% to reach 1.8 million. Higher driver wages in 2021, especially in Europe and the US, have not led to fewer shortages.
IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said, “Chronic commercial driver shortages are getting worse, with millions of positions remaining unfilled. This is putting already stressed economies and communities at higher risk of inflation, social mobility issues and supply chain meltdown.”
Looking ahead to 2022, while firms in Argentina and China forecast slight improvements, operators in most regions expect truck driver shortages to keep increasing: Turkey by 15%, Mexico by 32%, and Eurasia and Europe by 40%.
Women still not in the driving seat
Less than 3% of truck drivers were women in 2021 in all regions, with notable exceptions in China at 5% and the US at 8%. The rate of women bus and coach drivers in Europe was even better at 12%. However, these rates are all still well below transport sector norms, especially in Europe and the US where 22% and 28% of all transport workers respectively are women.
Demographic time bomb
Young drivers under 25 remained a small minority, at 6 or 7% of the truck driver population, in most regions. On the other hand, there are between two and five times more older drivers over 55 in all regions, except for China and Mexico. In the US and Europe, older drivers make up around one third of the workforce. Europe has the highest average driver age, at 47.
The widening age gap is more serious for passenger transport. In Europe, only 3% of bus and coach drivers were under 25 in 2021, half the rate of the overall transport sector. Drivers over 55, however, were 32% of the workforce, with an average driver age of 50.
According to road transport operators, the current driver shortage crisis is caused by a lack of skilled drivers in all regions, except for China and Turkey, which cited driver conditions and the profession’s image respectively as the main causes.
IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto concluded, “Road transport operators are doing their part, but governments and authorities need to maintain focus, especially to improve parking infrastructure, training access, and encouraging more women and young people into the profession.”
A summary of the IRU report is available here.