Driver shortages soar in 2021, according to latest industry survey findings

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18th August 2021 16:58 - Transport and Distribution

Driver shortages soar in 2021, according to latest industry survey findings: An annual survey has found that there is a significant shortage of drivers around the globe -- despite the demand for more due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey by the IRU, the world road transport organisation, polled 777 companies and IRU members from 23 countries, including both passenger and goods transport companies.

It found that countries in Europe and Asia (Eurasia) were the most affected, where a fifth of driver positions advertised in 2020 were not recruited for. In comparison, China was the least affected country with just 4% of jobs left open.

The research found that due to the pandemic, driver shortages in other areas of the world were less acute than in 2019, with unfilled driver positions actually improving from 2019 figures due to less demand and so fewer roles needing filling. For bus and coach drivers, unfilled job openings in Europe fell from 20% to 5% in 2020, while for truck drivers they fell from almost a quarter (24%) to 7%.

Asked about their projections for 2021, transport companies on the whole are expecting driver shortages to get worse as the bounce back from Covid-19 means more demand for transport services. Respondents completing the survey from Uzbekistan are expecting a shortfall of nearly a third in the coming year, while Russia are expecting it to be around a quarter (24%). Europe is expecting a 17% shortfall, with Mexico (18%) and Turkey (20%) also expecting demand to far exceed interest.

Asked about the reasons behind the shortfall in drivers, a lack of training was the top reason cited across all countries, followed by the 'poor image of the profession', 'difficult working conditions', 'difficulty in attracting younger people to the profession' and 'difficulty to attract women into the profession'.

The research found that just 2% of truck drivers around the globe are women, with this falling even further in the latest survey. Similarly, the number of drivers aged 25 and under also fell in almost all countries polled to 7% in Turkey, 6% in Mexico and 5% in Russia and Europe. The average age of a driver was almost 50 years old.

The IRU said in its report that the issue of driver age needs to be addressed, with work done to attract more young people into the profession. A solution it suggests would be for governments to reduce the minimum permitted age for drivers. It suggests that the industry could be helped considerably through reducing the minimum age down to 18, with training from 17 years old, thus closing the gap between leaving school and being able to progress in a career as a driver.

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