The logistics industry has been warning about driver shortages for many years but a combination of Covid-19, Brexit and the ongoing structural issues restricting the supply of drivers has brought us to a crisis point, especially in the UK with Transport Intelligence’s recent research showing a shortfall of at least 76,000 drivers.

Last week saw the chain restaurant Nandos run out of chicken in the UK and now McDonald’s is unable to serve milkshakes across the country, in both instances driver shortages are said to be to blame. There are also reports that BP has had to close some petrol stations and that UK supermarkets have struggled to keep milk on the shelves because of HGV driver shortages.

Ti’s latest research paper on European Driver Shortages assesses the scale of the crisis right across Europe, with a total shortfall of drivers now surpassing 400,000.

The most heavily impacted European countries are Poland, the UK and Germany. 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, as fears over lockdowns grew.

  • Poland: According to Ti estimates, the shortage in Poland in 2020 is around 124,000 drivers. According to IRU, Poland is one of the most heavily impacted European countries and driver shortage in 2020 stands at around 37%.
  • UK: The shortfall of truck drivers in 2020 is estimated at 60,000-76,000. The RHA estimates that there is currently a shortfall of about 60,000 hauliers in the UK. According to data from the Q2 Labour Force Survey for 2020, the calculated shortfall is even higher than RHA estimates and stands at around 76,000.
  • Germany: Between 45,000 and 60,000 truck drivers are ‘missing’ in 2020 in the German market alone, according to the DSLV and BGL, and this number is only increasing. The IRU predicts a gap of 185,000 drivers by 2027 in Germany.
  • France: In 2019 it has been reported by several news outlets that France is experiencing a shortage of approximately 43,000 drivers.
  • Spain: According to Ti estimates, the shortfall of truck drivers in Spain was 15,340 in 2020.
  • Italy: The shortfall in Italy in 2019 was estimated at around 15,000 drivers according to various sources including National newspaper Corriere della Sera. 4 European Driver Shortages
  • Denmark, Norway & Sweden: The Scandinavian countries figures are not as high, but the shortage of drivers has spread across Europe. The shortage figures from 2017 for Sweden, Denmark and Norway are 5,000, 2,500 and 3,000, respectively.
  • Belarus: In 2019, it was estimated that there is a shortage of 4,500 drivers in Belarus.
  • Ukraine: The deficit of drivers in Ukraine in 2019 ranged from 12,000 to 120,000 depending on the region.

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 aging 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.

Ti’s latest research paper on European Driver Shortages assesses the scale of the crisis across Europe and examines the policies, strategies and technologies being proposed and implemented by regulators and road freight operators to help alleviate the crisis.

Source: Foundation for Future Supply Chain, September 9, 2021

Author: Foundation for Future Supply Chain

Transport Intelligence is the research partner of the Foundation for Future Supply Chain and has acted as advisors to the World Economic Forum, World Bank, UN and European Commission.

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