Heavy Duty Truck Driver Shortages: Lessons Learnt

16 February 2022

The need for skilled truck drivers in the global supply chain has of late been brought to the limelight by the increased demand for road transport and arguably amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit in the UK, political and socio-economic pressures worldwide.

The Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its 2011 Research Report stated that one of the causes of the shortage of drivers is their average age. The nature of the job itself does not seem to appeal to millennials and to imagine Gen Z is just a nonstarter. It is argued that poor wages, the demands of the job and undesirable working conditions are not helping attract a younger generation. Statista estimates in its February 2022 report that heavy goods vehicle drivers in the United Kingdom were aged between 50 and 64.

Read: Professional Truck Driver: Demographics and Statistics in the US

According to Zippia, the average age of a commercial truck driver in the USA is 48.2 years and American Trucking Associations in its 2021 report estimates that the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030. The Australian government states that the average age of a truck driver is 47. In New Zealand this is reported to be 54.

The impact of this very shortage has seen US ports choak as there were a few trucks and drivers to pick up cargo. The same was seen in the UK. The British government announced that 5,000 temporary visas would be available to truck drivers from continental Europe to help alleviate long lines at gas stations. This will also assist to fill empty shelves in grocery stores, as goods are caught up at ports with fewer truckers to move these timeously to meet customer demands.

Read: As U.K. Beckons Truck Drivers, many in Poland Say ‘No Thanks’

In South Africa, it is reported that lack of necessary market expertise, competent drivers emigrating for better earnings and working conditions, and high turnover rates due to a dangerous, harsh, and often violent working environments have resulted in a scarcity of drivers for the country’s most vital form of freight transport.

Read: Driver shortage in the South African Trucking Industry

The strategic importance of road freight in South Africa cannot be overemphasized. This is evidenced by C-track Freight Transport Index report for April 2021 which states that between January and March 2021, more over 150 million tonnes of freight were transported by road, compared to only 40 million by rail during the same time period.

Read: South Africa’s shortage of truck drivers could become a risk

In the era of the so-called Industry Revolution 4.0, arguments and innovations for making the industry more attractive are forever evolving. In first world countries autonomous trucking will revolutionise the global trucking and logistics industry in a couple of years. Without doubt questions over safety and regulatory approval are key concerns. But big tech such as Uber Technologies Inc.’s freight division, Aurora Innovation Inc. and Tesla Inc. are investing billions and continue to do testing to show that self-driving trucks are the long-term solution.

The current problem however remains. The industry must innovate, restructure driver work/life balance, and attract millennials at a high enough rate to replace the ageing driver workforce. No doubt remuneration will also be a key factor in selling truck driving as a highly rewarding career.

Written by Staff Content Writer, Raymond Moyo.