The lack of truck drivers and heavy vehicles frightens road freight transportation: the problem goes beyond the temporary contextual critical issues.
Across Europe and beyond, the shortage of truckers is becoming an increasingly serious matter. Data from industry associations say that the lack of heavy truck drivers should amount to about 400,000 units in the only EU. And this situation seems doomed to become worsen and worsen due to both the increasing aging of the truck drivers whose average age is over 50 and the huge difficulty of recruiting a young workforce. It is said that the deficiency of EU drivers is mostly caused by a mix of low wages, really hard work conditions, a generally bad reputation of the job, and, last but not least, a practically non-existent female representation.
The problem has been further getting worsen due to the health crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic as a direct consequence of the traffic restrictions and periodic absences of staff infected with the virus, but also because of a demand for transport service that has reached very notable peaks in the first weeks of the emergency and subsequently has seen an increasing trend.
Missing new trucks too
The growing difficulty in finding a truck driver is now more and more intertwining with a whole series of additional conditions that are seriously undermining the global supply chains, such as the outstanding jump to the stars of prices for most of the main production factors (first among all the fuel), the overall galloping inflation and, last but not least, the growing lack of the same trucks. The delays in production accumulated in the last two years of the pandemic joined to the scarcity of raw materials and components (it is particularly emblematic of what about steel, rubber, and microchips) are pushing delivery times for new vehicles beyond limits never seen before. Waiting times can exceed 6 or 9 months in some cases.
This last factor has a further negative impact on the entire logistic-distribution system both in the short and long term. In fact, in the immediate future, it further reduces road transport capacity - a mode on which over 60% of goods travel in Europe - by contracting the transport offer and therefore increasing the costs for the client. In the long term, it generates a significant delay compared to the necessary renewal of the fleet of industrial vehicles circulating in Europe, also with a view to the energy transition.
Simply said: with fewer drivers, fewer vehicles, and more management costs, the rates and delivery times of freight road transportation are intended to grow while the service could end up losing value and quality, hardly meeting customer expectations, and being less and less sustainable both from an economic and environmental point of view.
The right solution is not beyond the corner
Some of the above-mentioned critical factors should be surely solved even if in times difficult to establish - this applies to those more specifically connected to or consequence of the global emergency marked the last periods - the shortage of truckers matter seriously worrying in the long term. A possible answer has been given by the recent stricter EU commercial road transport labor law (the so-called “mobility package"). The regulations enable truckers to qualify for gaining the minimum wage in each EU member state, working outside their home country, and having equal and similar conditions all around the EU. On the one hand, the mobility package could make the business more complicated since truckers' salaries depend on each country they work in and demand for trucks could become critical since truckers (and so their trucks) have to come back home every eight weeks. On the other hand, this should increase safety and benefit truckers' health. The new regulation might also improve the image of the industry and the trucker job reputation and so also contribute to promoting recruitment among the younger and - why not? - the women too. But it could take time for that. Much more than what we might have available.TAGS: Aeolus perspectives, Transportation, Logistics, TBR