Truck drivers are crucial in logistics. Without people to drive trucks, it’s much harder to get items from A to B, and this can disrupt supply chains and lead to the late delivery of goods. None of this is welcome news for businesses, consumers or governments, who must somehow cope with the ripple effect and the problems the disruption brings.

Unfortunately, and worryingly, there’s a global truck driver shortage right now. A survey of more than 800 road haulage and transport businesses in 20 countries, by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), found that as much as 25% of driver jobs weren’t fulfilled in some countries. Below we look at some of the reasons for lorry driver shortages and what businesses and governments can do about it.

 

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what is causing the truck driver shortage?

Unluckily, there’s a variety of reasons why truck drivers are thin on the ground, placing a big problem on the logistics industry’s hands. Rather than address a single cause, the industry must tackle multiple ones. Here are some of the main reasons there’s such a shortage of drivers in the industry:

the truck driver's lifestyle

The trucker lifestyle isn’t ideal; in fact, life on the road it’s quite hard. Often, new drivers to the industry will have to embark upon routes that keep them on the road adhering to speed limits for long periods of time. They might only return home a few times a month. Adapting to living in a truck, and showering at rest areas, is a harsh way to live and work.

The trucker lifestyle also isn’t especially healthy. The long hours on the road and stopping to eat fast food and snacks at petrol stations will have a detrimental impact on their health. All the sitting behind the wheel, combined with these high sugar, high fat snacks, piles the pounds onto a driver and could lead to them developing health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and digestive issues.

Sleep deprivation is another unwelcome aspect of life as a truck driver. These members of the workforce are under a lot of pressure to deliver the cargo to their destinations on time. To keep on schedule and ensure the cargo doesn’t arrive late, some will skip sleep breaks. This takes its toll on them physically and mentally. The fogginess, poor judgment and forgetfulness the sleep deprivation brings on will place the driver more at risk of accidents.

COVID-19

As you’ll likely have guessed, COVID-19 has thrown a severe spanner into the workings of the industry. The pandemic has caused some truckers to leave the profession behind in favour of some of the new opportunities the job market now presents.

Meanwhile, those who have stuck with the trade have to contend with a variety of problems also caused by COVID-19. Since the trucker lifestyle entails stopping at various service stations, eateries and maybe hotels while they’re on the road, drivers face more potential exposure to COVID-19.

Then there’s the issue of solving problems with the vehicle, which restricts the number of trips they make, hampering their ability to pay for their vehicle and, even worse, to earn a living wage. This existed before COVID-19, but the pandemic has limited the number of trips they can make even more. Then, when they reach the warehouses, they may have to spend much longer than before waiting around them because closures during the pandemic and supply chain bottlenecks have made this all the more unpredictable.

Training to become a professional truck driver hasn’t been easy in the age of Coronavirus. The delays and disruptions caused by the pandemic have made it harder for anyone looking to qualify as a professional truck driver to undergo the necessary training or testing. The lockdowns during the pandemic have stalled the process and made it more difficult for people to obtain the special driving licence required.

age and recruitment issues

Recruitment, age and generational gaps are all major contributors to the problem. Getting people into the industry is a challenge, especially young people. In the US, for instance, the age between when people leave school, is around 18 years old, and the age at which they can drive a truck across state lines is 21 years old (we’ll discuss this a little more below). This creates a gap in between that they fill by finding a job, and they’re then unlikely to leave this career path to become truck drivers. As the baby boomers reach retirement, there are fewer people to step into their shoes so that the logistics industry can keep up with demand.

the struggle to bring women into the trucker workforce

Safety concerns and inadequate accommodation on routes and rest stops has been a factor that is making it harder to attract women to the profession. According to the IRU study, only 2% of truck drivers globally are women. All of the countries in which the organisation conducted its survey had seen the number of women in the profession fall. The IRU has been calling for safer, more secure parking areas for trucks so that long-haul conditions are safer and will encourage more people, especially women, to get behind the wheel.

pay and costs

Training is expensive. Drivers, depending on the situation and conditions of their employment, must also foot the bill for fuel, insurance and maintenance, costs which eat into their take-home pay. The problem is truckers’ pay has been shrinking, and in cases in which pay is higher, companies are finding that a lot of truckers are happy to spend more time with their families instead of spending more time out on the road, even though it means less money in their pocket.

wrong career choice

Of course, some people train to become truck drivers, but then realise trucking simply isn’t for them. They may have to work lots of hours but go uncompensated for it. The lifestyle may be too gruelling. They may not feel the pay is enough for what they’re doing. All of these are reasons enough for many to resign and make a career move to another profession.

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truck driver shortages across the world

It’s a problem that’s happening around the world, and the fact is not enough people want to work as truck drivers, which can disrupt global supply chains. As a result, some truck journeys aren’t going ahead, which is leading to either delayed deliveries or, in some cases, the loss of cargo such as perishable goods.

As mentioned, the pandemic has made an unwelcome contribution to the problem, but other factors have been at play as well. In this section, we take a quick look at some of the problems individual nations are experiencing in the UK, the US, Canada and Europe:

The UK

Like every other country, the UK has had to wrestle with the pandemic, but it also has had to cope with the fallout from the nation’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). This change in the relationship between the UK and its closest neighbours has stopped goods from moving freely without hassle in and out of the country, and citizens from other Member States don’t have an automatic entitlement to live and work in the UK anymore.

One of the issues is that Brexit has forced foreign nationals to return to the EU. Brexit aside, an ageing workforce and a lack of young people entering the profession have also created problems for the UK’s truck driving workforce.

The US

The United States is also struggling with the impact of an ageing workforce when it comes to truck drivers. According to a report from the US Department of Transport in 2019, 28% of its heavy truck driving force at that time would be 65 years or older in 10 years. This opens up the way for driving automation in the future.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimated the shortage would hit just over 80,000 drivers in 2021, which would be a historic high. The associations believe this may have increased to more than 160,000 in 2030, and that the industry will need to recruit nearly 1 million drivers to replace drivers who are retiring, who have left the field voluntarily or who have done so involuntarily (by failing a drug test, for instance), not to mention recruit additional drivers so the industry can grow.

Canada

Just like the UK and the US, Canada is also grappling with a trucker shortage. Canadian news company CBC News has reported on its website, quoting stats from trucking and logistics organisation Trucking HR Canada, that 18,000 trucking jobs needed filling in Canada.

Again, just like in the US and the UK, an ageing population has been part of the problem. According to a 2019 report from Statistics Canada, based on 2016 census data, 31.4% of male transport truck drivers were over 55 years old.

Projections by Trucking HR suggest that Canada must hire around 17,230 truck drivers per year to cope with the demand.

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how can your business solve truck driver shortages?

As challenging as the situation may be for the trucking and logistics industry, all is not lost. There are measures businesses can take to improve the situation and, hopefully in time, attract people back to the profession. Below are some suggestions

increase driver pay

Simple economics teaches us that when there’s a shortage of supply, prices increase. Clearly, truck drivers are in short supply right now, so higher salaries for truck drivers, plus some attractive benefits, could certainly be a good place to start. Of course, there’s still the life-work balance to address. Pay rises are helping to retain those already in the industry in England and Wales.

reduce the amount of time on the road

One of the big cons of trucking is the trucker lifestyle, and some truckers would rather earn less money if it means they can spend more time with their families. Decreasing the average length of haul and keeping truckers more localised could help to resolve some of the lifestyle issues truckers face (and potentially cut a few costs for the operator). Trucking could become more appealing to people looking to enter a new profession, and maybe existing truckers may discover a renewed passion for their trade if they’ve lost it.

target ethnic minorities, veterans and women

Operators could help to lessen the shortage by targeting minorities, women and veterans who have served in the armed forces. Women and minorities have a woeful under-representation within the industry. Meanwhile, veterans offer the potential to patch up some of the gap because many are trying to transition into fulfilling careers.

cross-sector job transition

Sadly, the pandemic caused a lot of people to lose their jobs. Some may now have to consider working as truck drivers, and, of course, there are plenty of opportunities out there right now for anyone who wishes to. It could even prove to be a blessing in disguise for them as they might even make more money — truck drivers can earn up to £35,000 or more, according to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.

To help workers transition into the industry, key players in logistics must get involved. These companies, organisations and other agents must make it easier and quicker for workers to make the move to jobs where there are lots of shortages.

improve onboarding processes

If you manage to hire a truck driver, you should do your very best to help them settle in and show the company values them. Check-in with them regularly. This will strengthen your relationship with them and also enhance the working environment.

what can governments do about truck driver shortages?

Naturally, such a crisis can cause real problems that may oblige governments to step in. Here’s how governments can help address their nation’s truck driver shortage:

Lower the regulated driving age group (where applicable)

Fortunately, in the UK, you only have to be 18 or over to become a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver (or a bus driver); however, in the United States, the legal driving age for truckers is more problematic. There, drivers must be 21 years old or more to drive a truck across state lines; the good news is the government is looking into this and are trying out a pilot programme in which 18 year olds can drive 18-wheelers across state lines.

Training grants for future truck drivers

Training has been an issue, as has been the challenge of the ageing HGV workforce. To confront this, governments could consider policies and programmes that provide the population with an incentive to become an HGV drivers. This must especially be the case for attracting young people and could prove to be a long-term solution to the woes the shortage is causing in the industry.

Autonomous trucking

There’s no doubt technology is going to affect transportation in the future in some way, regardless of the situation with truck drivers at the moment. Driverless trucks can support infrastructures for transporting goods to warehouses and distribution centres, or from them, and to the final customer. Self-driving vehicles could help countries tackle their logistics more efficiently. Although this may be more down to the businesses to invest in such vehicles, governments can lend a hand by spending money to encourage them to do this.

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making life easier for truckers with our loading and unloading solutions

Truck driving, and working in logistics in general, is a demanding profession. It’s very physical and you’re under the pressure to be efficient so goods can get to their final destination within the travel time allocated

Fortunately, you can speed your loading and unloading processes up by using our loading and unloading solutions to transfer items to truck trailers or from them quickly. This improvement to loading procedures and processes reduces driver waiting times so they can get back out onto the road to complete the next job or drop-off on their journey.

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manual loading solutions

Choosing one of our manual loading solutions will reward you with a simple, cost-effective way to load and unload your trucks and trailers. The skate and track, and the roller track, which exists in three different variations, are our two main solutions.


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skate & track loading system

We’ve designed the skate & track loading system, especially for trucks, although it’s perfectly possible to use them for light vehicles too. The skates on this system can cope with as many as 3.5 tonnes, and you can use them for shifting pallets, machinery, drums and more. All you have to do is pull the handle to lift the load. Then it’s a mere matter of pushing the goods or pulling them, to wherever you need them to go in your trailer or warehouse.


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Rollertrack

Our roller track systems (we like to call them ‘rollerbeds’) allow you to move a wide variety of pallets and containers, thanks to the system’s pneumatic rise-and-fall floor. This system will also reduce the number of workers you’ll need to load or unload trucks and trailers. The three variations of this system are:

  • The built-in rollerbed, which you can integrate into the existing floor of vans, trucks and trailers. This system is customisable, and you’ll only require one or two people to conduct the loading. They’ll be able to achieve this in an extremely safe manner.
  • The modular rollerbed (MRS), which provides the same benefits as the built-in rollerbed. It’s a modular system, is pre-built and is a highly convenient retrofit solution. Don’t worry about your vehicle. You can set the system out on the floor without having to permanently adapt your truck trailer.
  • The modular rollerbed system for warehouses, which features an aluminium platform and integrated pneumatic rise-and-fall roller tracks. Like the MRS, this system is pre-built. The system is specially designed for warehouses, and you can install it without having to adapt any of your existing structures. Installation is quick so you can move goods, material and other items from vehicles or to them and then around your warehouse, all very safely, within a matter of hours.

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automatic loading solutions

If you’re willing to invest a little more, why not choose one of our automated loading solutions? As well as shortening waiting times, the use of fully autonomous loading systems saves internal space, allowing you to make more of the room in your trailer. You'll also find that as a business, by utilising one of our automous technology, you'll decrease time on the road. The moving floor, the slipchain and the trailerskate are our three main options:


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Moving floor

The moving floor system is ideal for loading pallets of any size and really gets the job done quickly. Set up the floor in your vehicle, place your load onto the coils and they’ll carry it into your truck. If the load is already inside the truck, you can sit back and let them transfer it to the loading dock, ready for unloading. Simple. Safe. Efficient.


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Slipchain

The slipchain system is durable and modular and puts you to very little trouble, by requiring only minimal adjustments to your trailer. You can connect the system to production line conveyors easily or incorporate it into your building. The tracks on the slipchain rise up and allow you to transport the load to your trailer, or from it, from the slipchain dock. All you have to do is push a button to get it started. You’ll be able to carry out high volumes of loading and unloading quickly with this system.


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Trailerskate

If you’re a truck operator in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), packing, food and drinks industries, you’ll find this system exceptionally useful. At the same time as enabling you to operate more safety, you can boost productivity and efficiency by implementing our trailerskate automated system; however, you don’t have to work in these industries to make use of the trailer skate, as it’s possible to implement in a wide range of businesses.

Loading and unloading is safe and fast with this system, and will provide faithful service to high-volume logistics businesses that have a large fleet. The trailerskate will collect pallets or other loads and transfer them to the skates of the system, which sit on a loading dock that connects to your trailer floor. You can then move them from the trailer or to the trailer as you wish.

The logistics industry faces a real crisis in the form of the truck driver shortage, and one of the big problems is that because there are several different causes, there’s no single solution; fortunately, however, there are solutions that businesses and governments can implement to address the issue. Hopefully, they’ll do so and nurture the industry back to health so that supply chains don’t suffer and trigger further issues.


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