The year 2020 was a challenging time for the transport industry. As the world came to a standstill in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, haulage firms picked up the slack. Delivering essential goods and services to isolating populations required adapting, overcoming and more importantly – drivers.
To explain the worlds driver shortage issue, we need to look back further than the pandemic. The issue has been one in the making for some time. The pandemic only served to magnify it.
An Age-Old Problem
Driver shortages have been an issue for the transportation industry long before COVID-19. As the demand for delivery has increased exponentially, so has the requirement for drivers. In an industry as old as the wheel, times and technology at grass-root level, have perhaps moved a little slower.
Many of the world’s haulage drivers are aging. The industry has not had the appeal to younger generations leading to an imbalance in the average age of a lorry driver. The average age of lorry drivers is roughly 48 years old.
Low wages, long hours and often drastically unsuitable facilities mean the disparity between sexes employed in the industry is another area of concern. In the Middle East there is just one female lorry driver. East Africa saw their first female lorry driver employed in 2019. Globally, just 2% of the workforce are female.
An Age-Old Solution
The solution then, it seems, is an overhaul of the industry the world over. The issues raised in the UK, post-Brexit, perfectly highlight the problems created by cheap labour. For years, their industry has benefitted from the cheap labour found in Eastern-European drivers.
With control at the borders restricted an increasingly wound with red tape, the reliance falls back on the UK to supply its own drivers. Without drastic changes to wages and facilities, it is unlikely that the young females will be queuing for their HGV licence any time soon.
The same issues have been found in China. The export market in China is the largest in the world and in 2020 was worth nearly double that of second place, at $2.6 trillion. It accounts for 17.65% of GDP. China has around 30 million drivers, but also some of the worst working conditions with roadside facilities in desperate need of modernisation.
The Drive for New Drivers
The IRU (Road Transport Union) estimate that there is a 25% shortage of drivers across many parts of the world. 25% of the industries workforce are expected to reach retirement age by 2030. With demand for delivery showing no signs of slowing, the push to appeal to younger generations has never been more important.
As a global issue brought to the spotlight by the pandemic, pressure now falls on industry leaders to act. An increase in wages, driver care and working conditions, would be just the start.