Will there soon be a shortage of drivers in Great Britain? Yes. At least that is what Pall-Ex, the leading independent palletised freight distribution network, found when it surveyed 100 British hauliers. They are concerned about the lack of applicants, which has been particularly glaring since the start of the decade, and which they believe will worsen in the future. Even hauliers which are not currently facing this problem believe that they will have to deal with it in the near future. How can this be explained?
According to those that answered the survey, the first issue is the ageing population of drivers. It is not just an impression: the Freight Transport Association calculated that between 2001 and 2016, the average age of drivers increased from 45 to 48 years old. More worryingly, 64% of truck drivers are over 45; under 25-year-olds represent just 1 % of employees!
A worldwide scarcity
According to the hauliers, the reason this ageing workforce is not offset by newcomers is because workers entering the labour market have a negative perception of the sector. “Road transport clearly suffers from a lack of appeal,” recognises Kevin Buchanan, Pall-Ex group spokesman for the UK. “We have to invest substantially to attract, recruit and retain young talents.” Currently, for 60 % of British hauliers, less than 10 % of their spending goes on training and hiring.
Is this problem specific to the UK? Not at all. In France for example, 24% of driver positions were filled with difficulty in 2014, and 12% simply didn’t find a taker. The same thing is happening almost everywhere in Europe, Canada and the US… This situation is a worldwide crisis that affects almost all developed countries. Should we be worried about it? “Officially, of course we are concerned about it,” explains the spokesperson of an English trade union. “But in reality, there are lots of other changes to the business that are creating problems for us. In fact, with increasing automation and the place taken by other modes of transport, we are sure that, in the coming years, we won’t actually need as many drivers as we do today…”