THE EUROPEAN road transport sector is facing the most acute professional driver shortage in decades, confirms a new report by Geneva based International Road Transport Union (IRU).

Polling of IRU members and associated organisations in Europe from October 2018 to January 2019 revealed a visible driver shortage of 21% in the freight transport sector. The problem is accelerating, with the shortfall predicted to reach 40% as demand grows in 2019.

Boris Blanche, IRU’s managing director commented: ‘The transport industry needs to take immediate and decisive action to tackle the driver shortage. But there is no shortage of opportunity in this profession. In fact, our research found that job satisfaction tends to be high, with only 20% of drivers surveyed expressing any dissatisfaction with their work.’

‘A global effort must be made to address negative misperceptions and improve the image of the profession. At the same time, all industry stakeholders must act to improve working conditions in the sector. The treatment of drivers should be improved, with adequate and sufficient infrastructure and facilities provided.

‘For industry to attract a new and diverse workforce, particularly increasing the employment of young people and women, a more inclusive recruitment policy must be put into place across the sector.’

Matthias Maedge, IRU’s general delegate, warned: ‘Already the driver shortage is creating serious headaches for transport operators, impacting the people and businesses that rely on their services. Unfortunately, this is only set to worsen. We should not be fooled into thinking automation will solve this issue. There is still some way to go until the road transport industry sees full automation, and the partial adoption we are currently witnessing will require a sizeable workforce with an increasingly diverse skillset. This makes the need for decisive action to attract new talent all the more immediate.’