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Europe driver shortage to triple by 2026 if no action: new IRU report

14 Nov 2022 · People
  • Driver demand in Europe already up 44% from January to September this year
  • 30% of drivers will retire by 2026, but rate of younger replacements is 4–7 times less 
  • Total shortage in Europe could top two million by 2026
  • New IRU report includes key data on driver access and appeal, and industry solutions 

A new IRU report shows that truck, bus and coach driver shortages in Europe are spiralling out of control, fuelled by increased transport demand and an ageing driver population.

The growing chasm between retiring and new drivers is set to triple the rate of unfilled truck driver positions, to over 60% by 2026, and increase by more than five-fold for bus and coach drivers, to almost 50% by 2026.

The new report assesses six countries representing two thirds of Europe’s total road freight sector, and four countries for passenger transport, representing 28% of the total. 

Without action to make the driver profession more accessible and attractive, Europe could lack over two million drivers by 2026, impacting half of all freight movements and millions of passenger journeys.

Despite driver salaries being up to five times higher than average minimum wages, the report outlines alarming data on difficulties in accessing the driver profession, especially for young people, and its attractiveness, especially for women. 

IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said, “Europe’s driver shortage crisis is accelerating rapidly, posing a major threat to the continent if nothing is done. 

“Trucks transport 75% of Europe’s freight by volume, and 85% of its perishable, high value and medical goods, such as vaccines and food. Bus and coach services, the most used collective transport mode in the EU, are central to Europe’s decarbonisation goals.”

“Without drivers, Europe’s economy, social mobility and climate plan will grind to a halt. But there are proven solutions, especially if industry and government work together,” he added.

Missing women and young people

There is a low share of young drivers (6% for freight and 5% for passenger transport), despite good driver wages and persistently high youth unemployment in many countries.

Women also make up only a small percentage of truck drivers, despite significant levels of female unemployment in some countries. Spain, for example, has one of Europe’s highest rates of female unemployment (14%), yet one of the lowest shares of female truck drivers (2%), in contrast to its female bus and coach drivers (12%). 

Access and attractiveness key

The minimum qualification age is still 21 for truck drivers in five EU countries and between 21 and 24 for most bus and coach driver roles across the EU, a huge barrier for school leavers.

High licence and training costs are also an obstacle. In France, a truck licence costs EUR 5,300, more than three times the average minimum monthly salary, while in Germany, a bus and coach license costs EUR 9,000 on average, over four times the minimum monthly wage.

Security, particularly for women drivers, is crucial to make the profession more attractive, with 95% of truck drivers and 94% of transport companies putting it as their top priority. Yet only 3% of existing EU truck parking places are certified as secure. 

Solutions on the table

The public and private sectors need to work together to tackle driver shortages. The report outlines 20 solutions currently being implemented by road transport associations, companies and shippers.

Public authorities also need to take action to prevent the shortage from escalating, including:

  • Setting the minimum driving age at 18, with training from 17
  • Subsidising licence and training costs for new drivers
  • Building more safe and secure parking areas

The full reports are available to IRU members. Executive summaries for freight and passenger transport are available.

An IRU intelligence briefing tomorrow will explore the issues and solutions in more detail.