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Fight global youth unemployment by reducing the minimum age of professional drivers
Global | Geneva

Fight global youth unemployment by reducing the minimum age of professional drivers

15 Oct 2020 · People


  • 20% of young people aged 15-24 worldwide (267 million) are not in employment, education or training.1
  • 21% of truck driver positions and 19% of bus and coach driver positions in Europe and the CIS are unfilled.2


IRU is calling on governments to lower the minimum age for professional drivers to 18 in all sectors (truck, bus and coach). This simple measure will ease long-term driver shortages by guiding school leavers directly into professional training, helping combat youth unemployment.

Minimum age regulations for professional drivers currently vary significantly throughout the world. While the minimum age is already 18 in the Middle East and some European countries, it is 21 in many other parts of the world and up to 26 for coach drivers in countries like China and Turkey. In the European Union alone, there is a complicated patchwork of different ages and rules for truck, bus and coach drivers. Regulations can even vary within a country, depending on whether the transport is national or international. 

Such restrictive minimum age rules pose a serious obstacle to young people joining the profession at a time when youth unemployment exceeds 30% in some countries.3 

Meeting global demand

Despite labour market fluctuations during the pandemic, driver shortage is a long-term issue, exacerbated by an ageing workforce.

Driver shortage is a global concern because it endangers mobility and trade. In Europe, one fifth of driver positions are unfilled. In the USA, the driver shortage, already around 60,000, is expected to double over the next decade.4 IRU research shows that South Africa needs about 15,000 new professional truck drivers every year, but is not able to recruit them. 

“The road transport industry needs young people to meet the growing demand for drivers and ensure the continuity of our services. The average age of truck drivers in some places is 55. This needs to change.”

Umberto de Pretto
IRU Secretary General

Road safety is not a matter of age 

Safety is the industry’s highest priority. It is sometimes cited as a limiting factor to the recruitment of younger drivers, but the strict training requirements for entry into the profession mean that younger drivers are no more accident prone than their older counterparts. In fact, the accident rate is even higher in countries where the minimum age is 21 than in those where the minimum age is 18.5

Professional drivers unemployment 2020

Government action required

Governments have taken very little or no action to encourage young people to become professional drivers as soon as they leave school. In Europe, a review of the Directive on driving licences will be completed by 2022, providing an opportunity to set the minimum age for all professional drivers at 18. In the USA, a pilot study has taken place and legislation to allow inter-state driving at the age of 18 is pending in the Senate. But these are only starting points.  

“The road transport industry could be a massive source of employment for young people. But we need governments to take action to unlock this potential and grant them access to the available job opportunities,” concluded Umberto de Pretto. 


1 International Labour Organization: Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020
2 IRU Driver Shortage Survey 2019
3 International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database, 2020.
4 Bloomberg: U.S. Truck Driver Shortage Is On Course to Double in a Decade, 2019 
5 Comparison of accident data from the CARE database, 2017, European Commission.

18 Oct 2022
Advocacy, Goods transport, Passenger transport, Social affairs