- Over 3 million truck driver positions are currently unfilled in 36 countries studied
- Driver shortages are forecast to double in 5 years
- Only 12% of drivers are below 25, just 6% are women
IRU’s 2023 driver shortage report has found that over three million truck driver jobs are unfilled, or 7% of total positions, in 36 countries studied. With the huge gap between young and old drivers growing, it will get much worse over the next five years without significant action.
Surveying over 4,700 trucking companies in the Americas, Asia and Europe, representing 72% of global GDP, IRU has found that truck driver shortages increased globally in 2023.
Two exceptions were Europe and the United States where shortages eased slightly in 2023 due to softer transport demand as a result of inflation and tighter monetary policy limiting consumption and investment.
The shortage is forecast to get much worse in the coming years. Without action to attract and retain drivers, over 7 million truck driver positions could be unfilled by 2028 in the surveyed countries, including 4.9 million in China (20% of total positions), 745,000 in Europe (17% of total positions), and 200,000 in Türkiye (28% of total positions).
IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said, “The structural issues behind truck driver shortages are continuing to impact transport services. With the rate of newcomers being significantly lower than drivers retiring every year, urgent action is needed now.
“We are missing over 3 million truck drivers in the countries we’ve examined. Given the demographics of the profession, we forecast that it could double within five years.
“The consequences of such a shortage are already harming the communities, supply chains and economies that depend on our industry.
“We cannot allow driver shortages to get any worse. Operators are doing their part, but governments and authorities need to increase efforts to improve working conditions and access to the profession.”
At least 50% of road transport operators have serious problems hiring skilled drivers, in most countries studied. Many are also unable to expand their business and are losing existing clients and revenues.
Persistent demographic gaps
The truck driver profession has an ageing population: less than 12% of truck drivers are below 25 years old, falling to 5% in Europe.
The only two countries surveyed with a higher share of drivers under 25 are China (17%) and Uzbekistan (25%).
The share of women truck drivers also continues to remain low at only 6%, below the overall transport industry. China (6%) and the United States (8%) have the highest share of women truck drivers, among the countries studied.
The “school-to-wheel” gap is a key challenge facing the industry. The minimum driving age for international freight transport is still between 21 and 22 in some countries.
High training, licence and insurance costs also make it expensive to become a truck driver. In France, for example, the average cost to obtain a truck driver licence and a Certificate of Professional Competence is EUR 5,250, over three times the minimum monthly wage.
Governments need to facilitate access to the profession by lowering the minimum driving age and subsidising qualification costs.
An ageing population – particularly in Europe and the United States where less than 13% of workers are under 25 – partially explains driver shortages, suggesting that the available pool of national workers may not be enough to cover the gap.
The access of qualified third-country drivers to the profession should be facilitated, allowing countries with a surplus of professional drivers to help cover gaps where needed.