Research conducted among operators throughout the country revealed a current shortfall of drivers of 20%, meaning one in every five positions is currently unfilled.
This data mirrors a wider survey IRU conducted throughout Europe in March 2019, which showed a similar trend across several countries including the UK, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Romania.
In Spain, the acute shortage looks set to escalate in the coming years, with IRU’s figures showing demand for drivers is set to increase by 18% by 2020. Coupled with recruitment into the industry stalling, this means the driver shortage could reach 30% within one year if not addressed immediately.
A struggle to diversify workforces is the chief cause of the shortage in Spain. Female drivers make up just 3% of the country’s commercial driver workforce, and young people (aged 25 and under) make up just 5%. The average age of a driver is now 46 years old, and the overwhelming majority are male.
Regulations are partly responsible for this. The minimum age to become a bus driver in Spain is 24 years old, while in other European countries (such as Belgium) young people can enter the profession as early as 18 years old.
Esther Visser, Manager of Social Affairs, IRU, commented: “The situation in Spain is part of a wider trend we are seeing across Europe. There are simply not enough drivers to meet demand and the problem is accelerating rapidly as experienced, older professionals leave the industry and are not being replaced in large enough numbers. This is one of the most urgent issues facing the road transport industry, which is a lifeblood of Spanish mobility and the economy. If we do not reverse the tide soon there will be knock-on effects on our capacity to move goods and people around the country, which will impact many millions of people, businesses and communities.”
“It is clear that the industry has a serious challenge when it comes to attracting women and young people – these two groups together make up the majority of the Spanish workforce and yet the clear minority within the road transport sector. Changing the perception of the industry among these groups should be a top priority if we are to reverse this trend. But doing so will require action from all stakeholders connected to the industry, including governments, local authorities, and social, industry and educational partners.”
To help tackle the shortage of drivers, IRU has also launched a new driver certification service in partnership and piloted with ALSA, a leading company in the Spanish road passenger transport sector. Based on an objective skills assessment, the certification scheme aims to demonstrate the professionalism of drivers, to provide useful insights and to foster a culture of continuous improvement through continuous evaluation.
Juan Antonio Esteban, ALSA´s HR Director, added: “The IRU certification scheme helps our drivers grow and develop as professionals within the company, which is beneficial not just for them, but for the organisation and the wider industry. Professionals entering the workforce today expect to progress in their job, and our customers expect drivers to provide a safe and quality service. We believe that IRU certification can contribute in both areas.”