The truck driver shortage has been an issue for as long as many logistics experts can remember. But as a result of the pandemic and other recent challenges, the gap between supply and demand for drivers has only widened, and it may take years to close—if it ever does.
What’s causing the truck driver shortage?
Many of the factors influencing the current truck driver shortage aren’t new. The job has never been particularly attractive to many people, involving long hours on the road away from friends and family—particularly on the long-haul shipping side. It can be grueling and lonely, and it’s unsurprising that as one generation of truck drivers nears retirement age, few young people seem interested in entering the industry.
Even for those who are ready to take up the mantle, doing so is easier said than done right now. In the UK alone, 45,000 people have been unable to get a test to drive a truck since the start of the pandemic. Since this testing backlog coincided with massive spikes in demand as more and more people began shopping online while stuck at home, the seriousness of the driver shortage has been acutely felt.
Of course, there’s one more major factor contributing to the truck driver shortage in the UK in particular: Brexit. Following Britain’s move to leave the European Union, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers exited the UK—including scores of long-haul truck drivers. Today, the British Retail Consortium estimates that the UK is short around 90,000 drivers. And with the government rejecting calls from trade bodies to grant temporary visas to truck drivers from the EU while domestic drivers can be recruited, trained, and tested, it’s unclear how this shortfall can be addressed any time soon.
Is there an end to the truck driver shortage in sight?
Short answer: yes and no.
In the short term, sweeping changes will need to be made across the long-haul trucking industry to attract more people to the profession. Efforts are already being made to improve driver safety and comfort and reduce the amount of time they spend away from home, but it’s clear that more needs to be done—and soon—to keep up with demand.
In the long term, technological advancements may minimize this problem—or eliminate it altogether. Autonomous commercial trucks are already being tested on real roads, carrying real freight. And while they’re far from driverless right now (drivers are currently needed to handle safety-critical functions), the dream of a truck moving down the highway with no one in the cab is no longer the stuff of pure science fiction, either.
Even when the technology matures to a point where this is both possible and safe, shifts in regulations and public opinion will need to take place before fully self-driving trucks become the norm. But as a sustainable solution to the perennial problem of the truck driver shortage, this is likely the industry’s best bet.
What can shippers do to navigate the truck driver shortage?
The truck driver shortage has been an issue for a while—but it feels especially intense for many shippers right now.
If you’re struggling to find capacity, we can help. CTSI-Global is a fully licensed freight broker with a 20,000-strong network of trusted, vetted carriers under our belt. Contact us today, and let’s get your goods on the road.