While we talk a lot about the lack of quality drivers in Australia, we need to understand that. in fact, there is a global driver shortage. This is demonstrated by a recent discussion in which I was involved.
One of the advantages of being an associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury is the chance to interact regularly with other writers and editors involved with trucking related magazines from around the world.
Earlier this week, the Spanish representative asked about the the existence of a driver shortage in different countries. This simple question drew a plethora of answers from all around the world. There is one thing we can now be certain of, there is a drastic global driver shortage.
No wonder the idea of platooning and now autonomous trucks is such a big issue. The industry is looking down the barrel of not having enough truck drivers to keep the economies of the world moving.
This is not just a first world problem either. Even in India, developing fast, but not yet a first world nation, there is a serious lack of professional drivers, a major part of the global driver shortage.
“They are not at all respected, and are subjected to long working hours in the absence of rules for resting hours,” records our Indian rep. “Not only are they looked upon by the society, other motorists and also at times slapped or subjected to inhuman practices by the traffic authorities, they suffer from numerous health issues due to the lack of proper cover.”
In Europe, the problem is acute. Young people in France are not willing to go away for the week as part of their job, or sleep in cramped conditions in the truck cab, with inferior food and rest areas. The country is also struggling with criminal gangs preying on trucks and truck drivers. Our French representative tells us he has a gun in his truck cabin when travelling in France’s South.
Wages are not very high in France either, drivers average 10.36Euros/hour ($17.25) with strict limits on hours worked per week. In comparison the woman who cleans our rep’s house is paid 12Euros/hour
The problem in Germany is reckoned to be a shortage of 150,000 truck drivers. Our German member tells us, “the job is really not paid well and the social standing of a truck driver is at the lowest level of working jobs in Germany. Work is hard, transport rates are undercut by Eastern European trucking companies with even lower paid driving personnel.”
Our Czech representative talks about the expense involved in getting a driving license, low prestige of the occupation, bullying by state institutions, many days each month away from home, high pressure from competitors, mainly Polish transport companies whose owners and drivers flagrantly violate the regulations across Europe and offer very low prices.
In South Africa, the situation is not quite the same as elsewhere in the world, reports our rep. “Do we have a driver shortage?” she asks. “Most certainly not. In fact, we have thousands of drivers looking for jobs. However, transport operators frequently get drivers applying for jobs who have actually bought their licences and are totally unable to drive. Naturally, this has severe road safety implications.
“Some companies hire foreign truck drivers (from elsewhere in Africa). This is a situation that the local drivers really don’t like. Sadly, this has resulted in terrible violence. In the last two years, over 200 drivers have been brutally murdered. They are killed by local drivers.
“Groups of people claiming to be South African truck drivers have thrown petrol bombs at trucks and shot at, stoned, stabbed, and harassed foreign truck drivers to force them out of the trucking industry. Sometimes they get it wrong and they murder local drivers by mistake. So, the situation in my country is a powder keg. It’s really not good. But ultimately we don’t have the driver shortage that you are battling with in Europe – which is a very good thing, I guess.”
So, yes, we have a driver shortage in Australia, but it can be a lot worse in other spots around the globe.