Driver Shortage in the North?

Date: 09, May 2016
Also the Scandinavian countries have a need for more truck drivers in the coming years. Both Norway, Denmark and Sweden have reported that more truck drivers are sought, and recruitment will be a key challenge moving forward. Finland however, seem to be experiencing a more balanced situation.

In Sweden, SÅ (Swedish Road Operators Association) estimates an annual shortage of 4000-5000 truck drivers. What’s more, TYA – the Vocational Training and Working Environment Council - has reported numbers supporting this statement in a newly published survey. TYA reported that of the 800 truck companies responding to their study, approximately 2000 new drivers are needed in the next 6 months and 300 must be let go. CEO of TYA Bill Rehn commented that these numbers are a challenge for authorities and industry in providing more drivers with appropriate training and good driving skills, particularly given many businesses are recruiting drivers with less than one year of experience.

Denmark is also experiencing a growing demand for truck drivers. In Denmark, the average age of truck drivers is high, which creates a natural demand for new hiring. According to the Danish Ministry of Transport & Building, about half of the Danish truck drivers are above 50 years of age. At the same time, recruitment of young drivers has been challenging, even if recruiting campaigns to attract young individuals to the profession have been carried out. From DTL’s (Danish Transport and Logistics) own economic survey in 2016 it shows that half of the respondents reported a need for new skilled truck drivers today, a trend expected to be continued within the next 3-5 years among the those responding to the survey. Furthermore, many studies show that the increased efforts for recruiting new truck drivers will not change the fact that the sector will lack approximately 2500 drivers within a few years. Also DEKRA has spoken of the current need, commenting in May 2016 that Danish industry currently lacks 2500 truck drivers despite the fact that the country has 100.000 unemployed individuals. Strong economic growth, several public construction works and an elderly truck driver mass was mentioned as key reasons for the strong demand and the lack of easy supply.     

In Norway, the story is not much different. NLF (Norwegian Road Haulers Association) has reported a lack of 3000 truck drivers. A part of the reason has been focused on the Norwegian educational system that does not facilitate for the younger generation to become truck drivers, and a lack of education openings for the profession. However, an economic survey recently published by NLF stated that few haulage companies were looking for more employees currently. On the other hand, the number of apprentices in each truck business is still low, which is mainly due to the small sizes of most Norwegian companies in the sector. This could seem to have affected recruitment. In similarity to Denmark, the average age of truck drivers is high in Norway closing up to 50 years of age, a feature set to put the emphasis on recruiting in the coming years.   

On the brighter side, SKAL (Finnish Transport & Logistics) has reported of a more balanced situation compared to their Scandinavian counterparts. Info from ALT (Employers’ Federation of Road Transport) states that Finnish freight transport has experienced a steady inflow of young drivers coming directly from school, a development having provided a balanced age structure in the work force. A key reason is that the Finnish Defense Forces are annually training approximately 3000 chauffeurs with the drivers C-card and initial qualifications of becoming a professional driver.

So how is the situation elsewhere in the world? Not too much different should we believe reports from industry stakeholders. CEO of IHS Automotive (global consultancy firm in business analysis), Roman Mathyssek commented that aging workforces, difficulty of recruiting young drivers, and less than ideal working conditions have affected a strong current demand for truck drivers in Europe. In Germany alone, the industry is expected to lose 250.000 truck drivers in the next 10-15 years due to retirement. Looking at another big freight market such as the UK, FTA (Freight Transport Association) reported a shortfall of 45.000-60.000 truck drivers in 2015. Here the British government has promised to play a role in addressing the issue, and Prime Minister David Cameron commented last year that they will look to cooperate with the industry looking at the right level of access to, and funding for truck driver training. The US has also reported a shortage of truck drivers. ATA (The American Trucking Association) reported from their driver analysis in 2015 that the shortage of truck drivers was at nearly 48.000, a number that has increased in later years caused in part by a booming economy and strong dollar requiring more transported goods.

Looking at the whole picture, the lack of drivers cannot be seen as unique in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but rather an international industry trend. So how can the issue be addressed now and in the future? Our American friends in ATA has proposed some solutions:

  • Increase driver pay and offer on-sign bonuses
  • Offer more at home time
  • Lower the interstate driving age (have to be 21 years of age in the US)
  • Improving driver images
  • Cater to former military personel
  • Improve the treatment of drivers in the supply chain
  • Autonomous commercial trucks

These suggestions are remarkable similar to issues being discussed different places in the EU, such as social dumping, cabotage, driving and rest time and image of the sector. In the EU, however, focus has not yet much been on the actual issue of driver shortage.

In any case, the industry is facing current and foreseeable challenges in reducing the shortage of drivers. While many factors play a role, it is difficult to ignore a consensus in the industry that the image of being a truck driver needs to be improved in order to attract the future employees on the roads.