Mar 06, 2023

Truck drivers

I wrote about blue-collar 2.0 and the skilled labor shortage previously here and here.

More specifically, I looked deeper into the widening and worsening truck driver gap in Western markets over the past couple of weeks.

Road Freight is extremely relevant to our economy

77% of freight transported in the EU is carried by trucks. That leads to about 6.2 million trucks circulating through the EU.

All of this truck freight directly links to gross domestic product. Less drivers, fewer road freight, less goods from the upstream supply chains arriving at their downstream destinations.

And no, increasing rail- and ocean freight do not solve this issue for us. The vast, vast majority of road freight is carried for less than 150 kilometers, which already accounts for the rail and ocean freight which carried goods further upstream.

The truck driver shortage is a big problem

In 2021 we were ±460’000 truck drivers short in Europe + Turkey. These unfilled jobs accounted for ca. 10% of the entire truck driver jobs in these markets.

The breakdown (ca.):

And the trend was not our friend: Truck drivers dropped by 10% in UK from 2020 to 2021. 40% of open driver jobs are unfilled.

It’s not like fleet managers do not see this problem (they do !). For example, in UK in 2021, drivers wages increased by +18% (this is before the Fed began acknowledging the spiralling inflation), but they do apparently not increase enough to rebuild the dwindling truck driver supply.

… getting much worse very soon

In 2021, 230’000 drivers had drivers license attestations from non-EU countries, of which many are Ukrainian or Belarusian. According to IRU, on top of the shortage we saw at the end of 2021, an additional 170’000 truck drivers may have left the jobs due to the Ukraine war since beginning of 2022.

If you add it up, just based on this, we are probably short 640’000 truck drivers in Europe + Turkey today.

Now here’s where it gets spicy.

The average age of truck drivers in Europe and Turkey is close to 50 years. 25% of truck drivers are older than 55 years – almost 1 million truck drivers !.

If you add this up to the already existing gap, we are looking at a 1.5M+ truck driver gap in the coming years !

Oh and by the way: we can add bus drivers to the shortage.

The fix I am looking for

The #1 issue cited by folks who know the road freight industry are: working conditions !

Fixing working conditions for truck drivers can be broken down into four pillars:

If you fix all four, you might be building a very big business.

Specifically, I am looking for founders who use technology to source and train drivers, provide best employment, maximize earnings for drivers and, in doing so, increase time at home (eg. remote solutions instead of autonomy solutions).

Are building this? I’d love to hear from you.

(What’s missing on this list is level 4/5 on-highway truck autonomy. Every automotive engineering expert I am speaking to tells me the same thing: not in the next 10+ years. Truck drivers will be here to stay is my bet)


acea | | IRU | | Germany’s Federal Association of Goods Transport, Logistics and Disposal Eurostat