A global truck driver shortage is expected to double by 2028 as age and gender gaps continue to grow ever wider, with only 12% of drivers aged below 25 and just 6% being women, according to a report from Geneva, Switzerland-based International Road Transport Union (IRU).
IRU found that truck driver shortages increased globally in 2023, with two notable exceptions: shortages eased slightly in 2023 in Europe and the United States, due to softer transport demand as a result of inflation and tighter monetary policy limiting consumption and investment.
Without action to attract and retain drivers, over 7 million truck driver positions could be unfilled by 2028 in the surveyed countries, including 4.9 million in China (20% of total positions), 745,000 in Europe (17% of total positions), and 200,000 in Türkiye (28% of total positions). The results came from a survey of over 4,700 trucking companies in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, representing 72% of global GDP.
The condition is already impacting businesses, as at least 50% of road transport operators said they have serious problems hiring skilled drivers, in most countries studied. Many are also unable to expand their business and are losing existing clients and revenues.
“The structural issues behind truck driver shortages are continuing to impact transport services. With the rate of newcomers being significantly lower than drivers retiring every year, urgent action is needed now,” IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said in a release.
“The consequences of such a shortage are already harming the communities, supply chains, and economies that depend on our industry. We cannot allow driver shortages to get any worse. Operators are doing their part, but governments and authorities need to increase efforts to improve working conditions and access to the profession,” de Pretto said.
To address the gulf, governments need to facilitate access to the profession by lowering the minimum driving age and by subsidizing qualification costs, IRU said. That’s because the “school-to-wheel” gap is a key challenge facing the industry, with the minimum driving age for international freight transport stuck between 21 and 26 in some countries. Also, high training, license, and insurance costs make it expensive to become a truck driver, the study said.