Belarusian exile Aliaksandr Matsiash joined the Lithuanian freight group Baltic Transline in May. But after two weeks of training, and then living on a truck in the Netherlands for 13 weeks-all costs were only 2,470 euros-the 30-year-old quit his job.
“This is not the normal life of human beings,” he said. “It’s like a prison, not a job. You do things like a zombie.”
Analysts say that there has been a global shortage of truck drivers since the mid-2000s. But Macia’s case illustrates the human factor of the worsening global driver shortage problem, which has evolved into a crisis that has not been seen by the general public until recently.
In the UK, supermarket shelves are out of stock, McDonald’s restaurants run out of milkshakes this week, builders are unable to obtain supplies, and iron ore has difficulty reaching Australian ports for export.
The potential consequences are serious. André LeBlanc, vice president of operations at Petroleum Marketing Group, a fuel distributor based in Virginia, said that due to a shortage of drivers, some of its gas stations have used up about 1,200 products since mid-June. Second-rate.
“You can’t get toilet paper and eggs, that’s one thing. Gasoline stopped – it shuts down everything,” he warned.
As multinational companies reduce supply chain costs, labor issues in the transportation sector have become increasingly serious over time. At the same time, the trucking workforce in developed countries is aging — the average age of British truck drivers is 55 — and more jobs have become computer-based jobs.
Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Association, said that the number of general freight drivers in the United States has dropped from 465,000 in early 2020 to 430,000.
He added: “The driver shortage in the United States is getting worse and worse than ever.”
Keith Newton, secretary general of the International Institute of Logistics and Transport, said members in Australia and Central Asia also reported a 20% shortage of heavy truck drivers.
The surge in demand for goods during the pandemic has increased the transport volume of transporters, and the accelerated growth of the e-commerce sector will only increase the pressure.
“Global trade is becoming more and more complex, consumers want faster delivery, and there are not enough skilled HGV drivers around the world to meet this demand,” Newton said.
Girteka is one of Europe’s largest transport companies and plans to recruit 7,000 new drivers this year. He said that each truck needs more employees to allow workers more time to stay at home.
Baltic Transline disputed Matsiash’s description of his working and living conditions and stated that he knew he might need to stay in the truck for a long time. It insists that “strictly abide by current laws, provide suitable accommodation, and ensure that all employees have proper working conditions.”
The UK, which is estimated to have a shortage of 100,000 drivers, has not only been hit particularly hard by Brexit and Covid-19 that caused drivers to leave EU countries, but also the tax reform introduced this year has greatly reduced the income of workers in institutions.
The backlog of test centers caused by the pandemic has hindered the flow of new drivers, and the British logistics department is promoting a stopgap measure to provide temporary visas for drivers from EU countries.
Nevertheless, there are still practical difficulties. “Even if we are allowed to recruit drivers from the European Union, there is a shortage of drivers there,” said Rod McKenzie, the policy director of the Road Transport Association. “The only place where there is no severe shortage of drivers is Africa.”
Despite the strict visa quotas, American trucking companies are also looking for solutions overseas. Anda Malescu, the managing partner of Malescu Law in Miami, is helping trucking companies find drivers from Mexico, Canada and South Africa. “The company is getting desperate,” she said.
Big companies are launching a charm offensive to recruit new employees. Wal-Mart offers some drivers a signing bonus of US$8,000, and British retailer John Lewis announced plans to increase driver wages to £5,000 per year. According to recruiter Adzuna, in less than a year, the wages of the LGV driver category in the UK increased by 21% to £36,800.
However, trade groups said that bonuses and higher wages will only encourage drivers to switch from one employer to another, and will not attract new blood to the industry, and they have not taken any measures to solve the problem that drivers are not receiving due to waiting time. The issue of remuneration.
“It’s not just the salary the driver wants,” said Patrick Doran, who wanted to switch to driving a bus after seven years of trucking in the UK.
For truck drivers, the lack of proper facilities, from toilets and parking lots to designated rest areas, is also a common complaint.
Many people report that the vicious cycle of labor shortages causes them to face greater pressure to complete more deliveries, and conclude that it is no longer worth the pressure and leaving home for a long time.
“I used to love this job,” said Jose Querios, a Portuguese who came to the UK in 1990 but left the trucking industry in April 12 years later. He is now working in a quarry. “As time goes on, this job becomes more and more difficult because the company just keeps pushing.”
Increasing pressure has led observers to warn against quickly addressing structural issues that have made the industry so unattractive. Any solution to the crisis may cause consumer prices to rise.
The Dutch national rapporteur on human trafficking, Herman Bolhaar, said that the Dutch government and others have not done enough to enforce regulations, let alone reveal the reality of the working conditions of truck drivers.
He said that his country lacks sufficient information about labor exploitation associated with trucking, and “we should know more precisely what these numbers are.”
“This is not a local issue, not a national issue, but an international issue,” he said. “This is related to economy, trade, cost, profit and price, but more importantly, it is related to human rights, human dignity and fair working conditions.”
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliff-Johnson, Peter Foster, Philip Georgiadis and Richard Milne