Drivers Not Just a U.S. Concern

The oft-discussed driver shortage in the U.S. is not a regional phenomenon. European motor carriers are also facing capacity constraints due to a lack of drivers. Like their American counterparts, motor carriers have had to increase wages and benefits to lure drivers from other job areas.

Volumes in the U.S. grew by over 7% in the last year, says Transport Intelligence, twice the rate of the previous year. But with an improving economy and competitive wage and benefit packages in less rigorous jobs, motor carriers have had to raise pay – in some cases as much as 10% - to attract drivers. The U.K. research firm says that in areas with the greatest shortage of drivers wages can be as high as $80,000 per year, compared with an industry average of $43,000.

The general trend is the same in the European Union with an aging driver population and fewer young workers entering the profession. Frustration with road congestion, undesirable working hours, and low pay are the most common reasons given by workers who chose other professions. With high unemployment in much of Europe, the effects are less evident, but as levels of employment rise, the problems are likely to be exacerbated, says Transport Intelligence.

In another parallel to the U.S. market, the Working Time Directive that goes into effect in March 2005 will limit the amount of non-driving work a driver can perform. The U.K. Freight Transport Association estimates motor carriers will have to increase their workforce by 10% to compensate.

While some higher costs will pass through to shippers, the combination of factors will also drive many smaller companies out of the market, leading to fewer choices and higher costs for shippers.

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