The Truck Driver Shortage and Possible Solutions
The role of truck drivers is an essential element of the cargo supply chain throughout the world. Since the start of the covid-19 pandemic we have become more aware of the indispensable part they play in the movement of essential goods. Truck drivers are also called OTR drivers (over-the-road), or long-haul truckers, and they actually transport more than 70% of all domestic freight shipments.
This dangerous job requires much responsibility and patience. The conditions of a trucker’s life can vary from country to country as well as from cargo company to company. Over-the-road truck drivers haul freight long distances and have the strictest requirements, as they must abide by regulations for limited hours of service. Local truckers are bound by some service regulations as well, and they may have even stricter company rules.
Since the beginning of the pandemic their role and contributions have become more and more recognized. Drivers risk their health to keep the supply chains running so that food and medicine can be transported on time. Moreover, online shopping has increased by 20% (in some countries by 40%!) which has intensified the volume of drivers’ work.
The american trucking associations came out with a study in 2020, “critical issues in the trucking industry”, and the first problem on the list was “driver shortage”, followed by “driver compensation” and “truck parking”. The title of this blog could also be “the number one issue in the logistics industry” according to the numbers we cite below.
In the united states (us) there are 3.5 million truck drivers, 15.5 million trucks (over 15 tons, class 8) and 433 billion miles driven per year. If the current situation holds, by 2023 there will be a shortage of 240,000 drivers. The shortage has become acute due to a few factors:
* The high average driver age of 55 years old (eu figures are similar)
* Composition of the workforce: only 5.8% are women, compared to 47% of the entire us workforce
* Job alternatives that offer a safer lifestyle and the opportunity to return home each night (new drivers are often assigned long-haul routes and they are away from home for long periods)
* New regulations that require more qualified drivers, therefore employers are becoming more selective.
The united kingdom’s (uk) road haulage association (RHA) reports that the uk must deal with a shortage of 100,000 drivers as a result of workers leaving the industry, Brexit and Covid-19, all of which stopped the driver trainings and tests for about a year. To solve this problem the British government plans to hire foreign employees with short-term visas. However, the question remains if they will be able to attract people for short employment periods.
The estimated shortage in Poland is 120,000 drivers, while in Germany and France it is over 40,000. Transport intelligence, offering market research solutions to the global logistics industry, reports that there is a lack of 400,000 heavy vehicle drivers throughout Europe.
How Many Hours Can Truck Drivers Work?
Under European law, any driver operating a 12 ton or higher vehicle is subject to the laws which limit driving to 9 hours per day, 56 per week, and 90 over a two-week period. Twice a week driving time can be extended to 10 hours, while the daily rest period is at least 12 hours. The daily rest can be split into 3 hours followed by 9 hours to make a total of a 12-hour daily rest. Breaks of at least 45 minutes (can be divided into 15 minutes followed by 30 minutes) should be taken after 4.5 hours of work at the most. The average annual salary for an experienced driver is €42495.
Us laws are not as strict as the eu and actually make the driver’s life harder: after 10 hours of rest, the trucker is allowed to drive for 11 hours for a total of 14 hours of work. The mandatory break is 30 minutes after 8 hours, from the time of coming on duty. Drivers may work no more than 60 hours on-duty over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over 8 days. The average annual wage is $47000 (€40600).
With the increase of deliveries during the pandemic, the demand for drivers has also increased. However, at the same time, many countries closed access to highway facilities thereby making it very difficult for truck drivers. For example, toilets have been closed at load and unload points; and there are long lines for the showers at petrol stations which are not being properly cleaned, causing potential health hazards.
For us at Trucknet, everything is about technology. We believe in a one-stop platform, where not only big carriers and shipping companies can find benefits, but drivers as well. Below are some of the features that we take into consideration:
Some of the less obvious solutions for the driver shortage could possibly be found through the optimization of fleet management and the reduction of empty miles (deadhead miles) traveled (see our last blog). Loading trucks to full capacity reduces the problem of unnecessary empty miles, and also means less trucks on the road; therefore, fewer drivers will be required. Shared truckloads are more efficient than trucks driving half empty, saving costs as well as human resources.
Self-driving vehicles are expected to assist in reducing driver shortage while improving road safety and fuel efficiency. By solving the human resources problem, we are thinking ahead: reducing costs and decreasing environmental problems.
Optimize bookings and increase parking capacity
In eEurope and the us there is a serious problem of finding parking areas for trucks. As mentioned, European regulations require drivers to stop for 45 minutes after 4.5 hours of work. This means the driver will need to start looking for a place to park ahead of time. 83% of European drivers report that there is an insufficient number of safe parking areas.
The us federal highway administration (FHWA) reports that almost 100% of truckers claim that finding parking is problematic anytime. This can result in an absurd situation in which truckers are forced to park in prohibited areas and have to pay fines for lack of adequate parking infrastructure. Jason’s law, established in the us to address the severe shortage of safe truck parking throughout the states, was named in honor of the trucker Jason Rivenburg, who was shot and killed in 2009 while he was parked in an unauthorized location. He was unable to find a safe and designated area.
Safe parking spots are unquestionably necessary to protect drivers and prevent threats to their security and cargo. Among all modes of transport, freight theft is highest on the roads. In 2020, 71% of all cargo theft was carried out on trucks in transit from hijacking and/or theft of containers, vehicles, facilities.
Improving the amount of parking space itself will not solve the problem. The us and Europe both require technologies for databases and for booking safe and secure parking that will be convenient for truckers, transportation companies and facilities.
The optimization of fleet management requires integration with a truck parking booking system. The moment a delivery route is created, the driver already has a designated place to take a break according to his working hours and if he needs an overnight, this site will be booked as well. In this manner, we create safer working conditions for truckers. The parking booking component needs to be integrated into a smart platform, like Trucknet. This feature is under development and should be ready for use in the near future.
Reduce detention time
When shipments are not ready to be loaded, truck drivers are delayed and forced to wait for freight. This increases the driver’s frustration and at the same time adds costs for the time lost. Smart technology would schedule the pickup/unload times and reduce detention time in warehouses.
The covid pandemic has reminded us specifically how much our lives depend on truckers and supply chains. Even with innovative technologies on the rise, it will take some time for self-driving vehicles to replace truck drivers (one of our past blogs was about autonomous vehicles). Meanwhile, we are confident that the suggestions mentioned above can provide some solutions and contribute to a more sustainable global economy.
We give a lot of attention to airplane pilots. Once the truck drivers were “Knights Of The Road” and I believe we need to give respect to the people that are working that hard and play a huge role in the lifeline of the economy. After all, they are the ones who give essential service to our doorstep