Driver Shortage Issue

Thinking About Training New Drivers

The, so-called, driver shortage issue comes from the way drivers are treated and regarded in the industry and in wider society. Another issue is the distinct lack of women working in the industry. An initiative, started by Volvo to help improve the driver’s lot aims to address the issue of getting more female truck drivers out on the highway armed with the skills the industry needs.


In looking into the overall question, one of the obvious issues in trying to develop an initiative to help was the lack of any real data on the subject. There is plenty of anecdotal talk about perceptions around drivers but very little cold hard fact.


Driver Shortage Issue


As a result, Volvo Boss, PeterVoorhoeve, commissioned a survey and report in collaboration with Clemenger BBDO. The report points to two basic issues, negative driver image and a lack of driver training.


“Truck driving is not perceived as a desirable profession due to being away from home, long hours, work/life balance, pay and negative perception in the media,” listed the report. “There are barriers for younger drivers, such as limited training opportunities, no nationally recognised qualification, high cost of obtaining a heavy vehicle licence, limited progression of licence classes and limited flexibility in work hours.


“Higher insurance premiums are creating a barrier for employers to employ younger drivers. There are barriers for female drivers, such as the lack of female-friendly amenities and limited flexible work hours for parents.”


The survey was carried out using Volvo’s database of key members of the industry. 20 in depth interviews took a snapshot of the situation and a further online survey of 547 people involved in the trucking industry, formed the data on which the report is based. Overall the survey received data relating to 34,000 drivers.


Finding a driver shortage will come as no surprise to anyone. Operators are reporting a shortage in both the quantity and quality of driver out there in the marketplace. They also identified the poor driver image as contribution to the paucity in the availability of quality drivers.


Driver image does not reflect the modern professional truck driver, it is still stuck in the past. The gap between leaving school and actually being able to drive a truck for a living is also an issue. Long hours, stress, low pay and spending a lot of time away from home don’t help on this count either. The driver population was identified as being without diversity and with little inclusion.


Improvements to the situation and image include strict uniform codes like collared shirts, improving the quality and comfort of their trucks and working to improve internal company pride with internal awards and public recognition. Accountability for the drivers is on the increase, with electronic monitoring and positioning drivers as ambassadors for the company, better pay and promoting a better work/life balance.


Of those operators surveyed, the average number of drivers employed was nine. The average age came out at 47, with 15 per cent of drivers being under 30. 52 per cent of companies did not have a driver under 30. 24 per cent of those surveyed had a female driver.


46 per cent of firms say the are currently experiencing a driver shortage. 52 per cent are having problems attracting the quantity of drivers need, but 82 per cent report issues in attracting the right quality off driver. 90 per cent want better pathways for young people into trucking and 92 per cent call for the industry to improve driver image.


The negative image factor was identified by 88 per cent of respondents as a problem. 72 per cent reported being frustrated with the perception of driver image in those outside the transport industry.


A number of quotes from respondents are include in the report:

  • “At times treated like second class citizens.”
  • “Everyone thinks truck drivers are cowboys and are unsafe on the roads.”
  • “It is widely considered that it is an industry that accepts persons with a lower level of education and moral standards.”


There is also a profound belief the negative image of drivers effects the number of driver available, young people coming into the industry, the appeal of truck driving to women and the diversity in the workforce.


A story from the Pilbara with good news about driver training can be found in the next issue of Diesel.